Island of despair: Flames done

Six percent.

That’s an outstanding figure if you’re talking about body-fat content and an annoying one if the subject is taxation rate, but as Calgary Flames fans will attest, it’s an absolutely depressing number if it’s the playoff chances for your favourite hockey club.

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The probability-projection gang at calculates that the Flames’ post-season hopes are now down to 6.5 per cent and the only reason they’re that high is that there is no mathematical way to calculate the effect of losing to an out-of-the-running team whose blue-line brigade includes names like Dylan Reese and Mark Flood. It’s on the basis of that miserable loss to the Islanders that all but the most blindly loyal of Calgary supporters has disembarked the S.S. Positive Thinking and started rowing to the shores of the lonely island they called home from 1997 to 2003. You know, that spot where spring never comes.

Nassau Coliseum is already the place where Doug Weight’s career went to die and now the old barn has also claimed the Flames’ season.

There’ll be plenty of time for dissecting and recriminations in the days and weeks to come, but for now suffice it to know that one of the immediate consequences of the "it’s-over" reality is that real conversations are actually happening that suggest Eric Nystrom is a more fitting choice for Flames captain than Jarome Iginla, who had a disturbingly passive and ineffective game on that fateful Thursday night on the Island.

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Suddenly, it doesn’t seem to matter so much that teams haven’t been giving the Flames much out-of-town help when facing the Detroit Red Wings (who are 6-0-1 in their last seven) and Nashville Predators (7-1-0 in the past eight). Let’s face it, how can you bitch about being screwed by other teams when the Flames are doing such an exquisite job impaling themselves on their own spears?

Since the Flames started their on-the-fly rebuilding project by cutting ties with The Dion, Calgary has won 10 games and lost nine, hardly the stretch of inspiring play needed to overcome a three-month stinkfest from November trough January which saw the local heroes win just 10 times in 29 tries.

Now that the Flames’ goose is all but cooked, the volume of the second-guessing on in-season trades will be cranked up to 11. Losing Christopher Higgins to sick bay didn’t help and reality suggests it would have been wrong to expect more from the likes of Jamal Mayers, Steve Staios and Ian White (although that should have been as true for Darryl Sutter before he agreed to make the deals as it is for Flames fans now) but Ales Kotalik has been awful enough to make the Olli Jokinen era in Calgary seem like the good old days.

That Three Million Dollar Man (for two more years!) Kotalik has one goal and two points in 18 games while throw-in defenceman Aaron Johnson has three goals and five points in 10 games for Edmonton . . . well, you go ahead and finish that sentence.

Speaking of that team to the north, it should probably now be the off-season for that favourite sport of Flames fans — kicking Oilers supporters while they’re down. True, Edmonton has been out of contention for many weeks now, but at least the Oilers:

  1. Have the consolation of knowing a top-notch prospect (Hall? Seguin? Fowler?) is coming their way in June and
  2. They’re not on the hook for paying Staios $2.7M in 2010-11

We now return you to your regularly scheduled debate about Darryl Sutter’s continued viability as Flames GM.

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  • All I could think of when I was reading this was a quote from Saving Private Ryan:

    "Reiben, pay attention. Now, this is the way to gripe. Continue, Jackson." 🙂

    It's going to be a long offseason with a ton of question marks…

    • Jean Lefebvre

      Those would have been a better way to go for sure, but by the same token I always feel uneasy when the pictures are funnier than the words below. And with the staleness of my humour (undetectable some have rightly said — unpalatable comes up a lot, too), that means playing it absolutely straight photographically.

  • Jean Lefebvre

    i actually disagree on kotalik… sortof.

    don't get me wrong —i'm certainly not a fan of the guy, but he's not a liability defensively like jokinen was. ie: he doesn't bleed goals against, but he sure as hell doesn't net any, either…. sure, i hated olli as much as the next guy but the thing i liked best about him was the expiring contract. the thing i hate most about kotalik ? that we're stuck with him for another two seasons at three mil per (with a no trade clause to boot).

    anyone that says sather is the worst GM in the league should consider the fact that he duped darryl something fierce… so did tambellini/lowe for that matter.

    and that is not something to be proud of.

    • Jean Lefebvre

      No question. I think the hyperbole intent of the original line is that Kotalik has been so offensively inept that Flames fans may actually do something drastic like long for Jokinen, warts and all.

      But you're right, when you factor in the contract situation, well … anyone know if Kotalik has ever been to Yaroslavl?

