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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.