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GILBERTSON: With Sutter’s return, pressure is on Flames’ core players – Calgary Sun



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Those guys were hard-hatted.

These guys might be hard-headed.

Darryl Sutter, who led the Calgary Flames to within a whisker — or perhaps a pixel — of a Stanley Cup parade in 2004, is now back behind the bench at the Saddledome, tasked with squeezing more out of a talented core that has already churned through several coaches.

Under their new boss, there will be no excuse for falling short of expectations.

The Flames made this surprise move late Thursday, announcing about 75 minutes after a 7-3 rout of the Ottawa Senators that Geoff Ward had been fired and that Sutter is returning to his old stomping grounds.

They are, indeed, going full retro.

Sutter was a staple at the Saddledome for an eight-year span from Dec. 28, 2002, until that exact same date in 2010, serving as skipper and then general manager.

MAY 27, 2004 – Coach Darryl Sutter and the boys are not too happy during the third period of Stanley Cup final game 2 action in Tampa Bay, between Calgary Flames and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
MAY 27, 2004 – Coach Darryl Sutter and the boys are not too happy during the third period of Stanley Cup final game 2 action in Tampa Bay, between Calgary Flames and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Photo by Dean Bicknell /Postmedia file

In his first full season at the helm, he guided two superstars — right-winger Jarome Iginla and netminder Miikka Kiprusoff — and a bunch of relative unknowns on a fairytale run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.


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The Red Mile was born that spring, the city rallying around a band of overachievers that was being spurred along by the no-nonsense farm-boy from a few hours to the northeast in Viking, Alta.

Since that stint in Calgary, Sutter has twice had his name engraved on hockey’s ultimate prize. He coached the Los Angeles Kings to the NHL title in 2012 and again in 2014.

The Flames’ current core — now taking their orders from a 62-year-old Sutter, most recently an advisor for the Anaheim Ducks — has barely advanced through a playoff round, let alone stuck around long enough for bushy beards and banner-raisings.

Maybe ‘The Jolly Rancher’ can change that.

That’s what Calgary’s general manager, Brad Treliving, is banking on.

Treliving and Sutter will address the media on Friday at 11 a.m. MT video call. When the team takes the ice for an early-afternoon practice, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk & Co. better be ready to bust their butts.

JANUARY 31, 2010 — Calgary Flames General Manager Darryl Sutter spoke on January 31, 2010 about the trade involving Dion Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom and prospect Keith Aulie to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday morning. In return the Flames are getting four players including Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers and Ian White.
JANUARY 31, 2010 — Calgary Flames General Manager Darryl Sutter spoke on January 31, 2010 about the trade involving Dion Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom and prospect Keith Aulie to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday morning. In return the Flames are getting four players including Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers and Ian White. Photo by Colleen De Neve /Postmedia file

Sutter, even if he’s softened a wee bit since his initial stop in Calgary, will demand as much.

Thursday’s late-night coaching switch should squash any talk of a tear-down or rebuild. You don’t bring in a guy with Sutter’s resume — he is No. 17 on the NHL’s all-time wins list with a career mark of 634-467-101-83 — or reputation unless you consider yourselves a contender.

While the new/old boss has reportedly signed a three-year contract, he’s not here to preach patience. He’s back to change the culture, to insist on the same sort of relentless effort that helped him and five of his brothers go from spirited scrimmages in the hayloft to squaring off at the highest level.


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The results, starting with Saturday’s Battle of Alberta against the Edmonton Oilers (8 p.m., CBC/Sportsnet 960 The Fan), will be fascinating.

Ward was ultimately scapegoated for an inconsistent, unpredictable start to this 56-game sprint. The Flames have been a mixed bag so far, with an 11-11-2 record that has featured a few dominant victories and a few too many demoralizing losses.

Thursday’s 7-3 thumping of the last-place Senators was too little too late, to save his job.

“I think the mental readiness of our team was good, I thought the work ethic was good, and I thought our details were a lot better,” Ward praised.

While he was axed shortly after that post-game presser, those same traits — engagement, accountability and a willingness to work — will be priorities under Sutter. He won’t accept anything less.

And if the message doesn’t stick, if wins don’t follow, you can bet the next move will be a farewell to one of the skating stars. Or several of them.

Prior to Ward’s ouster, there seemed to be two trains of thought for a frustrated fan-base — either blame the coach or blame the general manager for not hiring a proven winner.

Ward, as likeable a guy as you’ll ever meet, lasted less than six months after his ‘interim’ tag was removed. Previously, he’d only worked as an assistant or associate at the NHL level.

