Status quo at the Saddledome

The big news is that there’s no news.

After meeting with Flames president and CEO Ken King, George Johnson reports in the Calgary Herald that after the club’s self-imposed period of evaluation and contemplation, neither Darryl Sutter nor Jarome Iginla is going anywhere.

This always seemed like the most likely turn of events and it grew increasingly predictable as the Calgary-free National Hockey League playoffs progressed and the date for the June draft drew nearer and nearer.

Based on the growing volume of the grumbling as the Flames shuffled from Coach Sutter to Coach Playfair to Coach Keenan to Coach Sutter 2.0 while failing to win a playoff round over the past five seasons, this is not the outcome some disgruntled Calgary fans wanted. For those malcontents, King has thrown the following bone — the Flames are going to get Sutter a little help. Said assistance will come in the form or one or perhaps two assistants, which lends a little credence to reports out of Brandon last week that Calgary Hitmen boss Kelly Kisio was going to be invited to move from one Saddledome office to another.

You are of course free to debate the merits of retaining Herr Sutter (and many of you have already gotten a head start on this exercise) but the decision having been made, s smart Flames fan should be hoping that the Jolly Rancher’s employment hasn’t been extended on a conditional basis, at least nothing more conditional than being asked to field second opinions from a second-in-command. You see, perhaps the only thing worse than keeping a man prone to bad decisions (as Sutter bashers would argue) is to keep him under "or else" conditions. All that does is ensure the bad decisions will come more quickly as the on-the-spot GM takes frantic and drastic measures to save his job, long-term consequences be damned.

Some will see the timing of this vote of confidence and Steve Yzerman’s hiring by the Tampa Bay Lightning as something other than coincidental, but there is no indication that the Flames ever seriously explored the possibility of hiring the former Detroit Red Wings captain and highly unproven hockey executive (the Olympics, in so many ways, do no count as Yzerman himself will quickly realize when his fourth line has gone from Marleau-Thronton-Heatley to Konopka-Fedoruk-Purcell).

As for keeping Iginla, that too is in keeping with the script. Let’s start with the fact that Iginla’s fate wasn’t entirely the Flames decision. In light of Iginla’s no-movement protection and the economic difficulties in finding a home for a contract that has $21M remaining on it, not to mention the heartstring complications of trading one of the two or three most important players in the history of the franchise, the deck was always stacked against the jettisoning of No. 12, regardless of how many sound hockey arguments could be made in favour of such a move.

So in short, we’re left with the reality that two of the largest components that make the contemporary Calgary Flames who they are will still be here come September training camp and that the only change in the offing is that someone other than Michael Holditch will be sitting next to Sutter in the pressbox when TV networks use those cutaway reaction shots.

The Herald article also mentions King’s vow for the team to be more open with the local media but the relative importance of that revelation to the Flames’ quest to get back on the beam is reflected by its placement in the story (i.e. at the bottom).

Now that that has been cleared up, go ahead and resume your debate about how the Flames should spend the 64th overall pick in the 2010 draft or how much money Eric Nystrom is worth.

  • Why is Sutter hockey so boring?

    Not sure why the comment of “who is the top pick in 2011 is” should be kept to himself. It was a nice little jab at a bad situation. Either way, you folks are in for a hard year. Belive me, I know all about that too! Realisticly, you guys have a couple of lean years ahead. It’s called rebuilding which means you will suck for a longer period of time than you want or expect.

    • Why is Sutter hockey so boring?

      …realistically, there is no way the majority of our players will have worse years than they did last year. We’ll be fine. Iggy, Langkow, Kotalik, and Bouwmeester will all put up better numbers. Things look up for you guys as well. The Oilers will get Habby, Hemsky, and the 1st overall pick in the lineup next year.

  • Why is Sutter hockey so boring?

    So Calgary is going to get an outdoor game. Just a sideshow to take our minds (And money!) away from the fact that we have an ownership that doesn’t care about the fans, a President that makes the Governor-General look like the most important position in government and a GM who fluked his way to the Stanley Cup final and has shown his true colours since. My prediction, Habs win 2-0 and the crowd falls asleep.

  • Balthazar

    @ Kent and R O

    The organization will recover, given time, but the 10/11 team will have to have a pretty miraculous turnaround for Sutter to recover.

    As for the Tanguay issue, was that Sutter or Sutter reacting to the way Keenan used and mis-used him? And how much of the Joker pursuit was based on Keenan telling Daz how well he’d fit in based on Keenan’s experience in Florida?

    Of course, at the same time the team lost two years of focus and value from its core as the team played but was fundamentally under-coached in the new NHL.

