Admit it. At some point in your life you’ve cast an eye on your neighbours’ trash at the curb and thought to yourself: “That’s a perfectly good end-table (or lamp or suitcase or birdcage or rug or half-eaten peach pie). Why in the world are they throwing it out?” Then, under the cover of darkness, you’ve removed said object from the pile before it could get hauled away to the dump, or at the very least you’ve toyed with the idea of doing so.
It’s the same kind of thinking that explains some of the names that have surfaced as candidates to fill the suddenly vacant Calgary Flames coaching post. Jacques Lemaire, Bob Hartley, Marc Crawford and Craig MacTavish, all ex-employees of the Flames’ Northwest Division playmates the Wild, the Avalanche, the Canucks and the Oilers, have been mentioned either as we-have-this-on-good-authority gossiping or as freely admitted idle speculation.
Of course, the rumours won’t be limited to the chaps who are on the Northwest Division pogey. Ryan McGill, Pat Quinn, Dave Lowry, Tom Renney, Peter Laviolette, Todd Richards, Geoff Ward and at least three Sutters — Brent, Darryl and Duane, and come to think of it somebody will probably mention Brian, too — have either already been discussed or will be between now and Tuesday when the situation is addressed by the aforementioned candidate who happens to occupy the general manager’s office at the Dome That Pekka Rautakallio Built.
The Herald’s George Johnson has an excellent column in Saturday’s paper discussing the Brent possibility, even though the Sutter brother known as Pup is theoretically already gainfully employed by the New Jersey Devils. Brent Sutter gives a pretty convincing denial that the topic of a move from the Swamplands to the Saddledome has been discussed, but Flames fans know by now the inherent risks of taking Sutter proclamations at face value.
One of the more amusing arguments advanced by those who don’t believe a Darryl-Brent connection will ever happen is reference to Darryl’s comment once upon a time that having a brother as his coach would never happen because he couldn’t imagine one day having to tie the can to his own flesh and blood. That’s funny because at last count there were three other Sutters in the Flames organization and Darryl presumably has full control over all of their fates. Also, if Darryl went ahead and hired Brent and things didn’t work out, the dismissal of Brent probably isn’t the firing Darryl should be worried about.
The Lemaire scuttlebutt, seemingly based on the notion the Flames need a defensive taskmaster to get things back on the rails, won’t go away even though it does need to speed out of sight as quickly as possible. The merits of the case for Lemaire are dubious, but more than that there’s pretty much no chance it’s going to happen. The only debate is settling on the main reason this issue is a non-starter — is it because Sutter would never hire Lemaire or is it because Lemaire has no interest in this particular assignment?
The second coming of Darryl Sutter the Calgary Coach still seems like the best bet, but then again anticipating the next Flames move under this administration can be a pretty unrewarding experience.
In any event, for the Flames rooter, the precise identity of the next guy in a suit and tie is less important than what the new skipper will do once he’s been installed. There are a couple of items on the to-do list that are particularly vital:
- Straightening out Dion Phaneuf. Perhaps some of the more vigorous bashing of No. 3 this past season was offside, but no more so than the previous claims that Phaneuf was the heir apparent to Nicklas Lidstrom’s throne as the perennial Norris Trophy king. Some will try to mitigate some of Phaneuf’s issues in 2008-09 — during which he had a career low in goals and assists and by far a career worst in plus-minus — by pointing to some of the after-the-fact reports that the defenceman was playing hurt, but aches and pains can’t explain away the repeated poor decision-making in the defensive zone. This is where the speculated arrival of Brent Sutter, who had Phaneuf in Red Deer, has some surface appeal.
- Rebranding Miikka Kiprusoff. It’ll be a tough sell considering the Finnish netminder will still be making $7 million next season, but the new boss has to start convincing everyone in Calgary and environs that the Kiprusoff who won awards and broke records upon arriving at the ’Dome is gone and isn’t coming back. That Kiprusoff has been replaced by a chap who’s really not so different from Martin Biron, Marc-Andre Fleury, Chris Mason or any of the other middle-of-the-road goalies who have their ups and downs. It’s pretty much impossible to come up with tangible benefits that a widespread change in perception about Kiprusoff would have on the team results, but doesn’t it just seem healthier for all parties to proceed with a more realistic perspective? Based on Darryl Sutter’s post-season comments, the new coach will obviously have a mandate to reduce Kiprusoff’s workload, which might be the first step in convincing those who stubbornly clutch to Kiprusoff’s superhuman reputation.
- Travelling down the Dusty road. Forward Dustin Boyd was sort of the poster child for the more dysfunctional moments of the Flames’ 2008-09 campaign. Twice for reasons that had absolutely nothing with the Human Cabbage Patch Doll’s (marvelous nickname courtesy of Craig Conroy) ability to contribute to a National Hockey League club, Boyd was dispatched to the minors. Umpteen times for the reason that Mike Keenan was not an ardent admirer of the youngster’s work in his own zone, Boyd’s ice time was parceled out judiciously. Assuming Michael Cammalleri is headed elsewhere, Boyd is a rarity on the current roster in that he has top-six-forward talent and hasn’t yet celebrated his 30th birthday. Tapping that potential while making sure the curly-haired pivot isn’t a defensive liability will be an important chore for the new guy.