Red Deer Rebels owner and GM Brent Sutter decided his club is better fit with him behind the bench on Wednesday as he fired long-time bench-boss Jesse Wallin and took over his duties as interim head coach.
It is tough to say whether Sutter made this decision because he wasn't happy with Wallin's coaching tactics or if he was eager to get back behind the bench. It seems it could be a combination of the two.
Wallin's time in Red Deer had more downs than ups. The Rebels were better than .500 only two of his five years behind the bench. His best season was in 2010-11 when his club finished first in the Central Division with 104 points. Red Deer did, however, come up short in the playoffs by losing out to the Medicine Hat Tigers in the Eastern Conference's semi-final. One has to keep in mind Wallin had Edmonton Oilers star Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Minnesota Wild puck-stopper prospect Darcy Kuemper, who maintained a 1.86 average and .933 save percentage, in his arsenal that year.
This year, Wallin kept Red Deer in the East's top eight. They currently sit with an 10-11-1-1 record (22 points). It would be a stretch to say Wallin's squad underachieved because of their lack of depth and talent up front. Besides Minnesota Wild first-rounder Mathew Dumba and puck-stopper Patrick Bartosak, there isn't many impact players in their dressing room.
Wallin was the architect of this squad, though. He was the team's general manager throughout his five full seasons in Red Deer. He can be partially blamed for not bringing in the right guys to get the job done.
Sutter took over Wallin's general manager duties when he returned to Red Deer after leaving the Calgary Flames organization. He has been a very active GM, making eight trades prior to December 1.
Sutter, former head coach of the Flames and New Jersey Devils, made another roster move today by sending overage centre Charles Inglis home until he finds a suitor for him. This news didn't perk up too many ears of the WHL faithful. It was highly speculated the Saskatoon Blades and Prince George Cougars traded Inglis because of problems in the dressing room.
It appears Sutter firing Wallin has been in the works longer than the past 24 hours since he brought Jeff Truitt into the organization as an associate coach simultaneously. Here is RebelRebellion.com's insight on this.
Where does Jeff Truitt fit into all of this? The optics are pretty obvious in my opinion. Clearly, this is something that Sutter has been thinking about for a while. You don't fire a coach and name an associate from outside the organization at the same time if it was a 'quick' decision. And the interim tag? Who knows how long that sticks with Sutter? I would call it more of a 'grooming' position to introduce and familiarize Truitt with the organization and players before moving him into a position become head coach. Whether that takes place now or to start next season, I don't think Sutter names Truitt an associate coach today without having that in mind.
The Red Deer blog brings up a lot of good points. It is quite possible that Sutter is bringing in Truitt to groom him as the Rebels' next head coach. But for the time being, that is just speculation. It is also plausible that Sutter could remain head coach long term in Red Deer if he is unable to get back behind a bench in the NHL.
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen
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