"It is almost like retraining a dog."
—MINNESOTA COACH TODD RICHARDS on getting his players to learn a new system
LAST SEASON 46-30-6 (5th in West); lost in first round to Chicago
KEY ADDITIONS D Jay Bouwmeester, Coach Brent Sutter
KEY LOSSES RW Todd Bertuzzi, LW Mike Cammalleri, D Jordan Leopold, Coach Mike Keenan
If nothing else, the Flames should be entitled to a discount on nameplates. In June, G.M. Darryl Sutter hired younger brother Brent to coach the team that their eldest brother, Brian, skippered from 1997--98 through 1999--2000. Another brother, Duane, is Calgary's director of player personnel, and baby brother Ron is one of the Flames' pro scouts. As for generation next, Darryl's son, Brett, a 22-year-old winger, scored his first NHL goal for Calgary last season.
That the Flames have been thoroughly Sutterized means the team has zero tolerance for flamboyance on the ice and places a heavy emphasis on defense and fundamental hockey. "That's your security blanket," Brent says. "During tough times in the year, which everybody has, you fall back on your structure."
To return to the Sutters' native Alberta, Brent escaped the final year of his coaching contract in New Jersey, where his highly structured system helped the Devils become the league's fourth-best defensive club. In Calgary, where the team played less rigidly under coach Mike Keenan last season and allowed the eighth-most goals in the league, Brent has even better defensive talent to work with. The Flames signed two-way standout Jay Bouwmeester, a former Panther who averaged 14 goals over the last three seasons and hasn't missed a game since the lockout. He'll join Dion Phaneuf, the Norris Trophy runner-up two years ago, and 6'3", 227-pound Robyn Regehr on what may be the Western Conference's most punishing defense.