Darryl Sutter: the good

As the NHL playoffs and the offseason for the Calgary Flames continues, the topic of upper management and their future continues to be a hot topic. It’s also a topic I’ve had a hell of a time forming an opinion on, as I’ve gone back and forth on how I feel about the whole thing. As such, I’ve tried to really plot out different argument points, and I’ve decided to trot out a "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" set when it comes to GM Darryl Sutter.

Today, we’ll start with the good…moves that have helped this team in the long run. For each of the three categories, I’ve come up with three specific examples to generate discussions. Are there others? Yeah, I think there probably are. So, here we go.

The Goaltender

This one was too easy. The acquisition of Miikka Kiprusoff is easily one of the most significant in team history, as it gave them a #1 presence for the first time since Mike Vernon (no offence Freddy B, Ken Wregget and Grant Fuhr). The deal was pretty simple. On November 16th, 2003 the Calgary Flames sent a 2nd round pick to the Sharks in exchange for Kiprusoff, straight up. The Sharks turned that pick into defenceman Marc-Eduoard Vlasic.

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It was a deal that made sense for both sides. Kiprusoff was languishing in a stacked Sharks goaltender situation, with Vesa Toskala and Evgeni Nabokov also on the depth chart. The Sharks drafted Kiprusoff in the 5th round of the 1995 draft, 116th overall. As Head Coach of the Sharks from 1997 through 2003, Darryl Sutter was familiar with #34 and identified a mark after taking the reigns as Flames GM/Head Coach.

We all know how well the deal has paid off. He finished the season 24-10 with Calgary, posting a 1.69 GAA and unreal .935 save percentage. His playoff numbers were just as good…a 1.85 GAA and .928 save percentage. Overall, Kiprusoff has a 225-132-45 record in 5 and a half seasons with the Flames. Yeah…he’s been all right.

The Contracts

I know some will say that certain signings have put the Flames in the position they’re in now. But I’ll contend that certain signings helped give the Flames a true window of contending with the big boys. The fact that they didn’t, well that’s another story. Three jump out to me.

The Flames signed 3 key players to contracts in a span of about 4 months, starting with Robyn Regehr on July 2nd of 2007. Regehr signed a 5 year extension with the team paying him around $4 million annually. Just two days later, it was Jarome Iginla’s turn, signing his own 5 year extension worht $7 mil a year. Finally, it was Miikka Kiprusoff’s turn, inking a 6 year extension.

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What did these contracts do? Well, a few things. Obviously it kept them around long term, duh. But more importantly…it eliminated a potential year of distraction for all three, as there were no "will they or won’t they?" issues during the 2007/2008 season. For Iginla, he enjoyed his best statistical season that year, with 50 goals and 98 points. Was that the reason why? No, but it is notable.

It’s also fair to say that Calgary got all three players under market value. How much under? We’ll never know, but the general consensus was that yes, each guy took some sort of "hometown discount" to remain in Calgary. Now, was the purely Sutter’s doing? Again, no…but he was the man in charge and it all happened under his tenure.

Rene Bourque

This one was pretty easy too. The Flames acquired Bourque from Chicago on July 1st, 2008, again, in exchange for a 2nd round draft pick. You’ve got to give Sutter credit for identifying a talented player, but a player that wasn’t going to have a prime opportunity in his current locale. That’s no indictment on the Blackhawks, as Bourque was stuck behind talented forwards like Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews. It was a mutually beneficial move again, with the Flames bringing in a skilled forward and the Blackhawks moving a pending restricted free agent.

Sutter signed Bourque to a two year contract as an RFA 48 hours later, and Bourque has made the deal look pretty good. He put up a career high 21 goals and 40 points in an injury shortened 08-09 campaign, seeing almost no powerplay time under Head Coach Mike Keenan. He upped that to 58 points and 27 goals this season, missing 9 games due to injury after missing 24 the year previous.

Now, it’s fair to say that to this point it’s been a good move. Whether or not Bourque’s recent multi-year extension remains as positive is yet to be seen.

So there you go…three moves under the tenure of Darryl Sutter that helped the Calgary Flames. You may have others or you may disagree, but I think it’s a good starting point for some discussion.

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  • I’d say the Daymond Langkow trade was a thing of beauty. In fact, it may go down as one of Sutter’s best moves ever.

