So, last week, I put up the first piece on Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter in a "The Good, The Bad, The Ugly" series… I put up three examples, and I’m sure there are more. Well, now on to part two, as I’ll throw out three examples that I believe fit in the "bad" category. In this case, I’ll classify bad as deals that were made that didn’t look terrible to start, but certainly don’t look great now. And then later this week, it’s the ugly portion. Again, these are just three examples that I came up with, you may think they fit in a different category or would like to add your own. So lets go…
Olli Jokinen Part 1 turns into Olli Jokinen Part 2
Ahhh yes, this one was too easy. I put this in the "bad" category because, personally, I don’t begrudge Darryl Sutter one bit for making this move. Fans and experts alike had been clamoring for the Flames to go out and acquire a "Number 1 Centre" for years, and the name Olli Jokinen had been linked to this team for quite some time before the deal was made. When Jokinen moved to Phoenix in the summer of 2008, the Flames were in hot pursuit, but were not willing to pay Florida’s price. This time, the price wasn’t as high, so Sutter and the Flames jumped.
The deal went down on Deadline Day 2009, March 4th. The Flames sent forwards Matthew Lombardi and Brandon Prust along with a first round pick (which turned out to be #13 overall in 2010) to Phoenix in exchange for Jokinen and a 2009 third round pick. At the time, most Flames fans were over the moon on this one, as Jokinen was finally here! His first game affirmed the belief! 3 goals in a blowout in Philly…how can this go wrong? Well, unfortunately, it did.
Maybe you and I as outside observers were guilty of being too enamored with Jokinen, because of all the hype surrounding him one day being a member of the Flames. Maybe Darrly Sutter was guilty of not investigating some of the locker room rumours that followed him from Florida to Phoenix and eventually to Cowtown. But even with these admissions of guilt, nobody saw Jokinen becoming the pariah he became here. The remainder of the 2008-09 season was okay for #21, as he put up 15 points in 19 regular season games while adding five more in a six game series loss to Chicago. But this past season was a different story.
With a full training camp, the expectations were high, and rightfully so. Just two seasons removed from a 30 goal year, playing with Jarome Iginla full time was going to be huge. And after a slow start, that looked about right, thanks to a 10-2-2- month of November for Calgary; a month where Jokinen put up 14 points. Jokinen spent most of the 11th month playing with Iginla and Jamie Lundmark, and things were going good. But, just like the team, things took a nosedive when the calendar turned…Jokinen had 35 points in 56 games with the Flames this season. 20 of them came in 26 October and November games. In the 30 that followed, he had just 15. So, with it clearly not working, Jokinen was traded along with Prust to the New York Rangers in exchange for forwards Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik. Part of this deal may or may not show up in the "ugly" portion of this series.
Bye Bye Cammelleri
I guess this kind of plays part in parcel with the previous one, as in a lot of ways, the trade for Jokinen spelled the end for Mike Cammalleri as a member of the Calgary Flames. Cammalleri was acquired at the 2008 draft, as Calgary did some wheeling and dealing that day: trading the 17th overall pick to LA in exchange for Cammalleri and trading Alex Tanguay along with a fifth rounder to Montreal in exchange for a 2008 first round pick (which would eventually turn into #23 overall) and a 2009 second rounder.
It was a pretty good season for Cammalleri in a Flames jersey, putting up a career high 39 goals and 82 points that season, finding some real chemisty with captain Jarome Iginla. However, many were disappointed with Cammalleri’s postseason performance, as the Flames were dispatched in six games by the Chicago Blackhawks. In those six games, Mike was able to put up just one goal and three points. Criticism was fair, but as we know, one playoffs does not make a player and/or a career.
The desire was stated by Cammalleri publicly following the season that he would like to return. On FAN 960 airwaves on Wednesday, Craig Conroy confirmed that. However, whether there was a firm decision made or not, the GM Sutter and the Flames didn’t do enough to retain him. So, instead, Cammalleri took a five year deal with the Montreal Canadiens, and continues playing postseason hockey right now (13 points in ten playoff games).
At the time, it wasn’t catastrophe, because there was some pretty exciting things surrounding the Flames at the time. Sutter had gone out and acquired Jay Bouwmeester in a trade with Florida, and signed shortly thereafter, creating a ton of excitement. Darryl’s brother Brent was brought in along with a whole new, young, fresh coaching staff that many were excited about. It wasn’t until the realities of this season started sinking in around, say, late December that the lack of Cammalleri really started to sink in. At least for most.
Well, now after all of us watched 82 games of Flames hockey, I don’t think there’s a Flames fan with a pulse that doesn’t look at this one as a mistake. Seeing Cammalleri shoot the lights out in the postseason after an injury shortened regular season makes this worse I think. And the guy was so good for us media hacks! Sad times. The worst part is, had the Flames signed Cammalleri, this would have been in the "good" category, no doubt.
This one is tough, because I realize how fickle drafting is, and in a lot of ways, it really is a crap shoot. But there is no denying the Calgary Flames have not been able to use the draft as a building tool as effectively as othe teams have in Darryl Sutter’s tenure. To be fair, that was also true in the tenure of Craig Button and Al Coates. I also put this here because it isn’t just the players picked for Calgary, it’s also the management of their picks before actually using them.
There are some simple facts here that will help paint the picture. In looking at Calgary’s final roster following their final game on April 10th, only five players (5!) had been drafted by this team. Those would be David Moss (7th round), Eric Nystrom (1st round), Mikael Backlund (1st round), Brett Sutter (6th round), and Adam Pardy (6th round). Even more telling? Only three of those players were drafted by Sutter, as both Moss and Nystrom came before his time in Calgary. That’s not pretty.
Another fact? Of the seven drafts Sutter presided over, the Flames were without a second round pick for five of them (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009). If Sutter runs the upcoming draft in Los Angeles, that will be a sixth time the Flames will be without a second round pick.
Sutter has had seven first round picks and to this point, only two of them have played more than five NHL games. Mikael Backlund (who, granted, has turned out to be pretty darn good) and Dion Phaneuf, who is no longer a member of the team. Kris Chucko (2004) has played two NHL games while Matt Pelech (2005) has been in five games. I don’t know if you fault the Flames or Sutter for not having Tim Erixon (2009) or Greg Nemisz (2008) play meaningful roles, and Leland Irving (2006) is behind Miikka Kiprusoff. But it does point to a bit of a trend.
Now, to be fair, I think you can make the argument that things have been better over the last three or four years. Players like Backlund, Nemisz, Erixon, John Negrin, Lance Buoma and Ryan Howse have the makings of future players on the big team. I also think it’s unfair to start looking at other players that were drafted before or after Calgary picked, because sometimes I think that’s unfair. And it’s not as if Calgary’s draft record is the ONLY team in the NHL that has drafted poorly. But it is something that has not been the strongest suit of the Flames since Darryl Sutter took the helm.