  • RCN

    Welp… at least there's a bunch of cap space opening up this summer with Jokinen coming off the books… and they can look at moving Phaneuf for some help up front… maybe they could package up a d prospect like Keith Aulie along with Dustin Boyd & a 3rd round pick for something more useful…

    • Jean Lefebvre

      Thanks for joining us tonight, ladies and gentlemen. Bob will be here all week doing two shows a night as well as a matinee on Saturdays. And please don't forget to tip your waitress.

    • RCN

      I'll go on record as saying he gets a stern talking to and a warning that if there's a repeat of this next year – he's done. I can't see them giving him the ax quite yet.

      Why let a guy trade Phaneuf if you're going to fire him 3 months later? Why let a guy sign Bourque to a 6 year extension if he's getting his walking papers? Why let a guy sign Matt Stajan to an extension if he's toast at the end of the year? Why let a guy add an aging veteran that's getting paid twice as much as he's worth?

      I mean, there's a lot of things that haven't made sense (or cents) lately, so who knows? But given the Flames relationship with Darryl, I doubt he gets his pink slip just yet.

      As a long-time D. Sutter supporter (San Jose & Chicago days), I'm hoping for the best… but I'm not about to hold my breath quite yet. If he can lose at least Kotalik & Sarich and/or Staios, then I'll start holding my breath again.

    • RCN

      So you think they're gonna pull the trigger? I'm not down there, so its hard for me to gauge the vibe, but they paid Keenan this past year to not coach… do you really think they'll pay Brent & Darryl (and the rest of em) to take a hike? I'll be somewhat shocked if they do. Depending on who the replacements are, I may applaud such a move, but until then, I say keep the VikingCru for another year.

      Makes me wonder what would've happened if the Flames went the Dave Tippett route last summer and Brent went back to Red Deer. Tippett and Tom Renney were two guys I had hoped for last summer. Brent is too much like Keenan, who's too much like Playfair, who's too much like Darryl. They needed a calm teacher, not a hard-a$$.

  • RCN

    Ultimately I agree. He has failed to put a product on the ice that will win a playoff series (regardless of opponent) for 4 years and they wont make the playoffs this year.

    To say he has time left because they let him do all of these trades that affects the team long term is irrelevant. I imagine ownership outright told him this is your last chance and I want to see what you can do with full control. Why keep him around and have his head to the barrel and about to pull the trigger if your not going to grant him control to do that? If that was the case he should have been replaced months ago.

    I would say with 90% certainty he is likely gone. This team will be hard pressed to get rid of Kotalik, Sarich, Staios (combined 9.3 mill approx.) If they can and add an impact forward through trades or free agency (im liking Marleau and Frolov) I think they will improve.

    To discuss a more pressing matter after seeing how little Iggy cared last night in comparison to Nystrom, Staios (believe it or not), Dawes, Sarich, and Mayers, maybe its time to start questioning leadership. The support players have all changed. This is a talented group and look at what Colorado and Phoenix are doing with way less. Coaches has changed 4 times with limited difference I think this goes back to Iginla. Bourque is a sweet player and likely my favourite on the team but he should never be considered your best or most consistent player.

    Ill never forget when Moss and Bourque (on 2 separate occassiona) were surrounded by opposing players and roughed up. Staios jumped in, sarich did too. Iggy skated the perimeter and litterally looked like he couldnt care less. Thats not a guy who leads by example.

    I would propose taking a page from SJS and taking away the 'C' and making it fair game for someone to earn. I like Regher myself and Nystrom truly is growing in my mind. Hell be the greatest 2 million dollar captain 😉 the NHL has ever seen lol.

    Other than that I dont know what else it could be.

  • @Kent Wilson, Brent G., RossCreek, Jean Lefebvre

    2 yes, 1 no, 1 maybe so.

    I ask because I'm truly curious about how these types of upper management decisions are made.

    Personally, I have that same, sinking, Mike-Keenan-is-done feeling from last year.

    I also think Brent G. and Kent are right: authorizing trades is irrelevant and/or a sign of desperation. Give your guy authority to trade, but cut bait if need be. Sutter's been here for 6(?) years – including the crucial transition to the "New NHL."

    @RossCreek Whatever the Sutter brothers are making is probably small potatoes in the overall scheme of an NHL operating budget.

    That being said, I'll be curious to hear the blogosphere conversations on this one.

