Plenty of Calgary Flames fans were fascinated to witness the NHL debut of intriguing forward prospect Jakob Pelletier on Saturday. If Flames coach Darryl Sutter shares any of that excitement, he has a funny way of showing it.
Following the Flames’ 6-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Sutter was asked about Pelletier’s debut. In a moment that may enrage or entertain (depending on whom you ask), Sutter played coy, asking for Pelletier’s jersey number. Sutter then read off the rookie’s simple counting stats, such as one shot on goal, and 6:43 time on ice.
Another Darryl Sutter press conference gem
When the Flames convinced Sutter to jump off his tractor and set the team on a steadier path, many readied for the return of quirky press conferences. While Sutter doesn’t match the cranky energy of John Tortorella, he definitely has his moments of humour and grumpiness.
Memorably, Sutter hoped that Johnny Gaudreau would have “more energy” in his 500th career NHL game than he did in his 499th.
Depending on how you read between the lines, Sutter seemed to fire some parting shots after Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk left town. At least, that’s how it felt when Sutter provided rave reviews of Jonathan Huberdeau’s passing skills or when the 64-year-old coach made a cold comparison between Tkachuk and Tyler Toffoli.
In a sport that often gasps for personality and honesty, it can be refreshing and funny, especially when some classic bathroom humour is involved.
Some Flames fans, media not so amused by Sutter’s Pelletier comments
Granted, it sure seems like those barbs get harsher when they’re directed toward young players. Some may view all of it as being counterproductive.
Postmedia’s Wes Gilbertson viewed Sutter’s approach to Pelletier’s debut as “disrespectful.”
Darren Haynes went as far as to describe Sutter's actions as “immature.”
Sportsnet’s Eric Francis captured some of the mood by noting Sutter didn’t seem to share the city’s excitement for Pelletier.
Pondering Pelletier’s potential
Maybe the best energy is somewhere between Sutter’s sarcasm and the most breathless expectations about Pelletier, who was the 26th pick of the 2019 NHL Draft and is considered one of their top prospects.
Could Pelletier be the “solution to the Calgary Flames’ top-six issues?” That’s probably asking too much from a 21-year-old who clearly still needs to earn his coach’s trust.
Perhaps he can give the Flames’ depth a boost, in ways both subtle and undeniable. After generating almost a point per game in the AHL last season (62 points in 66 games), Pelletier produced 15 goals and 34 points in 31 games this year before being called up.
As limited as his ice time was in Saturday’s debut, Pelletier managed to make a positive impact. Note, for instance, that the Flames generated three high-danger chances when Pelletier was on the ice, and didn’t give up any in their own end. Considering how defensive-minded Sutter can be, that’s a nice way to start thawing out a coach’s cold heart.
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