– Tom Benjamin and I look at the Flames cap troubles during the stretch drive. While the sudden injuries to Regehr, Sarich, Aucoin, Roy etc are certainly tough to put on Sutter, the fact that the Flames have been battling the cap ceiling all year – an issue that was exacerbated by the Jokinen trade – is all Sutter’s doing. While playing a man down for the last week or so may or may not have significant ramifications on the Flames season, Sutter should be embarrassed by this issue either way.
– Speaking of injuries, word is both Regehr and Sarich are down for the count: Reggie with an MCL sprain and Sarich with a broken foot. That’s some terrible news for a team that has struggled to be defensively responsible all season. Calgary has the highest GA/G average of any play-off team in the NHL and they probably just lost their two best defensive blueliners for at least the first round. Yikes.
– And speaking of the Jokinen trade, that particular swap is starting to feel an awful lot like the ill-fated Brad Stuart trade of two seasons ago. That year, the Flames were in need of a top 4 defenseman and Sutter moved two cheap, capable players in Andrew Ference and Chuck Kobasew for Stuart and Wayne Primeau. The move backfired as the Flames limped into the post season anyways and then were summarily dismissed by the vastly superior Detroit Red Wings. That summer, Stuart bolted for free agency and Sutter, obviously not wanting to come away from the deal empty handed, re-signed Wayne Primeau to a contract that has hampered the team ever since. In the meantime, both Kobasew and Ference have been relatively effective pieces for the Bruins.
This year, a “legitimate #1 center” was on the Flames shopping list, so Sutter moved Prust, Lombardi and a first round pick for Olli Jokinen. Since then, the Flames fortunes have gone in the toilet, with Jokinen not even out-performing Lombardi over intervening stretch. Obviously, Sutter will be judged by how Jokinen performs in the play-offs and next season, but the early returns are hardly encouraging. Calgary not only sacrificed a couple of roster players (one of whom had greater untility and was handily outperforming his 1.8M contract), but also cap space and a chance to re-sign Mike Cammalleri next season. If things don’t improve for Jokinen here (and the team in general), this could turn out to be one of Sutter most significant missteps as the Flames GM. I was wary of the trade when it occured and have some serious doubts in light of the results and my qualitative observations of Jokinen’s play since he arrived. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.
– While there isn’t a ton of good news in Flamesland out there right now, consider that the Flames can still win their division with a couple of victories over the woeful Edmonton Oilers this weekend. With their season winding down, the Oil will be resting some of their battle-scarred vets, including goalie Dwayne Roloson. Meaning mediocre rookie tender JDD will be in net for both Friday and Satruday night. Meaning, aside from playing, say, the NYI in the final two games, the Flames probably couldn’t ask for a better match-up.
– Other good news: with Moss’ 20th goal versus the Kings, the Flames became one of the few teams in the league to boast six 20 goal scorers. The club has 12 guys with 10+ goals as well.