Rumor: Kisio to Ascend to Flames Front Office

CHL Top Prospects Game


According to Allan Maki of the Globe and Mail, the latest rumor du jour around town is that Calgary Hitman GM (and former Flame) Kelly Kisio will join the Flames decision makers in order to "assist" (not too sure what that means) Darryl Sutter. Of course, as Maki notes, the Flames have previously raided their junior teams staff by scooping up the Hitmen’s erstwhile head coach (and also former Flame) Dave Lowry. 

Without knowing if we’re talking reality or fantasy here, does this strike you as good or bad? Kisio has had quite a bit of success as the Hitmans GM, twice guiding them to highly successful seasons, culminating in this year’s WHL championship and a trip to the Memorial cup. So that’s good.

On the other hand, this kind of stuff strikes me as oddly…incestuous. Perhaps a voice from outside the insular organization and Sutter family would be a good addition for a change? In addition, why would the org be adding another chef’s fork to the Darryl Sutter stew pot? To strain the analogy even further, either you like the recipe, or you don’t. Adding another voice whose contribution may amount to "needs more salt" probably won’t lead to any kind of substantive change (if, indeed, that is the aim here). 


  • The one positive that I could see in the addition of Kisio is that he watches junior players all year and could perhaps provide some guidance in the drafting/scouting department. Predicting whether or not a junior coach’s/GM’s successes will translate to the NHL level is almost impossible though (i.e. Craig Hartsburg, Brent Sutter), it’s an entirely different ball game. I can’t say I’d be opposed to the move, he could bring something different to the mix, who knows.

  • It does seem a little Oileresque… but hiring an assistant to Sutter seems a definite improvement from the status quo.

    Who knows, Kisio might even act as a sort of media liaison. Could he be worse than Sutter?

    Salt, shmalt… we need us some good ol’ fashioned monosodium glutamate.

      • Still, he’s got a great thing going as GM in charge of a successful program there. Why leave that to ascend to an assistant position in a program that lacks a clear direction? One where as you suggest, he may not be able to have any real impact on?

        You would think that Darryl has got be be on pretty thin ice by now, and if Kisio justs waits it out he may get a shot at the real GM job without having to be an assistant to Darryl in the interim.

        After that, he can really put his mark on the team and take it where he wants.

          • I realize going from Jr to the NHL is going to be a pretty big leap for anyone, not just the players, but the guy already has GM experience. And if he’s particularly good at identifying talent already, he just has to get used to running an organization that’s probably 10-20x greater financially.

          • As Pat mentions above, managing an NHL team would be completely different, and not just because of scale. I can’t imagine Kisio has had to negotiate new contracts in junior, for example. Nor has he had to deal with the intricacies of operating under a salary cap or whatever underlying politics guides GM interactions and trades at this level.

          • Valid points. As Rick mentioned, I guess I was thinking more in terms of comparison to Sutter (who seems to have nary a clue about contract negotiation or the intricacies of operating under a salary cap). At this point I’m almost willing to give Sutter another chance simply because he just seems to be a really slow learner, and EVENTUALLY he’s got to pan out.

  • In theory, it makes sense…Kisio has a great track record of identifying, evaluating and developing talent. He’s damn good at his job.

    But here’s my question…is there any value to have him join the Flames front office if the main decision maker (Darryl) isn’t going to listen?

  • Graham

    The addition of the right Assistant GM would be a plus for the organization. The Flames need some new blood, someone versed in the new NHL,
    but above all, someone who can actually communicate with the media.

    Since it seems inevitable that Darryl is staying on, the Flames sorely need a spokesman to explain Darryl’s plan, his vision, or why he is doing a or b not c. Darryl’s two word answers
    and lack of communication skills in the media age are disgraceful, and a diservice to the fans.

    The dilemma of course is that Darryl does not have a reputation for listening to people who don’t agree him with, or if you listen to some of the media reports to anyone at all. If you add an Asst GM who does not fit the mold, they are likely to be sidelined, and if you add someone who fits the Sutter mold – what is the point!

    I would urge the Flames to look outside the organization and find a young up and coming candidate, media friendly, new NHL friendly,
    hopefully with some scouting skills. I’m not sure that I would let Darryl do the hiring…

    Put the right person in place, and a year or so from now, you would at least have an acting GM to run the show… I just don’t see how Darryl can last.

    I don’t think Kisio is the right choice!

  • I am curious if this is not a move by the ownership to go over or around King. Kisio was Hitmen GM before King was president (at least according to the Hitmen website), so there would not necessarily be a tie there. The ownership group, however, has been the same since before King was hired and given Kisio’s success with the Hitmen, he probably carries some cachet with the ownership.

    Ownership raises some questions with King and Sutter and does not get satisfactory answers, so they demand King get someone they trust in there to be a bit of an informant to let them know if they need to make changes?

    Does this sound at all plausible, or am I reading too much into this?

  • Balthazar

    This seems like a kind of compromise. Like this is what they’re saying instead of 100% going with Darryl or flat out firing him so I don’t know how much I want to believe the rumor.

    but I think the only way that bringing someone in to assist is going work is if it is someone that is either like Darryl or someone that he respects. I think Kisio can be this person. He brings something new to the table but is enough like Darryl that Darryl will listen to him. He has the experience and success from juniors which is always good and an assistant role could be the perfect way to ease him into the next level to eventually becoming an nhl gm himself.

  • Balthazar

    To be fair, I don’t know Kisio’s strategy, but at face value this doesn’t seem to be a high probability of being “The Answer. Ìt just seems to lack imagination. Western Canada and the Flames organization are not the only place to source ideas and personnel.

    Look outside for best practices, not just in your own backyard.

  • I look at Kisio this way:

    Does he deserve a shot at the next level in some capacity? No question. He’s accomplished everything he really can as GM of the Calgary Hitmen, and he’s done it with resounding success. Kisio has a track record of identifying talent and building strong junior teams.

    But does that success at the WHL level guarantee the same results in the NHL? Not at all. It’s a different animal, and it might be best for him to start as an assistant.

    But I think it’s clear that he deserves a shot.

  • I remember going to the Sylvan Lake Hockey School for a couple of years back in around the 89-91 era. Instructors inluded Bill Ranford, 18 Sutter’s & Kelly Kisio. That is all.

  • I think that the discussion should be whether it would be a good idea to have Kisio as the General Manger INSTEAD of Sutter. Kisio is a savy hockey person and has nothing to learn from Sutter so why have him working under him?

    The concern for this is that Kisio has had tremendous sucess with the Hitmen, and would the Flames owners want to mess with the future success of this cash cow they have.

    Second, does junior GM success translate to the NHL? We have seen a number of successful juniour coaches who have not been able to make the same sort of impact in the NHL. Would the skills and success that Kisio has displayed at the WHL level translate to similar success in the NHL?

  • Kisio, I believe, was a definate person in my mind to jump to the NHL. He would be great as
    An assistant or director of scouting. A few of you have made the point “if he’s just a YES man then why?”
    IF and I don’t want to say that but IF darryl is to stay he needs a master contract
    Negotiator, a capologist and a media guy. If Darryl traded for those players based on recommendations
    From his pro scouts, they need to be replaced, but unfortunalty me thinks his loyal servants
    Continue to say he is wearing a beautiful dress and crown while the media and fans scream