Sutter: It's About Winning
Brandon Sutter was at a friend’s house on Friday night when he received a phone call from Hurricanes vice president of hockey operations Ron Francis.
Francis, a member of the most memorable trade in Penguins' history back in 1991, informed Sutter that he was part of the biggest Penguins' trade of the past decade.
“He said he wished he was calling with better news,” Sutter said via conference call Monday afternoon. “It catches you by surprise. Your heart stops and you take a deep breath. It’s a feeling I’m not used to, more shock than anything.”
Francis told Sutter, 23, that he was a part of the deal that sent Jordan Staal to Carolina in exchange for Sutter, Brian Dumoulin and the eighth-overall pick of the 2012 NHL Draft (Derrick Pouliot).
After the initial shock of the first trade in his entire life, Sutter is starting to feel the excitement of joining a team as talented and deep as the Penguins.
“Now I’ve relaxed a bit,” said Sutter, who’s already spoken with Ray Shero, Dan Bylsma and Sidney Crosby. “It’s starting to get pretty exciting.
“I know from playing against them that they’re a talented group and tough team to play against. That’s what’s exciting for me.”
Sutter (6-foot-3, 183 pounds) is a strong, two-way center that will likely fit well as the third center behind Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Sutter has played the role of shutdown defender with the Hurricanes, and feels strongly about bringing that part of his game to Pittsburgh.
“The role I’m going into is one I’m comfortable with and the role I like to play,” Sutter said. “I enjoy playing against the other team’s better players and trying to outplay them. It’s a challenge.”
Sutter, who also excels in penalty killing, would like to see his role expanded beyond just a defensive player though. He scored 21 goals in his rookie season in 2009-10 and would love to grow as a player offensively.
“One thing I mentioned to (Carolina) was that I felt like I was stuck,” said Sutter, the 11th-overall pick in 2007. “They were always expecting me to be good defensively, which is fine, but in terms of offense there wasn’t a whole lot of opportunity.
“I don’t want to be looked at as just a defensive player. I want to score goals. … I’m very comfortable on the penalty kill and checking. If you can combine the two, then you’ll turn yourself into a good player.”
And while Sutter will likely be slotted in Staal’s former role on the team, he made it clear that he is not worried about filling Staal’s shoes (or skates, for that matter).
“I’m my own player. I don’t feel like I’m here to replace anyone,” Sutter said. “Jordan is obviously a great player, a player that you want to be like. Hopefully, one day I can try and find that level that he was at in terms of offensive numbers. I think I can. I don’t feel like I’m replacing someone.
“The Penguins had to make a deal and I’m glad they picked me. I’m going to a winning team where there’s opportunity. I feel they chose me because they wanted me. I look at it that way. I’m not trying to replace anyone. I’ll play my game and not worry about anyone else.”
But the most important thing for Sutter at this juncture in his career is winning.
“I’m four years into my career now and I have yet to play in a playoff game,” he said. “For me I’m at a point now where it’s about winning. That’s what I want to be there for and help with that.
“With Crosby and Malkin, if we can find a way to get the third line to produce like they have in the past, you have that three-line force.”
And the best part of joining the Penguins for Sutter is now he no longer has to worry about defending the two best players in the world.
“I remember coming into Pittsburgh and playing against Crosby and Malkin, which wasn’t always a ton of fun,” he said. “I’m looking forward to being on the other side of that now.”
Sutter said he hopes to visit Pittsburgh soon to meet with Penguins coaches and personnel, as well as figuring out his living situation.
“I think I’ll come down in a couple weeks and move all my stuff from Carolina to there, look for a place to live, things like that. It would be nice to be settled before training camp so I can relax the rest of the summer and not worry about it.
“I’d love to sit down with (the Penguins) and talk. It’d be nice to get my feet down, see the dressing room and learn the city a bit, try to figure out where I’m going. I’m looking forward to doing that.”
Sutter was also asked about his long bloodline. Sutter, whose father Brent played and coached in the NHL, is one of nine members of the Sutter family to play in the NHL.
“If I ever need advice on anything, I have a few people I could call.”
Sutter, whose three shorthanded goals last season tied for fourth in the NHL, is looking forward to joining an already deadly Penguins penalty killing unit.
“They’re aggressive up front and that’s one of my strengths. I’m looking forward to getting into that.”