Sutter savors family ties, warms to new team
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Brandon Sutter had travel plans -- fly from Alberta to Carolina, pack a lot of clothes and belongings, then drive to Pittsburgh for a bit of orientation -- so he missed his uncle Darryl's time with the Stanley Cup over the weekend.
Darryl Sutter is coach of the champion Los Angeles Kings. Brandon's father, Brent, won the Cup twice with the New York Islanders, but it was before Brandon was born.
So Brandon will have to make his own quest, which is all right with him, although it is tough to escape the name he will wear on the back of his No. 16 Penguins jersey given that the previous generation of Sutters evoke such a strong image. Six of seven brothers from a farming family in Viking, Alberta, played in the NHL, with Rich spending a short time with the Penguins after being a first-round draft pick.
Hockey fans old enough will remember the Sutter brothers as tough, talented, heady players. That puts some expectations on Brandon, 23, who was acquired June 22 during the first round of the draft in a trade that sent center Jordan Staal to Carolina.
"I think everyone certainly makes it that way," Brandon said Wednesday of labeling him based on his surname. "But, ever since I was drafted, I think from day one I said that I want to be my own player. It doesn't matter what your name is. You've got to go out there and do your job.
"But I definitely take pride in it. It's kind of a cool scenario with what my dad and uncles have done. I just go play my game, and, fortunately for me, I have a few guys to call if I ever have questions about anything."
Sutter didn't mention whether he used that pipeline of support to help him deal with getting traded, but the transaction hit him hard. The Hurricanes drafted him 11th overall in 2007 and developed him into their third-line center.
"At first, it's tough," he said. "It's the first time I've been traded. I was at a place where I was comfortable. It's a whole new feel now. At first, you're kind of taken aback. It's a little disappointing. Then you start thinking about it and you move on.
"I'm definitely getting excited. I think once I meet the guys, start skating, it will be awesome. I'm getting really pumped about it."
Sutter is spending a few days in town for a little orientation. He toured Consol Energy Center and planned to look for a place to live. "Thankfully, I was still renting all my furniture," he said.
He is expected to fill Staal's spot as the third-line center, and he met a possible linemate at the arena. Matt Cooke is working out in Pittsburgh these days and was chaperoning his son and other children while Sutter was there.
"I talked to a few guys on the phone and with text messages," Sutter said. "Everyone's been really welcoming.
"It's no secret they've got a pretty special group. I feel like I'm part of that now, and that's exciting. I've had to play against this team enough. It's nice to be on the other side of it now."
Sutter's assignment with Carolina was heavy on defensive responsibility. He hopes to be a little more two-dimensional with the Penguins and build on the 53 goals, 107 points he has in his first 286 NHL games.
In the meantime, he is spending most of his offseason the same way he always does -- working out and hanging out with a group of longtime hockey buddies back in Alberta, not too far from Viking. He lives at Sylvan Lake, and they work out in Red Deer, where Brandon was coached by his father during his junior hockey days. Brent Sutter was coach of the Calgary Flames before being fired at the end of last season.
"All my family and friends are around there, so that's where I like to be," Brandon said of small-town Alberta. "We've got a pretty good group. It makes it a lot of fun. We're all kind of on the same schedule -- work out in the morning, golf in the afternoon."
First Published July 26, 2012 12:00 am