  • Why let a guy trade Phaneuf if you're going to fire him 3 months later? Why let a guy sign Bourque to a 6 year extension if he's getting his walking papers? Why let a guy sign Matt Stajan to an extension if he's toast at the end of the year? Why let a guy add an aging veteran that's getting paid twice as much as he's worth?

    all very good questions… perhaps we should ask richard peddie/mlse/the pension fund why jfj was allowed to manhandle the leafs for eons…. i would think it might offer some comparable insight.

  • A18

    It may to early completely write off the team. That being said playing mediocre hockey will make it an inevitability in due time.

    The D Sutter discussion is not too early to start. Hockey is a business, that means people involved should be held liable. It's up to top management to provide a direction for the coaches and players to implement it. D Sutter did some good earlier but has peaked and currently regressed in terms of success. I don't know who a viable replacement is or even if their is one but using the players inability to produce as an excuse to protect the GM is problematic.

    I don't think trading Jarome is the answer, it may have a similar effect on the team like the Oilers when Smyth was moved.

    I've dealt with the Flames not making the playoffs all those years as a kid (remember when it was un-cool to like the Flames). Now I'm dealing with them being average teams with occasional glimmers of hope. D Sutter will have had over half a decade worth of influence at the end of the season with no tangible results except the one playoff run and a division title. Nothing past the first round post lock out. How much time more time do you give him?

  • CitizenFlame

    I think that Sutter has one more year. First off, the Flames are one of only a handful of teams in the league that have made the playoffs every year since the lockout; despite the lack of playoff success.The northwest has been considered one of the toughest divisions until the last two years and they have had 4- 45 win seasons? They're still selling out, memorabilia is selling, so I think Sutter is safe for one more year. If they perform like this next year then I would say there will be a housecleaning.

    If Sutter does get canned it is because of his woeful handling of the cap, especially last year.

    • A18

      "If Sutter does get canned it is because of his woeful handling of the cap, especially last year."

      I really think the Cap issue last year has been over blown. Yeah, the Flames had to play with a short-bench for the last few games… so what? It's not like the five minutes a game that Andre Roy et al provided would have delivered the margin of victory. all that means is that over the course of a game everyone else on on the team had to play an extra shift or two. Really if you want to lay blame for last year look at the late season injury woes (I mean c'mon we had Adam Pardy, the presumptive #7 d-man, playing top 4 minutes and John Negrin fresh out of junior level hockey in the line-up).

      Also put me on the side of a partial Sutter Exodus (Brett can stay… I guess). Really the Sutterite Colony just messed things up royally this year. I'll grant that it was mostly Daz fault since I attribute most of the woes to personnel mismanagement… lopsided dollar allocation, poor Draft Pick to NHL'er conversion ratio, generally poor trading record (Still wondering what lunacy made him do the Jokinen/Prust trade… no matter how disappointing Joker was he's better then Kotalik and he would have given you 5M in cap space in two months) but Brent has made his share of head scratchers too (Keeping Joker/Iggy Phaneaf/Regehr together, Giving Regehr/Staois PP minutes (WTF), playing the 4th line when you've been given primo ice position via an icing call (WTF x2), an anemic PP (the PK wasn't too bad but damnit the flames were one of the best teams in the NHL at that last season).

      The Sutter boys decided that this was "win now" time and they sacrificed the future to make it so… except that instead of "win now" situation they made a "lose now" and the future doesn't look too bright.

    • A18

      Well i think that it is too early to underestemiate the team even though they are 6 points behind detroit for 8th place but flames will make it… GO FLAMES GO!

  • A18

    Folks : why is there so many people that want Calgary to loose in here? Are they the loosers themself? or is it just to complain .Guys, get the f over it . For myself I just want to see one more canadian team in the play-off and I hope the heck it is Calgary .Give them your support Go Flames Go Good game last night against wash>

  • CitizenFlame

    I'm not saying that I want Darryl to stay, but I am saying that I think he will. I would agree that the injury mess was to blame for a lot of the problems last year, but we've been at or near the cap every year and next year doesn't look much better now when it could have been pretty good. Love the Kotalik trade…brilliant move!

    I know I will get lynched for this, but what has Brent brought that Keenan didn't. Our special teams are the same, PP sucks, PK is pretty good. Last year we were in first until we got a bunch of injuries and then went backwards into the playoffs. This year we were first until we had a 9 game losing streak mid-season and practically blew our season. This team is more inconsistent than I have ever seen, the players seem dejected and morale is low. What's the difference?