    Langkow for Oleg Saprykin and Denis Guathier. It was good at the time and is laughable now in retrospect. It was total thievery.

      • Fair enough, but I think even the knee-jerkiest of the knee-jerk fans could admit that the vast majority of Langkow’s contract has been a win for the franchise, especially when considered what it cost to acquire him.

        Iginla has had career years with Langkow as his centerman. The guy has scored 20+ goals for the Flames 4 times to boot. And unless he takes another step back next year, he’s probably still the best center on the team.

  • Agreed that you have to look at the Langkow acquisition as a huge “win” alongside other successful trades that Darryl has made in his tenure, however none of them really apply to the current roster (others include Tanguay for a broken Leopold, Tanguay for a 1st/1st for Cammalleri, Huselius for Montador).

    Langkow’s current contract still doesn’t bug me if you look at it by itself. You’ve got a strong defensive center that brings a steady work-ethic into each and every game. Sadly though, with the way the teams Salary-Cap situation is right now, does it really make sense to be paying two 2nd-line centers a combined 8 million dollars? The combo of Langkow and Stajan is not a strong 1-2 punch as neither can generate offense by themselves (and they’re paid accordingly). A lot of people gave Langkow high praise for Bourque’s early season success, but as the season progressed I think you began to see that it was in fact Bourque doing the heavy lifting with Langkow riding his coattails.

    …and to throw in a bit of anti-Langkow jibberish, I don’t believe he has the right “mental make-up” to be a winner. He brings one level of play night in and night out, and doesn’t seem to be able to raise his game and lead by example by putting in that extra effort. He has surprising speed, but never uses it. He’s great in front of the net, but no longer crashes the crease. He’s also terrible in the face-off circle, which is just not a formula for success.

  • This has actually softened me toward Sutter a little bit. Well played. My knee-jerk reaction to the thought of the guy is normally “trainwreck”, but in reality I suppose he has been decent (up to this year). One thing I don’t like, however, is the team identity – and I think he plays a/the key role in that. Having a team that is “physical and hard to play against” is a loser’s mentality; it sounds like a reactive strategy, and it assumes that your team is not good enough to be considered elite. An elite team is one that doesn’t need to focus on making things difficult for the opposing team, because they’re good enough to dictate play to a great extent in a proactive fashion.

    That’s one of the reasons I actually liked Keenan’s version of the Flames. He focused a lot more on offence than defence, and the results were more enjoyable to watch as well as being pretty solid in terms of the standings. There’s obviously a balance that needs to be struck, but Sutter’s vision is much too far on the wear-yourself-down, defensive side.

  • Thinking of the moves that Sutter has made over the years, i would say the good out weight the bad. People critize the signings of Bouemester, Jokenien, Tanguay and there is others but that is after a year of a disappointing season by the respective player. Considering the time of each deal, they were the best players available out there that could help Iginla and the Flames get to the next level. If it wasnt for injuries or poor coaching choices, maybe we would have seen the promise land.

    Keenan was the best coach the Flames have had since our cup run year. Problem was there was no one there to keep the Dman in check. Sutter needs a coach who will allow the boys to run free again, because they definitly have the defense and goaltending to take care of our own end. But Regher has to go. Maybe ship Regher, Kotilk, Higgins to Ottawa for Spezza?

    • Balthazar

      “Keenan was the best coach the Flames have had since our cup run year”

      Dude. No. No way. Respectfully disagree. Um, no.

      The team lived without a system for 2 years, relied on the wrongs guys in the wrong situations (Bert in any situation), marginalized talent because it wasn’t tough talent (Tanguay and Hueselius) and floundered when confronted by better coached teams.

      The Flames lost two of the most productive years of its core to Keenan’s tenure and got nothing for it. The hiring of Keenan has to be considered one of the worst of DSutter’s moves.

  • where i threw in the towel on darryl’s tenure was in realizing that, while he has definitely made some incredible moves over the years, the past 18 months have been a disgrace.

    YES, kipper was a steal. YES, the regehr/iginla/kippy/langks contracts were smart. YES bourque was a good pick up. YES, fanagaling cammalleri for tanguay (more or less) was genius.

    since cammy/bourque, however, i’m inclined to say he has made zero amazing moves and has come WELL short of any really GOOD ones… plus he’s made some downright NAUSEATING deals: lombo/prust/1st rounder for jokinen/kotalik, giving up on keith aulie (who i think is gonna be a superstud), giving up on ryan wilson, stajan @ 3.5 mil, 6.8 mil on jaybouw, 2.7 AND a draft pick on staios, giving up on boyd, trying to turn ian white into an offersheet (mark my words). all things that make me want to pick another team to support.