His predecessor, Bill Peters, never made the Stanley Cup playoffs as a head coach before he arrived in Calgary. (Peters was forced to resign after startling allegations of past misconduct, including a racial slur.)


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Treliving’s first coaching hire, Glen Gulutzan, was also short on experience and profile.

Sutter brings both.

Darryl Sutter instructs players during a practice of the Calgary Flames at the Saddledome.
Darryl Sutter instructs players during a practice of the Calgary Flames at the Saddledome. Photo by Tim Fraser /Calgary Herald

The moment he walks through the door, he will be the most accomplished guy in the locker room.

His demanding can style work. He has two Stanley Cup rings as proof of it. If video-review technology was further along in 2004, it might be three.

Which means that the pressure is on the Flames’ players now, especially those core pieces.

You could argue, up until Thursday at 10:50 p.m. MT, that Treliving had assembled all of the ingredients except for an established top-of-his-craft coach.

The Flames have a talented forward cast, although their go-to guys have yet to silence their critics in the spring.

While they don’t necessarily have a premier defenceman, a description that Mark Giordano no longer fits at age 37, they are certainly solid on the blue-line. Giordano has been around so long that he had Sutter as his GM when he was first cutting his teeth at the Saddledome.

They just signed one of the NHL’s elite puck-stoppers, Jacob Markstrom, to a six-year deal.

Can Sutter get this group to play to their capabilities? Or, better yet, beyond?

When they arrive at the rink Friday, Gaudreau and Monahan will be meet-and-greeting with their fifth head coach. That’s a lot of bosses for two guys in their mid-20s. (Treliving has now hired four of them since he inherited Bob Hartley.)

Sutter, however, won’t require a tour of the rink.


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He knows the organization and ownership.

He knows the city.

He knows what buttons to push, and we’ve all seen the evidence of it.

Back in 2004, the Flames were rarely, if ever, outworked. For that reason, the hard hat was a fitting prize for their in-house player-of-the-game nod.

This current cast has worked when they want to. It’s never lasted long-term, and it’s never been more obvious than this season, when they have oh-so-often followed a strong showing with a total stinker.

Can Sutter buck that trend? Can he be the difference?

We’re about to find out.


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Warriors top Grizzlies for No. 8 seed



Stephen Curry scored a game-high 46 points en route to his second NBA scoring title and Jordan Poole stalled a rally with a late 3-pointer Sunday afternoon as the Golden State Warriors held off the visiting Memphis Grizzlies in San Francisco for a 113-101 win to claim the No. 8 position in this week’s play-in tournament.

With Curry scoring 17 of his 46 points, the Warriors appeared to take command of the game in the third quarter, but Dillon Brooks led a Memphis comeback. Before fouling out, Brooks contributed 13 points to a 22-5 flurry that made it 91 all with 6:32 still to play.

The Grizzlies went up by two twice after that, before Poole nailed his momentum-changing 3-pointer.

The loss ended Memphis’ five-game winning streak and landed the Grizzlies in the No. 9 spot in the play-in, where they will host 10th-seeded San Antonio on Wednesday.

Lakers 110, Pelicans 98

LeBron James scored 25 points as Los Angeles won in New Orleans on the final day of the regular season, but was unable to avoid the play-in round.

James left the game midway through the fourth quarter, slightly favoring the injured right ankle that sidelined him 26 games down the stretch.

But the victory wasn’t enough for the defending NBA champions to avoid the Western Conference play-in tournament. Portland defeated Denver to claim the sixth seed so the seventh-seeded Lakers will host eighth-seeded Golden State in a play-in game Wednesday.

Jazz 121, Kings 99

Jordan Clarkson scored 33 points and made six 3-pointers and Bojan Bogdanovic added 18 points to lead Utah past Sacramento and the league’s best regular-season record.

Rudy Gobert added 13 points and 16 rebounds. Mike Conley chipped in 11 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Utah clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and will have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

Terence Davis scored 20 points to lead the Kings. Damian Jones chipped in 19 points. Buddy Hield added 13 points, nine assists and seven rebounds for Sacramento, which rested several key players: De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Harrison Barnes, Marvin Bagley III and Richaun Holmes

Timberwolves 136, Mavericks 121

Anthony Edwards closed his push for NBA Rookie of the Year with 30 points, and Minnesota dominated Dallas nearly wire-to-wire for a season-ending win in Minneapolis.

Edwards capped his debut season with his eighth game of 22 or more points over the final nine. He is in contention to be Minnesota’s first Rookie of the Year since teammate Karl-Anthony Towns, who won the award in 2016.

