For Your Consideration: Brent Sutter, Jack Adams contender

Brent Sutter (ffabiano/Flickr)

This past week, Calgary Herald columnist George Johnson penned an interesting column. A long-time critic of (now-former) Flames general manager Darryl Sutter, Johnson’s latest had a slightly different bent to it.

 

He praised the efforts of Darryl’s brother, Flames head coach Brent Sutter, and recommended he be considered for the NHL’s Jack Adams Award for best coach of the year.

If a ravishing return to form by Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff married with the career rebirth of Alex Tanguay are being hailed far and wide as the reasons behind Calgary’s charge up the standings, make no mistake: Sutter’s obstinacy, his tough-love approach to competitiveness and structure is the quiet foundation behind the renaissance.

The underlying theory within Calgary media circles is thus: the Flames were always a team capable of playing this well. The presence of Darryl Sutter was distracting – amounting to a predecessor standing over Brent’s shoulder surveying his work – and his removal simply allowed the team and coaching staff to do what they have done.

Let’s put that theory to the test.

The 2010/11 season has seen all kinds of remarkable turnarounds – at present, the Flames, Maple Leafs, Islanders and Devils have all turned their fortunes around to varying extents. Have the Flames been markedly better since Darryl Sutter’s displacement than anyone else has?

Listed here, for comparison’s sake, are the NHL teams in order of their change in winning percentage since December 28.

  • TEAM: % Change in Winning Percentage [Wins before December 28 (Percentage) / Wins December 28 and later (Percentage)

Teams That Got A Lot Better:

  • New Jersey: +43.3% [9 wins (25.7%) / 20 wins (69.0%)]
  • NY Islanders: +21.9% [9 wins (26.5%) / 15 wins (48.4%)]
  • Buffalo: +20.4% [14 wins (38.9%) / 16 wins (59.3%)]
  • Anaheim: +19.2% [18 wins (46.2%) / 17 wins (65.4%)]
  • Calgary: +16.8% [16 wins (43.2%) / 18 wins (60%)]

Teams That Got Better:

  • Minnesota: +14.3% [16 wins (45.7%) / 18 wins (60%)]
  • Toronto: +13.4% [13 wins (38.2%) / 16 wins (51.6%)]
  • San Jose: +12.7% [19 wins (52.8%) / 19 wins (65.5%)]
  • Phoenix: +9.9% [16 wins (43.2%) / 17 wins (53.1%)]
  • Boston: +7.4% [19 wins (55.9%) / 19 wins (63.3%)]
  • Carolina: +5.9% [15 wins (44.1%) / 16 wins (50%)]

Teams That Stayed On A Similar Clip:

  • Nashville: +4.7% [17 wins (48.6%) / 16 wins (53.3%)]
  • Chicago: +3.1% [20 wins (54.0%) / 16 wins (57.1%)]
  • Philadelphia: +1.9% [22 wins (62.9%) / 18 wins (64.3%)]
  • Vancouver: -0.5% [21 wins (61.8%) / 19 wins (61.3%)]
  • Edmonton: -0.9% [12 wins (35.3%) / 11 wins (34.4%)]
  • Tampa Bay: -1.2% [21 wins (58.3%) / 16 wins (57.1%)]
  • Washington: -3.4% [21 wins (55.3%) / 14 wins (51.9%)]
  • Columbus: -3.6% [18 wins (50%) / 13 wins (46.4%)]
  • Montreal: -3.9% [20 wins (55.6%) / 15 wins (51.7%)]

Teams That Faltered Slightly:

  • Detroit: -8.7% [23 wins (63.9%) / 16 wins (55.2%)]
  • Dallas: -11.9% [21 wins (58.3%) / 13 wins (46.4%)]
  • NY Rangers: -13.5% [21 wins (56.8%) / 13 wins (43.3%)]
  • Florida: -13.8% [16 wins (47.1%) / 10 wins (33.3%)]
  • Los Angeles: -14.6% [22 wins (62.9%) / 14 wins (48.3%)]

Teams That Fell Off A Cliff:

  • St. Louis: -16.9% [18 wins (51.4%) / 10 wins (34.5%)]
  • Pittsburgh: -20.1% [24 wins (64.9%) / 13 wins (44.8%)]
  • Ottawa: -21.8% [16 wins (43.2%) / 6 wins (21.4%)]
  • Atlanta: -25% [19 wins (50%) / 7 wins (25%)]
  • Colorado: -27.8% [19 wins (52.8%) / 7 wins (25%)]

Overall? The Flames aren’t the NHL’s most remarkable comeback story of the year. While they do lead the league in fewest regulation losses (6) since December 28, there are four other teams whose turnarounds are more statistically impressive. At the time of Darryl Sutter’s ouster, only six teams won less than the Calgary Flames. Only six teams have won more than the Calgary Flames in that span. One of those teams is the New Jersey Devils, who have the best winning percentage in hockey since that time (after having the worst winning percentage in hockey before then).

What Brent Sutter and the Calgary Flames have accomplished this season is impressive. What Jacques Lemaire and the New Jersey Devils have accomplished is akin to a miracle.

Ryan Pike
A native of the Stampede City, Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and as Managing Editor of FlamesNation.ca.
Ryan Pike
From now on, just watch the third period, guys. #Flames - 4 hours ago

One Comment

  1. I’d like to have seen the Devils perform the same ‘miracle’ in the Western Conference… And don’t try to tell me that the East is as competetive as the West… Calgary has been winning hockey games in a conference where the 11 place team would be solidly in 7th place in the East… Playoff hockey has been played in the West since January. Also the fact that they have the least regulation losses seems to indicate that they are getting points out of more games than any other team in the league… hmmm… but I guess that doesn’t mean anything because the Devils are playing the trap system they are used to and winning games like they did last year. Good article, lots of good facts… thanks for wasting my time.

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