  • Kipper, Bouwmeester, Langkow, Borque. Tried to improve the team with Jokinen, Tanguay, Cammalerri. What can I say, the guy makes an honest effort to go out and improve the Flames year in and year out. Just relax and let the man have a couple more years to work some magic.

  • Calgary may have a tougher time drawing big names than a lot of teams (Edmonton might have the toughest time in the league), but Iginla has been a huge name himself the past ten years, and I would bet a pretty solid number of players would have been willing to swing over to play with him.

    And really, you don’t need a ton of big names. You need a couple of elite guys, and then a bunch of solid supporting guys at good salaries. The fact that it is likely difficult to bring elite players to Calgary just emphasizes how dumb it was of Sutter to throw away draft picks like they’re Canadian Tire money.

  • Graham

    Langkow is a solid defensive center, and the ‘team’ game isn’t nearly as good when he is out of the lineup.

    However, at a cap hit of $4.5 million, he is yet another example of Darryl’s tendancy to over pay for mid range talent.

    Stajan isn’t a first line center, so you have
    Langkow and Stajan competing for the same position at #2. Since it is unlikely you could
    move Stajan and his new contract, does this mean you have to move Langkow? Slot Stajan into the #2 role, and free up a bunch of cap room?

    Tough call, I would rather have Langkow than Stajan, but both are over rated and over paid!

    • Balthazar

      ya i think you have a good point. i think lanks’ age comes into play a little as well. he plays hard and has his whole career which does take an effect on the body. loved him a few years ago and i just think stajan can fill the number two spot fine and the cap space freed up from langkow would be wise. i would love to see lacalviler (spelling??) here. rough season this year but i think he iggy and bourqe would be a monster line.

  • Balthazar

    Can’t really say that D. Sutter, has been very successful. I disagree with what he has done. For a man to be GM, he must first be patient. No long term plan has worked for him. He lacks drafting talent. Why? He was never blessed with talent himself. Grit only takes you so far, see draft history. Only 13% of draft picks make his club every year. Not something to be proud of. Why does he make everything so complex for a farmer? This is HOCKEY 101, here’s the puck, take it from your end out of the zone to the oppositions end and score. Seriously, how hard is that! Oh, what you say, you have no Center. Very weak done the middle. No power play since 95. Teams win championships with offence and goaltending. Not defence. (I bet everyone is trying to prove me wrong right now in their own heads). What does 1-0 mean? Goal scored and shut-out. I guess I can’t expect the man at the top to build a winning team, if he has never won before. Darryl Sutter gets lucky ever so often. He’s had insight on Kipper, Vesa & Nolan. I would to if I worked for SJ for a total of 6 years. But, I look around the league and see good players on lots of teams. My wish list is long. D.Sutter’s is short and constricted. How does Regher get a no trade clause and 4 Mil to boot? The guy is a dime a dozen. 2 goals in 09-10. But he’s a great shut down D-man. Jay-Bo gets close to 7 Mil and 3 goals to show. Sarich gets 3.5 Mil and no goals. Wow, money well spent. If he knew Gio was so good why not pay him, instead of letting him go to USSR. “All these guys should be at their career numbers. I pay these players for what they are going to do, blah….blah”. Time for GM Darryl, to take the long awaited ride into the sunset.
    New GM: Stevie Y (Yzerman). Cause he’s the captain.

    • Balthazar

      i think we should move regher as well. super deep on defense and i think the extra time and responsibilty for bouw will up his numbers. he had a bad year NO DOUBT but will improve that im sure off. my suggestion in move langkow, kotalik, regher. open some cap space offload a few forwards and get a top guy in here. bourqe has impressed me lately and iggy will rise again if we can get a brad richards type over here. a play maker would be ideal. if not…. bring in another bigger body and just run over the D with iggy (whoever) and bourqe.

      our D is solid and kipper is lights out. toskala will be awesome for us as well i think.

      maybe sign another more offensive type player as well for 2nd line and let backlund compete for 2nd line center with stajan