Dallas, which locked up the No. 5 seed and will play the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs, shot 16-of-38 from 3-point range, including Kristaps Porzingis making 4 of 5. Porzingis finished with 18 points.

Heat 120, Pistons 107

Precious Achiuwa had 23 points and 10 rebounds to lead Miami to a road win over Detroit in the regular-season finale.

With little to no incentive to win the game, each team rested several starters. Miami already had the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs clinched going into the game, while Detroit was looking to clinch the league’s second-worst record and enhance its odds of winning the first pick in the NBA draft lottery.

Saddiq Bey scored 22 points and Josh Jackson scored 17 points off the bench for Detroit.

76ers 128, Magic 117

Tyrese Maxey had 30 points, seven rebounds and six assists to lift host Philadelphia over Orlando in game in which the 76ers rested all of their starters.

Since the Sixers have had already secured the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Danny Green, Seth Curry and Tobias Harris sat the game out.

Isaiah Joe scored 17 points, rookie Paul Reed added season highs of 17 and 12 rebounds, and Shake Milton contributed 15 points and nine assists for the Sixers, who improved to 49-23. George Hill added 14 points.

Nets 123, Cavaliers 109

Kevin Durant totaled 23 points, a season-high-tying 13 assists and eight rebounds in three quarters as Brooklyn Nets secured the second seed in the Eastern Conference with a wire-to-wire win over Cleveland in New York.

The Nets ended the season on a five-game winning streak and edged out the Milwaukee Bucks for the second seed. A loss by Brooklyn and a Milwaukee win over the Chicago Bulls would have pushed the Nets into the third seed due to losing the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Bucks.

Kyrie Irving added 17 points on 7 of 11 from the field for the Nets and became the ninth player in NBA history to shoot at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line.

Knicks 96, Celtics 92

RJ Barrett scored a game-high 22 points as New York completed a resurgent regular season and clinched the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference by hanging on for a win over visiting Boston.

The Knicks, who are headed for the playoffs for the first time since 2013, will open the quarterfinals at home next weekend against the fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks.

The Celtics already were locked into the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference and the first seed in the play-in tournament. Boston, which needs to win just once to advance to the playoffs, will play the eighth-seeded Washington Wizards on Tuesday.

Pacers 125, Raptors 113

Canadian-born Oshae Brissett exploded for a career-high 31 points against his country’s displaced team, and Indiana earned a home game in the NBA’s play-in tournament with a thrashing of host Toronto.

Brissett completed a double-double with 10 rebounds, while Domantas Sabonis had one of his own with 25 points and 16 rebounds, as the Pacers snapped a two-game losing streak to clinch a tie for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

Indiana assured it would finish tied with either Charlotte or Washington, who were playing each other in a contest that finished after the Pacers-Raptors game had ended. The Wizards secured the win 115-110 over the Hornets.

Wizards 115, Hornets 110

Bradley Beal made a go-ahead layup with 2:53 remaining as host Washington beat Charlotte to secure the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Russell Westbrook collected 23 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists and Beal added 25 points in his first contest after a three-game absence for the Wizards.

Robin Lopez posted 18 points and Rui Hachimura had 16 for Washington, which will visit the seventh-seeded Boston Celtics in the play-in round on Tuesday. Charlotte, which owns the No. 10 seed, will face the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday in Indianapolis.

Suns 123, Spurs 121

E’Twaun Moore poured in 22 points, including the deciding 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds to play, to lift visiting Phoenix past San Antonio.

Phoenix was without Devin Booker (rest), Chris Paul (rest) and Deandre Ayton (knee) as the Suns opted to keep key players on the bench despite the chance to earn the top spot in the Western Conference.

San Antonio pulled its starters at the end of the third quarter, allowing the two teams’ bench players to decide the contest. The Suns’ reserves had just enough to secure the win that forced Utah to win in Sacramento later Sunday in order to finish atop of Phoenix in the West.

Hawks 124, Rockets 95

Led by rookie Onyeka Okongwu’s career bests of 21 points and 15 rebounds, Atlanta tuned up for its first trip to the playoffs since 2017 with a win over visiting Houston in the regular-season finale on Sunday.

Okongwu, who posted his second double-double, was 10-for-13 from the field and added three assists, two steals and two blocked shots. The Hawks had eight players in double figures, including Skylar Mays with 16, John Collins with 15 and De’Andre Hunter with 14. Trae Young (sore big right toe) was limited to 16 minutes and scored 10 points with nine assists.

The Hawks will be the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference and face off with the No. 4 New York Knicks in the first round.

