Sutter's job: 'Bring back roar'

Tribune staff reporter

During his 12-year playing career with the St. Louis Blues, Brian Sutter measured himself and his teammates by how they played on Sunday nights in Chicago.

Then it was at the old Chicago Stadium and the Blackhawks were a tough team to play against. Lately, that hasn't been the case, and now it's Sutter's job to, as team owner Bill Wirtz said, "bring back the roar."

"Certainly we have to establish a mentality and an attitude that this is one tough building to come into and play," Sutter said Thursday as he was introduced as the 34th head coach in team history. "Our level and expectations have to be raised."

Sutter, who signed a three-year deal, doesn't describe himself as a yeller or screamer, although Hawks general manager Mike Smith said the players won't need hearing aids to get his message.

That will be a sharp departure from the mild-mannered demeanor of Alpo Suhonen, who spent less than one season as coach.

"We're not going to have any problems getting guys going or ready to play under a guy like Brian Sutter, that's for sure," Hawks captain Tony Amonte said. "It did get a bit too easy [last season], and it showed in the way we played."

The Hawks basically gave up during the final month of last season, failing to win in their last 11 games.

"That's not acceptable," Smith said. "Brian Sutter's teams have a historyof competing. If you ask me what the team needs most next season, it's the confidence that the team is going to compete every night."

That was Sutter's trademark as a player.

"I felt a personal responsibility and obligation, not every period, not every game, but every shift," he said. "Every time I jumped over the boards every night and every shift. That's what you owe the fans."

Thursday was about returning to "Blackhawks" hockey. Sutter's brand of hockey involves "tremendous emotion, intensity and passion," words that once symbolized the franchise.

"He's going to have a team that tries, takes the body and runs into people," Hawks Senior Vice President Bob Pulford said of Sutter. "That's kind of Chicago hockey. Chicago is a blue-collar town, the [fans] want to see a team that gives an effort, and I think his team will do that."

Sutter didn't spend much time Thursday talking about systems and styles of play, except to say the NHL is a much faster league today than when he played. The Hawks will play a very simple brand of hockey.

"The teams that win and keep playing at the end of the year are the teams that execute the fundamentals the most," he said. "I'm someone who never gets away from that. It isn't very complicated."

Sutter talked mainly about pride, accountability and trust -- values that are consistent throughout the Sutter family. Brian is the third Sutter to become an active NHL coach. Former Hawks coach Darryl is in San Jose and Duane coaches Florida.

Sutter, who is retaining assistant coaches Denis Savard and Al MacAdam, will try to find a way to instill those values into an underachieving team that too often seemed as if it didn't care.

"The leadership factor is very important," he said. "The pride factor of the city you're playing in, what you're playing for and what you're standing up for and the uniform you're wearing. You're going to hear me talk a lot about trust and respect because they're two of the greatest words in life."

Sutter also made it clear he expects players to come to training camp in the "best possible shape they can be in," perhaps aware that some would have failed that standard last season.

"Athletes make a lot of money now, and the ones who have the greatest pride in themselves are the ones who come in in the greatest shape," he said. "Your physical condition is the first and foremost [factor in] winning. If you don't have that, you don't have anything."

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