CALGARY, Alberta -- Darryl Sutter has three coaching candidates in mind for the Calgary Flames. If none stand out as the right choice, the general manager is prepared to take over again behind the bench.
Sutter, who coached the Flames from 2002-06, was asked Tuesday if he was including himself in the search for Mike Keenan's successor.
"Right now I'm the best one," Sutter said. "All the best coaches in the league are under contract. There's three guys who are excellent.
"I won't tell you who they are, but then I'm fourth. If I find out at the end of the search that I think I'm the best candidate, then I am the coach."
The Flames fired Keenan on Friday with one year remaining on his contract. Sutter was prohibited by NHL tampering rules from revealing the names on his short list because those candidates are still employed by other teams.
One potential replacement for Keenan is Sutter's brother, Brent, who hasn't decided if he will return to the New Jersey Devils for a third season as coach.
"He's one of the top coaches in the league, but he's coaching the New Jersey Devils," Darryl Sutter said.
Two men were removed from speculation Tuesday as the Edmonton Oilers hired Pat Quinn as head coach and former Rangers bench boss Tom Renney as associate coach.
The Flames will be building an entire new staff. Sutter announced Tuesday that assistant coaches Rich Preston and Rob Cookson and goalie coach David Marcoux will not have their contracts renewed.
Associate coach Jim Playfair has been offered a job as coach of Calgary's new American Hockey League affiliate in Abbotsford, British Columbia, next season. Sutter wants the Flames' new coaching staff in place by the NHL draft at the end of June.
"I think the new head coach should pick his staff," he said.
Sutter joined the Flames as head coach Dec. 28, 2002, and added general manager duties less than four months later. He coached the Flames to the Stanley Cup finals in 2004, when they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games.
After the 2005-06 season, Sutter gave up the coaching job and promoted Playfair from assistant to head coach. Playfair was moved to associate coach when Keenan was hired in 2007.
Calgary has made four straight exits in the first round of the playoffs, the last two under Keenan.
It will be the third coaching change in four seasons for the Flames, who spent up to the $56.7 million salary cap last season as they tried to build for a longer playoff run. Calgary, the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference, was knocked out in six games by the Chicago Blackhawks.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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