Sutter: My time in San Jose is ancient history

Updated: May 6, 2004, 5:58 PM ET
Associated Press

CALGARY, Alberta -- A grudge match is a great storyline. Darryl Sutter was having none of it.

The Calgary Flames coach-general manager says playing his former team, the San Jose Sharks, in the Western Conference final is irrelevant.

"Personally it has zero, zero bearing," Sutter said of his connection to the Sharks, the team he began coaching in 1997 before being fired early in the 2002-2003 season.

There is no element of revenge involved, he said.

"Every team now probably has 10 guys who have moved. I mean you separate it totally. I have a ton of respect for their organization and for the players I coached over there," Sutter said.

The series begins Sunday in San Jose. The Flames advanced to the final four by defeating the Detroit Red Wings in the second round in six games, while the Sharks eliminated the Colorado Avalanche, also in six.

Talking about his past with the Sharks is only a distraction, Sutter said. Not the only member of the Flames who is a Sharks alumnus, he predicted those players also wouldn't buy into the idea of getting even.

"I know what they're going to say. They're not going to use it as a distraction," he said.

The most notable ex-Shark is goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, who wasn't even playing when Sutter snagged him in a trade last fall. But Kiprusoff managed to escape the throng of reporters attending the optional skate and meetings Wednesday, so there were no comments from the Finn on his feelings about the Sharks.

Sutter is just trying to take pressure off his star netminder, center Craig Conroy said.

"I mean this is a series that we have to win and that's what our goal is," said Conroy.

Right wing Shean Donovan, who was with San Jose during the 1997-98 season, echoed Sutter's line that facing his old team isn't significant.

"Once it comes down to this and you're in the conference final everything's thrown out the door," he said. "Once you're on the ice, it's just like playing anybody."

Defenseman Mike Commodore was the only Flame not adhering to Sutter's strict party line.

"I know whenever I played Anaheim this year I kind of took it personal just because you had something to do with that organization -- you want to beat them," he said. "So yeah, I think that has something to do with this series coming up."

There are similarities between the Flames and Sharks, even though San Jose won its division while Calgary finished in sixth place in the conference. But Sutter, while hesitant to discuss the head-to-head matchup, understands why both teams have had success.

"We're both young teams, we both have great leadership, both have great goaltending, we're both very disciplined," said Sutter, who was quick to paint his team as the underdog despite beating Vancouver and Detroit in the first two rounds. "They didn't win their division by accident, that's for sure."

Donovan agreed with his coach.

"You know they were the second-ranked team in the conference this year and you know they've had a great season," said Donovan. "For sure we're underdogs. We just have to go in there and just work hard and keep it simple and play the way we have been playing."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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