More questions than answers

Darryl Sutter bites his nails

Now that the season is officially over for the Calgary Flames, it’s time for the real finger-pointing and question-asking to begin. And, as such, the top of Flames management have made their public appearances and some of those questions have been asked. Monday afternoon, President Ken King and General Manager Darryl Sutter addressed the media. It came just a couple days after Darryl also spoke with Peter Maher during Saturday’s Flames-Canucks broadcast.

If you happened to listen to the news conference live on The FAN 960, I can’t help but think you might have come away disappointed. And I can’t say I really blame you, because in a lot of ways, I came away frustrated as well. Were the questions asked? Yes, I think in most areas they were. However, I would imagine most were not satisfied with the answers given. But then again, when I really removed myself from it, it was exactly what I thought it was going to be. We’d be fooling ourselves if we thought anything really concrete was going to come from it.

I have a few bones of contention. Sutter was asked where things went wrong, he was asked about the lack of scoring, he was asked about the downfall of the season. His answer consistently was the discrepancy between the home and road record. Now, that’s not to say Calgary’s home record was part of the problem this season, but it’s far too simplistic to boil this entire season down to 41 games here and 41 games there.

What about the powerplay? Once again, it was paltry — at home AND on the road, Calgary’s play on the man advantage was an issue. It ranked in the bottom half of the league both at the Saddledome and elsewhere.

What about a lack of a consistent identity? Calgary struggled with this wherever they played; stifling efforts against New Jersey, Ottawa and Anaheim followed a stinker against Minnesota, all at home. On the road? Complete tank jobs on the Island and in Boston was followed by a triumph over the NHL’s top team in Washington. To say that things were rosy on the road and it was JUST their play at home that needed to be addressed is wrong. Fact of the matter is, every single thing that plagued this team this year plagued them regardless of where they played.

Sutter and King both addressed "locker room issues," as Darryl alluded to them before he was asked about them. When both were asked, it was passed off as "23 athletes in a locker room have different personalities." That’s not false, but to me, there had to be more to the story.

There are 29 other teams with 23 athletes in the locker room, yet not all of them struggled with consistency efforts as the Flames did this season. Head Coach Brent Sutter alluded to "a casual atmosphere" inside the Flames room I can’t help but wonder if that plagued them all season long. When Darryl was asked if the trades to send Dion Phaneuf to Toronto and Olli Jokinen to New York played into some of the "room issues," he said it was probably part of it.

Ken King was right when he said a lot of the criticism coming from Flames fans comes from passion and love for the team. I also think Mr. King realizes that even after a 55 minute long Q&A session at the ‘Dome today, there were still be a lot of frustration from that same passionate group of fans.

Next up, we hear from the players later this week as they’ll do their exit interviews and clean out their lockers.

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    • Yeah, and Kent is right…it's not like there's a ton of guys next season that are waiting in the wings. Most of the higher-end prospects are a little ways away, as Pelech is probably the furthest along…but even then, what is his upside?

  • The only other kid even remotely NHL ready is probably Matt Pelech. And here's the Flames blueline for next year:

    White (RFA)

    So unless he purges a couple of these guys, Backlund will likely be the only rook in the line-up.

  • flamesfanfreddy

    Great article Pat.

    Quick question – do you know how they handle the exit interviews? Is it just player/coach or is it player/coach/GM? What if the player wants to make it known that he wants to stay in Calgary but not under the Sutter/Sutter combo but prefers not to tell these guys as it may affect his future here – does he go to King or one of the owners?

    • I believe the process works somewhat like this: each player meets with the coaching staff, then with the GM, and KK might also meet with a player as well.

      I would imagine any relaying of a message like that would happen at another time, probably by an agent.

    • Yeah, lets be real, we'll probably never really know. All we've got is rumors and such, but I don't think B Sutter would go out of his way to refer to these things in media conferences if they weren't bigger issues than they were made out to be Monday afternoon.

  • flamesfanfreddy

    Yo Pat I got a question. How do you plan to do to deal with @TrueNucksFan on Twitter. He is probably the single dumbest human I've ever seen. Why does he keep writing you… But ignored me when I asked him I thought Kesler would win Conn Smythe and wanted his thoughts.

  • stilldrinkingthekoolaid

    Call news conference.

    Hand out Rose coloured glasses.

    Blow smoke up peoples' Ar*e.

    Claim "We are only a few wins from contending."

    Daryl not going anywhere.

    And i thought the oiler's management was a joke.

    What has happened to hockey in Alberta.

  • Why was Ken King there for the conference? Really, for a guy who says "I leave hockey operations decisions to Daryl" what possible role could he have in that presser other than operating as a spin doctor for a guy who is (to put it mildly) gruff and standoffish with the media?

  • juliedee

    Speaking of "a casual atmosphere" inside the room, I thought this teaser from Damien Cox's blog was interesting:

    "One of the better untold stories of this Leaf season was how a group of players was found out planning a helicopter trip from New Jersey into Manhattan for a night of partying the day before a game against the Devils.

    Once head coach Ron Wilson got wind of the fun, he called a bed check. Oddly, none of those players are with the Leafs any longer."

    = = =

    Presumably at least some of them are among the Flames leading scorers.

    Note: The Leafs visited NJ on January 29th.


    • A lot of people have called in on Overtime since the deals were made with Toronto saying "why would you bring in players from a losing team where they are used to losing?"

      It's a fair question.

      In related news, Ron Wilson said today "they'd have to make a mega deal to acquire one of the greatest captains ever to NOT name Dion Phaneuf their captain for next season."

  • Not_That_Lanny

    They needed to let Jock Wilson ask the GM a few more questions! A lot of softball questions from what I heard but that is the way the Flames management manages the media. Ken King's answers are similar to Gary Bettman's. Everything is cool and the gang!!

    • The problem is, those questions don't work. I completely understand that the questions need to be asked, but I think we would have got less from Monday afternoon had more people tried to go with that line of questioning.

  • Not_That_Lanny

    I'm not sure what everyone expected from this press conference. I was pretty sure Ken and Daryl weren't going to come out and resign at the behest of the Flamesnation. They came out and downplayed all the teams failures in order to save their jobs. Hah, I would probably do the same if I were in their shoes. This most likely buys them one more season to roll the dice and see if they can cobble together a bunch of guys that actually know how to play this game.

  • Hi. I have not heard many fans talk about how boring this team is to watch. All the playoff teams have something in common- they skate fast and have great control with the passing. Flames have none of this. Even when they get lucky with a lead, there is a sense that no lead is safe. Dump and chase hockey may have worked in the old NHL, but it will get you nowhere fast in the new one. Also, the power play was a joke. Start by examining a good power play team like Vancouver. They buzz all over the place.

  • @JP

    The powerplay was pathetic, plain and simple, for Calgary this season. It finished tied for 26th at 16.0%, but that's even misleading. I tried to track it all season long, and these two stats stick out at me most:

    In their last 54 games (basically December onward), Calgary's PP went 24/178 at 13.5%.

    In the 7 most important games of the season (the final one being the San Jose game that eliminated them) Calgary went 3/22 on the PP, at 13.6%.

    Not good enough. In the least.