    I’m not suggesting that Iron Mike made Daz do anything, but he likely had a strong influence either in opinion (joker) or as results of his coaching actions (tangs).

    I think the Keenan hiring was, is, and will be the centrepiece of Daz’s downfall.

    • Yeah, I think Tanguay was driven out of town by Keenan and that Sutter’s hand was forced by a trade demand. Again, though, Tanguay is currently a shadow of his former self. I’m not convinced his presence would have made much of a difference had he stayed.

      As for Jokinen, word was Sutter has pursued him for years. I’m guessing Duane Sutter (formerly of the Florida Pantehrs) had as much – or more – input as Keenan did when it came to that trade.

      As for Keenan’s coaching, I’m ambivalent on the issue. I hated how he babied Bertuzzi, treated McElhinney like crap and drove away Huselius and Tanguay, but he did manage to make the club one of the best outshooting teams in the league in 08/09. If Kipper hadn’t had a replacement level year in net (and if the team hadn’t fallen to injuries and cap mismanagement at the end of the season) they would have made a lot more noise.

  • There’s no question of it in my mind. Especially when you consider the fact that Tanguay stepped into an elevator shaft after his time here. Assuming he’d be the same player whether he stayed or left, his presence wouldn’t have made much of a difference one way or the other.

    Jokinen cost the Flames a similar player in Lombardi (not much separating them aside from cap hit) and a first round pick – a significant asset for a prospect hungry org. The opportunity cost was even bigger – $5M in cap space and a top 6 position. Sans Jokinen, there’s a much better chance the Flames go out last summer and actively pursue a quality free agent forward (rather than signing Bouwmeester and calling it a day). The fact that the team had $12M+ allotted to Iginla and Jokinen gave them a sort of false sense of security heading into the season I think. Iginla’s deterioration and Jokinen just being Jokinen really threw this org for a loop.

    I’m not certain Sutter will ever recover.

  • Balthazar

    You think, Kent? Personally I’m not so sure.

    Jokinen is a flat-out bad 5on5 player. But Lombardi, useful as he was, wasn’t a particularly stand-out driver of results either.

    Same with Cammalleri and Phaneuf, both have talent and the latter was making nice steps forward but they likely won’t fulfill their contracts. Right?

    And the guys we kept instead or got in return? Useful players and the sum of the parts is better for it, but individually they affect the fortune of the Flames little.

    But Tanguay, he was a complete player and he could outscore the best and he’s not exactly a senior citizen. A true difference-maker.

    I don’t put all the blame on Sutter for that move anyway, I think Tanguay should have manned up. But Sutter should have swallowed his pride as well and because he didn’t, the Flames lost an elite talent.

    I don’t know, I think when we talk about players there’s the cream of the crop and then there’s everybody else. And everyone else just doesn’t matter that much when you can secure your top flight difference makers (ex: Penguins). In his tenure here Sutter has only ever really made one mistake in terms of elite talent, and that would be Tanguay.

    The rest of his work, I characterize as shuffling deck chairs, particularly expensive ones at that. Sutter’s done too much of that too, but if he had kept Tanguay, the rest of the problems would just not make that big a difference – or better yet, we could have avoided them entirely.

  • @ RO

    I personally don’t consider the Tanguay move the formative error, although I agree the team has never really replaced him. Even after his loss, CGY was still good at out-shooting and possession.

    No, the real mistake was Jokinen. What he was, what he cost (both in terms of asset and opportunity) – that kicked the Flames squarely in the nuts. His presence, coupled with Jarome’s giant step backwards, instigated a whole bunch of terrible things last year and led us to the panicked selling of Phaneuf, the acquisition of Kotalik, etc.

    I think if Sutter ever does get fired, many will look back at the Jokinen trade as his Waterloo.

  • Jean Lefebvre

    I’m pretty sure that the 10/11 Flames will score more goals and allow more goals than they did in 09/10. They exceeded expectations in both departments, in bad and good ways respectively.

    At 5on5 this year they were decent at controlling the play. Not as dominant as 08/09, and they aggressively played to the score to the point where they probably lost a standings point or two here and there. The PP needs work, and the PK is nothing special.

    Anyways, Sutter made a few questionable moves but sadly almost nobody’s asking or answering the pertinent questions. If someone wanted his head it should have been in the ’08 offseason when he traded Tanguay for beans. That was a serious downgrade at left wing.

    But no, sadly a large part of what I like to call the “Fan960” crowd agreed with the move, called him soft. And now we’re arguing about Cammalleri, who never was, isn’t nor ever will be anywhere the player Tanguay was for the Flames.

