Sutter a big bully
Darryl Sutter has dropped the ball on this one.
The Flames head coach/GM has unnecessarily backed himself into a corner by sparking a controversy his club could do without.
Exhibiting the same lack of composure that prompted goalie Phil Sauve to skate the length of the ice for a Colorado catfight Tuesday, Sutter has spent the week lambasting his beleaguered backup in the press.
Following the first truly shoddy performance of Sauve's otherwise average stint in Calgary, Sutter placed the 'keeper on waivers right after the 7-4 loss and has followed it up with incessant talk of Sauve being the team's weakest link, capable only of giving his team a "chance to lose" every night.
What, may we ask, is to gain from publicly scolding the kid?
It's one thing for a coach to lose faith in a player and make the necessary steps to have him replaced.
It's quite another to humiliate him, especially when the target is a young backup essentially making minimum wage.
Sutter's demand that a backup tabbed to play 15 games should win 10 of them is unrealistic given Sauve is a second-year NHLer making $500,000 on a one-year deal. Before the loss to the Avs, Sauve was 3-2 with a 2.62 GAA and .914 save percentage, which is respectable.
Sauve then stumbled, prompting Sutter to do the same.
While Sutter's routine use of the media to call out veterans such as Jarome Iginla and Andrew Ference is his way of lighting a fire under them, his chastising of Sauve could break the youngster who was equally ordinary in Colorado.
With Miikka Kiprusoff's backup slated to make four or five more starts at best, it's unlikely Sauve will get a chance to redeem himself anytime soon, unless it's in Omaha.
And that's the biggest problem Sutter has created for himself.
Now he has to make a move right away. Keeping Sauve up with the big club will cause nothing but distractions as he sits on the pine and isn't able to improve or prove his worth. Sending him down and bringing up raw rookies Brent Krahn or Curtis McElhinney won't give Sutter any more confidence in the backup. So he has to make a trade, wasting valuable cap money on a bit-playing goalie instead of putting it towards getting help down the middle in the form of, say, the fans' dream acquisition, Doug Weight.
Had Sutter voiced his displeasure with Sauve privately, he could have gone about solving the issue quietly. Instead, the goalie has now been alienated (not to mention terrified his NHL career could be over) and every GM in the league knows Sutter is itching to grab a goaltender. Hardly dealing from a position of strength or addressing the team's real needs.
As phenomenal a job as Sutter has done since he got here three years ago, he exposed himself as another Calgary coaching icon, Wally Buono, occasionally did -- as a man respected for his coaching abilities but not exactly the players' Pal of the Year.
Being professionals, not to mention friends with Sauve, very few players will be happy with Sutter's recent tact. It shouldn't have been a big deal. Unquestionably humiliated by his own and his team's showing in Colorado, Sauve's silly slap-fest with David Aebischer clearly rubbed Sutter the wrong way, eliciting an over-the-top response in which he also questioned the player's work ethic and preparation.
As irrational and unwarranted as his attack on Sauve has been, perhaps Sutter will be able to use the goalie in yet another trade demonstrating the Midas touch he's had ever since he got here.
At this point, he'll have to.
Or the mid-season blowout could blow up into something that dogs this club all season long.