Assume for a second that Darryl Sutter is done with major transactions before the deadline, that he’s looked at the team as it’s currently constituted and said, "I can’t make this team any better without mortgaging a significant part of the future." It would certainly be understandable.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility, is it? What else can he do? Where else can he take the team?
Obviously Darryl Sutter sees this team as a buyer and not a seller, having made at least lateral moves to, I guess, "improve the club." The Phaneuf trade, the Jokinen trade, etc. Designed to get Name Players out of town to both shake up the chemistry in the room and get the team a bit more cap-flexible both today and this summer. Theoretically, these moves were also designed to get the Flames deeper at every position. You can at least see what he’s trying to do.
And now assume the Flames miss the playoffs.
At that point you have to look at Darryl Sutter, and just ask one simple question, "Would you like me to help pack your things?"
Missing the playoffs for this team would be a disaster. A complete disaster. This was a team that spent as much as it could without getting into another jam like it did last season. It’s one that came into the season with seven players making at least $4 million against the salary cap, relying heavily on production that never came. And it’s one that traded away two of those players for the promise of breathing room up to and on July 1, but emerged with nothing to show for it.
It’s not so much that Sutter’s personnel moves have been bad, per se. Moving Phaneuf was probably something that had to be done, and moving Jokinen was a necessity. It’s the moves that have been made after it. Rene Bourque was re-signed for a reasonable rate but six years is a lot to gamble on a guy with an injury rap sheet as long as Zdeno Chara’s stick. Matt Stajan also got good money for more years than seemed necessary.
And what that basically means is that Sutter thinks the Flames are set on offense next season. There’s literally almost nothing he can do with it. And here’s where we stand on the depth chart: Iginla, Langkow, Bourque, Stajan, Hagman, Kotalik. That’s not the top-six of a team looking to make any noise next season. Is that really all $24.33 million buys you these days?
And maybe things are better at the back. What’s that? Sutter invested $14.3 million in Bouwmeester, Regehr and Sarich? Great. N
A total of $38.63 million in nine players, only two or three of which are what you’d consider top-end talent. It’s only like $4.3 million per player on average. That’s not counting another $5.83 that an aging goaltender with more submediocre seasons than good in the last five years.
So you get all that PLUS! no first-round draft pick this season, a bit of a mess when it comes to re-signing the team’s pending free agents and a club positively LITTERED with no-trade clauses, which Sutter gives out like mediocre candy on Halloween. Not that there’s any good way to look it up, but off the top of my head, I know Iginla, Regehr, Bouwmeester, Kiprusoff, Hagman, Kotalik, Stajan and Bourque will all have at least some sort of ability to deny a trade.
Editorial comment: Are you serious, Darryl? EIGHT of them?! Over a third of the team can’t be moved if they don’t want to be? It’d be one thing if Sutter were trying to keep together a team like the Blackhawks, and didn’t want Toews and Kane and Seabrook looking elsewhere for a contract. But Sutter’s handing out deal-sweetening no-trade clauses to Matt freaking Stajan? Did I fall asleep and wake up in the land of Rand McNally where people wear hats on their feet, hamburgers eat people and Matt Stajan is the kind of player you’re worried about losing to the lure of another team?
Look, I get that he wanted some kind of return for the Phaneuf trade, but any trade in which MATT STAJAN is the centerpiece of the return, deemed SO IMPORTANT that the team’s GM must bend to his every request in hopes of keeping a soft center who has never scored more than 16 goals or 55 points, is a trade by a lunatic madman hellbent on destroying all happiness in the world.
Originally I was asked to write a what-if "worst-case scenario" post. I realize now that this isn’t a worst-case scenario. It’s a hold-steady scenario.
Why do I support this team?