Brent Sutter wears many hats when it comes to the Red Deer Rebels organization and the recent change behind the bench appears to have started with the general manager hat firmly in place.
“It was very obvious in training camp that two things we lacked in were we lacked in size and we lacked in skill,” he said. “So I had to be proactive as a GM to go out and find us some skilled players.”
A dizzying array of moves saw younger players moved in and out of the lineup as well as team captain Adam Kambeitz shipped off to Saskatoon.
More players were brought in as Sutter formed what he felt was the team he had envisioned and while he provided the fuel to run the bus the coaching staff led by Jesse Wallin were still doing the driving.
“It was still his (Wallin) team and he was the head coach and he had to be able to coach the team the way he wanted and I allowed him to do that and rightly so,” said Sutter.
“But when it’s not working you have to evaluate it and we evaluated it and Jesse and I sat down and had conversations about it and then ultimately I had to make my decision,” he said.
Sutter admits it was a difficult conversation with a good friend but he was now wearing the owner’s hat and so the organization’s future was placed at the top of the agenda.
Sutter is well aware of the large number of coaches and general managers sitting in the seats at the Enmax Centrium on game nights but he embraces that as opposed to getting defensive about his decisions.
“It’s our culture in Canada. Everyone is a coach and everyone is a manager and that’s just the way it is,” he said.
Moving forward Sutter says some aspects of the team at the start of the season will stay the same and he credits Wallin and Bryce Thoma for their contributions in those areas but he will also put his mark on the team even if he’s wearing an interim coaching hat at this point in the season.
“I see things a little bit differently on the offensive side of the game and being able to create more and the way the game is played today,” he said. “Putting more excitement, putting more energy in your game and that’s just my feelings on it as a coach.”
Captain Turner Elson says he still has respect for his former coach but quickly added a change was required.
“There’s different plays, there’s different styles of game we’re playing,” he said. “Brent is all about go, go, go and we’re going to be a forceful team and we’re always going to be on our toes and Jesse was trying to create that but the guys were just not buying into it.”
Sutter explained there was not a single factor like the players tuning out the coach or a difficult start to the season — losing six straight exhibition games and the first three regular season games — which tipped the scales in any way.
He is now wearing the coaching hat and figures the team hitting the ice now is a closer reflection of what he had formulated in his mind at the start of the year but it is still a work in progress as the Rebels look towards the final goal of a Memorial Cup.
“It’s just young guys. You’ve got to develop and be patient with them and then again you’ve got to make them feel like they can be part of the solution and not be the problem.”