Bulls 118, Bucks 112

Thaddeus Young finished with 20 points and seven rebounds to help host Chicago finish its season with a victory over playoff-bound Milwaukee.

Young was one of six Bulls who scored in double figures. Coby White totaled 19 points, five rebounds and five assists, and Lauri Markkanen had 17 points and five rebounds.

Locked into the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference after the Brooklyn Nets’ victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier in the evening, the Bucks rested all of their starters — Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Jrue Holiday and Donte DiVincenzo.

Thunder 117, Clippers 112

Aleksej Pokusevski scored a career-high 29 points to lead Oklahoma City to a win over Los Angeles in the final night of the NBA regular season.

The loss sent the Clippers to the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. They’ll face Dallas in the first round of the playoffs.

Pokusevski got off to a hot start and then hit a 3-pointer to break a tie in the final minute and snap the Thunder’s nine-game losing streak. He hit his first six shots and finished 10 of 19 from the floor, hitting six 3-pointers.

Trail Blazers 132, Nuggets 116

CJ McCollum scored 24 points and Portland clinched a Western Conference playoff spot with an easy victory over visiting Denver.

Damian Lillard recorded 22 points and 10 assists and Jusuf Nurkic added 20 points and 13 rebounds in the wire-to-wire victory that allowed Portland to avoid the play-in round and claim the No. 6 spot in the West.

Nikola Jokic scored 21 points in the first half before exiting for the Nuggets, who landed the third seed in West despite the setback because the Los Angeles Clippers lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Denver owned the tiebreaker with the Clippers.

–Field Level Media

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Djokovic outlasts Sonego to set up Rome final with Nadal



Defending champion Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal will clash for the Italian Open title after the top two seeds advanced to the final of the Masters tournament on Saturday.

Djokovic, who beat Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas 4-6 7-5 7-5 in a rain-delayed quarter-final earlier in the day, was also stretched to three sets in the semi-final before overcoming local favourite Lorenzo Sonego.

Sonego, the first Italian to make the semi-finals in Rome in 14 years after he beat world number seven Andrey Rublev earlier on Saturday, had his dream run ended by Djokovic who triumphed 6-3 6-7(5) 6-2.

Djokovic failed to convert two match points in the second set that lasted 91 minutes as Sonego forced a tiebreak, where the Serb lost a 4-2 lead.

However, the world number one controlled proceedings in the decider and advanced after Sonego’s return on match point found the net.

Earlier, Nadal beat Reilly Opelka 6-4 6-4 to move into the final in Rome for the 12th time.

The match was Nadal’s 500th on clay where he has a formidable 458-42 record and the Spaniard advanced after twice breaking the big-serving American.

“When you play these kind of matches, you know it’s not going to be a beautiful match… you’re not going to find rhythm in the match. You’re going to have just a few chances to break,” Nadal told reporters.

“It’s important not to suffer much with your serve because if you are… you feel the stress all the time. So the positive thing today, I just faced break points in one game during the whole match.”

Djokovic was trailing Tsitsipas 6-4 2-1 when Friday’s quarter-final was halted by rain but the Serb raised his game at key moments to twice come back from a break down in the deciding set.

Djokovic has a 29-27 career record against Nadal but the Spaniard has won five of their eight matches in Rome.

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru and Sudipto Ganguly in Berhampore, India; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Ed Osmond)

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New York Rangers get OK to interview Gerard Gallant for coaching job



The New York Rangers plan to interview Gerard Gallant for their head coaching job, TSN reported.

The Vegas Golden Knights, who fired Gallant during the 2019-20 season, reportedly have granted permission.

A first conversation between the Rangers and Gallant was expected to take place quickly, before Gallant heads to Latvia to coach Team Canada at the IIHF World Championship, which runs from May 21-June 6.

Gallant, 57, was the first coach of the expansion Golden Knights and led them to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season in 2017-18. The Washington Capitals won in five games.

He was fired 49 games into his third season when the team was 24-19-6, and he had an overall record of 118-75-20 with Vegas.

He also coached the Columbus Blue Jackets (2003-07) and Florida Panthers (2014-17) and has a career record of 270-216-4-51 in 541 career games as a head coach.

The Rangers are in the midst of an overhaul. They fired head coach David Quinn and three assistant coaches on Wednesday, following the dismissal last week of team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton.

The Rangers failed to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth straight season after posting a 27-23-6 record in 2020-21. They finished in fifth place in the East Division.

Quinn, 54, compiled a 96-87-25 record during his three seasons as coach of the Rangers after taking over for Alain Vigneault on May 23, 2018.

–Field Level Media

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