Brent Sutter grabs reins with both hands

Not to speak ill of the fired — and not to jump to conclusions after a single day of rookie camp — but Brent Sutter has it all over Mike Keenan.

Keenan, sacked after two wheel-spinning winters at the helm of the Flames, was known for a rather laissez-faire approach to practice. In other words, few whistles, little plotting. Just a seemingly endless (and useless) blur of five on fives, four on fours, three on threes. And, everyone’s favourite, five on ohs.

Not Sutter.

Early in Wednesday morning’s session — his first time on the ice in Flames togs — Sutter was stopping drills, repositioning players, making them do it over (again and again). Dialogue, albeit of the one-way variety, was non-stop.

In short, this guy was actually coaching.

Quite a departure from the previous regime.

"Basically, we want to form our identity here A.S.A.P.," says Sutter, who, not surprisingly, concentrated on own-zone responsibility. "It’s important to get working on it the first day. I thought our first session was very good . . . and the kids were getting the hang of it. It’s repetition, it’s continually doing it over and over again till we have ‘er nailed. Get working on our details, gets working on how we want to play."

Sutter went on to assure the assembled media that the veterans, on the premises Saturday, will face the same philosophy — structure, structure, structure. Particularly for team defence. (Meaning that a number of well-heeled gentlemen, including your favourite player, will soon be getting re-acquainted with their own zone.)

"There’s got to be a mindset — every day, this is the way we practise, this is the way we do things," says Sutter.

Later in the conversation, Sutter had been asked which prospects stood out Wednesday. He had no answer.

With reason. A single morning’s drills prove nothing.

"It’s very important — you evaluate over time," says Sutter. "It’s the first day. Guys are just getting into the groove of things here. Every day, our practice habits and our intensity and our sharpness will pick up and get better. For the first day, it’s been pretty good."

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