Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Eagles Have Landed Sutter

The 65th season of Innisfail Eagles hockey has taken flight, quickly.

The Chinook Hockey League team confirmed today that Brian Sutter is their new Head Coach, bringing along longtime assistants Brian Stephenson and Jason Lenz and other support staff with him.

Brian spent five of the past six seasons coaching the Bentley Generals.  He guided them to four Allan Cup appearances including their championship win in 2009.
"It's gonna be interesting," Sutter told me over the phone Tuesday morning.  "It's gonna be fun really.  They only won one game last year so it tells you off the ice they didn't do a very good job.  They just need to refocus.  I think this will work out good."

Sutter left his post with the Generals following the 2011-12 season after what can best be described as "philosophical differences."  The Generals are heading in a certain vision as they prepare to host the 2013 Allan Cup in Red Deer.  Sutter disagreed with that vision and is now in Innisfail.

"We've got a good group of people coming," Sutter said referring the group following him to Innisfail.  And that group apparently could include more than just coaches and support staff.  "I had ten phone calls yesterday [Monday] from players.  Some of them played in Bentley.  A lot of Bentley players wanna come over." 

Sutter threw down the gauntlet (big time) while telling me there could be a mass exodus of players going from Bentley to Innisfail. 

"They're [Generals] gonna have a problem because if we do what I expect us to do they're not gonna make the playoffs.  They've told a handful of guys they don't want back and they're lying to another four or five.  So a lot of those players are going to come and play for us."

Brian had a number of other pointed comments aimed specifically at Generals management.  I won't be sharing the specifics, but the just is he isn't happy.

Anyway, the bottom line with this whole this is that the Chinook Hockey League has been completely turned on its ear by this off-season's happenings.  The coaching change in Bentley alone, going from Sutter to bench boss Brandin Cote, created waves on its own.  But with Brian flying a few miles south to Innisfail, and drawing a firm battle line in the process, the intrigue factor has increased another ten-fold.

For those who have followed the chinook league in recent years, it's no secret that the Innisfail Eagles have struggled.  Last season, the team stumbled to 1-21-0-2 record (their lone win came in a shootout 4-3 over Carstairs).  As the franchise enters its historic 65th season of play, adding Sutter is a good start to their flight back to respectability.

"This is an exciting time for Eagles hockey for our players, staff, sponsors and fans!" said Randy Graham, Chair of the Innisfail Eagles Board of Directors, in a press release. 
“The addition of Brian, Jason and Brian, as well as some great guys who are coming on board as support staff, will create more interest in the team on the ice as well as the opportunity to connect to our fans, sponsors and community."

The Eagles will remain registered as Senior AA for this season, meaning they will not be Allan Cup eligible.  But the Eagles have made it very aware they are putting a lot of effort into hopefully hosting, and winning, 2013 Senior A/AA Provincials.

The task now awaiting the Bentley Generals is a daunting one... to field a team worthy of competing at the 2013 Allan Cup which they are hosting here in Red Deer. 
If it indeed turns out that a majority of their players are set to fly to Innisfail or elsewhere, the GM Jeff McInnis has some sleepless weeks ahead of him as he tries to rebuild the Generals corps.  However it turns out, it certainly won't be boring.

Flying (or perhaps more appropriately, sailing) under the radar are the Sylvan Lake Admirals.  Jason Stephens' club was improved in its second year compared to its first (in 2010-11 after officially relocating from Rocky) and appear headed in the right direction.  After making their own bid to host the '13 AC you know Jason and crew would love nothing better than to be competing at next April's party in Red Deer.

Stony Plain, the defending provincial champions, will no doubt be confident after a bounce back 2011-12 season which saw them earn their first Allan Cup berth since they hosted the tournament in 2007.  Barring any major setback, Stony should be a force again this season.
Fort Saskatchewan will all be in the mix one way or another as well.

Lloydminster, the 2012 AC hosts who finished first in the regular season standings last season, has opted not to be part of the league this season.  Carstairs is also out after just one season of play.
(thanks to @eagleswinger10 and a couple of others for the reminder!)

Quoting Captain Obvious... the 2012-13 Chinook Hockey League season is going to be quite interesting!




Anonymous said...

Sutter got canned because he was horribly out coached against horse lake, there was no disagreement in the matter, his eagles may rack up a win or two but sutter isn't going to turn a last place team to a champion. He is bitter because he wanted another shot at the Allan cup, who wouldn't? Blow all the smoke you want about what he will do or tell you he will do, he was fired due to poor performance and he took his crybabies with him. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Who's leaving a shot at the Allan cup to go play in innisfale? If there is a player willing to do so they obviously aren't worthy of winning one?

Anonymous said...

Troy, I feel you might be getting played a pawn here. It would have been wise to check the line for a response from Bentleys' side of the story. As it is...Sutter is using the media, attempting to create 'Traitor-Gate" where there isn't any. The chaos in Bentley left the day Sutter cleaned out his royal and all ;)

Troy Gillard said...

Dear Anonymous...

I in fact did seek out the Generals side of the story back in May. (my subsequent write-up is still available for reading).

In a one on one chat with GM Jeff McInnis, with whom I've had a great working relationship for years, he chose not to get into too much detail regarding the situation. He kept his comments diplomatic. I could, and probably will, call Jeff in the coming days to chat. But something tells me he'd do the same again.

I appreciate, and am fully aware of, the fact there was friction between the two sides well before their separation was made official. But when it comes to quoting the parties involved I can only go with what they tell me.


Anonymous said...

Troy is definitely once again being played. He should have the reporting skills by now to know when someone is trying to be 'diplomatic' that he is lying or trying to hide something. I'm sure Gillard read the advocate story in May where his diplomatic friend claimed that the departure was mutual.
Ha ! What a fricken joke. At least Sutter speaks his mind and puts it out there. People don't like getting lied to McInnis and apparently you're players are starting to talk amongst themselves about what you have really been telling some. Your's and Gyoris Ivory Tower is on very shaky ground.

Anonymous said...

Traitor-Gate???? Come on McGuiness, everyone with a clue knows this came out of your mouth....and you'll soon know what real chaos is....good luck, you schmuck!