We got to talking on Twitter with a Hurricanes fan who has closely followed Brandon Sutter's career. We asked her to give us as much information as possible on Sutter, and she has answered the bell. Great read:
Brandon Sutter was meant to be a franchise player in the Carolina Hurricanes organization. Canes General Manager Jim Rutherford once called Sutter one of his “untouchables” along with Eric Staal and Cam Ward. Ask me if I’ll ever believe that line again. Needless to say, I’m a Brandon Sutter fan, and, Pittsburgh, you are getting some serious talent. When Adam found me crying about it on Twitter, he asked me to tell Penguins fans what they can expect from Suttsy. So here’s what you need to know about the player and his character.
The Sutter name is obviously well known in the hockey world. Brandon’s dad Brent did some serious damage against the Penguins during his tenure with the Islanders (1981-1991). First things first, Brandon Sutter is his own player (and subsequently starts to squirm when asked about his family). Penguins fan blogs have been comparing his stats to Jordan Staal since the second the trade was announced, but it’s doesn’t give a complete picture of Sutter as a player or as a “dude.”
Circumstances in Pittsburgh will be vastly different for Sutter than in Carolina. He’s now playing for a team that’s been largely intact since winning a Stanley Cup in 2009. Last season alone the Canes endured a coaching change, a slew of injuries, and a few trades. Sutter’s linemates changed countless times, and I believe he’ll thrive in the more consistent environment of Pittsburgh.
Brandon Sutter is a natural at center, which is where he spent a majority of his time in Carolina. He’s centered the third line (or the checking line) consistently for the past two seasons, which means Sutter has been up against the most skilled players in the NHL. He’s no stranger to the penalty kill, and his defensive game is on point. But Sutter can and will score goals if given the opportunity. He rarely, if ever, got time on the power play in Carolina. The skills are all there: he’s quick, he passes well, and he knows when to take a shot and where to put the puck. I expect Sutter to sit consistently closer to 20 goals in an 82-game regular season now.
Some other key points about “the dude” Brandon Sutter, on and off the ice:
He’s tough for a skinny guy. Sutter isn’t a fighter. He only has four fights to his name over his three NHL seasons. More often than not, he’s coming to the defense of a teammate. But he will hit and hit hard. He will block shots with no hesitation. Last year, Sutter was 5th in NHL forwards for blocked shots. While the coaching staff would have liked him to put on some weight, it just never happened. But perhaps the lockout did have its advantages. Even though Sutter is still listed at his trusty 183 pounds, by all appearances he looks to have gained some bulk.
He’s a quiet leader. You won’t see him popping off at the mouth or taking silly penalties. He’s a smart player who at 23 is mature and level-headed. Last season, Sutter was the first to intervene in a fight between teammates Pat Dwyer and Jeff Skinner during practice. Many of the young players in the Carolina system looked up to Sutter. Probably a key reason why he was named Alternate Captain at 21 after playing just one season in the NHL.
He’s been healthy. Sutter hasn’t missed a single game in the last two seasons. He did turn down an invitation to play for Canada in the IIHF World Championships in the summer of 2012 because of a rumored lower-back issue. Other than that, Sutter hasn’t had a major injury (knock on wood) since the 2008 concussion following a hit from Doug Weight.
He’s itching to play a playoff game. Sutter hasn’t played one in his entire four-year NHL career. You could hear the frustration in his voice and see it on his face when it became abundantly clear last season that the Canes would fail to make it to the postseason yet again. Yes, the playoffs and the Stanley Cup is the goal of every player in the NHL. My first thought when Sutter got traded: He’s going to get his playoff games. There is no question it is top priority for him.
He’s great with the media. Pittsburgh is an entirely different hockey town than Raleigh. The big sport here of course is College Basketball. It’s easy to see that the media coverage of hockey in Pittsburgh is much more widespread. Trust Sutter to handle that pressure with grace and humor when it’s appropriate. He made a joke about Sidney Crosby in his first post lockout interview! If that doesn’t make it obvious the guy is comfortable, I don’t know what will.
So look past the stats, Pens fans. Sutter has some untapped talent and qualities that will serve your team well, and are obviously being recognized by Coach Dan Bylsma. I’m happy to see that he’s being embraced by the fans and the whole Pittsburgh system.
This trade was probably the best thing for Brandon Sutter’s career. He’s going to get the opportunity to expand his game and he’ll obviously be playing with some of the best talent in the NHL. But as someone who knows the talent the Canes gave up, it’s always going to sting.
JC, Raleigh, NC