    In any case there’s a large element of the 10/11 Flames that I’m displeased with. Stajan at $3.5M will hurt a lot more than Kotalik IMO. Kiprusoff for three more years (effectively) at ~$6M, well that’s not going to end well. A bunch of his little trades just did not make sense either. And of course Jokinen was never a good enough player to play for this team.

    Still, I’m pretty sure that before calls for Sutter’s head are put into place, that it needs to be acknowledged he put together some pretty good 5on5 teams in 08/09 and 09/10, even with a declining Iginla and bouts of questionable coaching. And it needs to be further accepted that controlling 5on5 play is one of the most persistent skills in the game.

    Some of the parts might be odious but the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

  • Jean Lefebvre

    When king rubbed it in the our faces via the media, quote ( We have 97% ticket renewals for next year) you had to know sutter is not going anywhere but unless sutter pulls off a miracle this summer, the flames are going nowhere either. I dread my annual trip to the coast this summer as most of my buddies are canuks fans.

  • Jean Lefebvre

    Darryl is a “lame duck” GM. King should have said, “You’re our man here is an extention.” or “here’s you’re walking papers”. In no way does this help him or the team. He will once again be making decisions to save his job and not the team in the future. JFJ in Toronto was the same, made short term decisions so he could stick around for another year. Anyone who seriously thinks Darryl is “open” to an AGM i’ve got some prime water front property for you on Baffin Island. If they bring one one, they’ll probably scuttle him off to Abbotsford. A good managment staff has a GM, who will ultimately make final decisions. an AGM who may be a master negotiator or capologist, a director of pro scouting who knows the players and a director of Amateur scouting, who knows all the prospects. Calgary doesn’t have that.

  • Jean Lefebvre

    I do not believe that Darryl is capable of taking advice from an Assistant GM or anyone else. He thinks he knows more about hockey than anyone on earth. Look at his results, it sure gives me a lot of faith. He picks up Kotalik and Staios for no good reason to the tune of almost 6 million committed for next year. Could you not find a couple of decent offensive players with 6 million to spend? You trade Phaneuf for not one upper level player to show for it? The farm club is almost bare of any real strong NHL players down the road. He has been flat out rude with the media and fans for years. Listening to Ken King and his BS on the radio today it almost makes me physically ill thinking about how the Ownership and Management of this team is ruining this once proud hockey team. If it was not for Kiprusoff playing the best hockey of his career combined with us luckily winning all 6 games with them, we would have had about the same record as the Oilers

  • You guys don’t think that hiring 1 or 2 AGM’s (When Darryl is pretty clearly a DIY kinda guy) under him the offseason after a massive failure amide much media and consumer criticism isn’t an implicit (as opposed to explicit) threat to his job security?

    • Jean Lefebvre

      That depends entirely on who the assistant GM is and whether he’s viewed as a head man in waiting. It’s the difference between hiring Jim Nill and Doug Soetaert. Also, if Sutter is allowed to handpick the new employee (and it’s not clear from the Herald article who will make the final decision) then that by itself is not much of a threat, implicit or explicit.

  • Now that that has been cleared up, go ahead and resume your debate about how the Flames should spend the 64th overall pick in the 2010 draft or how much money Eric Nystrom is worth.

    Haha. Yeah, it definitely feels like we’ll have the entire summer to discuss where to place the deck chairs, doesn’t it?

  • Graham

    Based on the King / Sutter press conference at the end of the season, (the Sutter is my man comments) this is hardly a surprise.
    Given that King and Sutter were allowed to conduct their own internal review, I’m not sure what other outcome people expected. (lets fire ourselves?)
    Overall, I am still mixed on GM Sutter, basically being a fan until the desperate trades at the end of last season. The resigning of Stajan at $3.5 million was also dubious.
    However, Sutter has shown that he can pull of trades, dump salaries (read Van der Meer and Primeau)and occassionally pull a rabbit out of the hat. Guess, I will extend my support (although somewhat reluctantly) for another season.

    Jean, Sutter has already done the ‘GM takes frantic and drastic measures to save his job, long-term consequences be damned’ decisions,
    Phaneuf and Jokinen

    • Jean Lefebvre

      “Jean, Sutter has already done the ‘GM takes frantic and drastic measures to save his job, long-term consequences be damned’ decisions, Phaneuf and Jokinen”

      For those taking that view, then perhaps the more accurate statement is that an implicit threat to job security would exacerbate the frantic and drastic measures.

      • Graham

        @Jean

        I agree, implicit threats to job security could lead to even more frantic and unwelcome changes.
        However, Sutter is a different kind of fish, he seems to do what he thinks is right regardless. I’m not sure other peoples opinions or threats to his job would factor much into his calculations.
        Agree or disagree with his approach, he is steadfast in his beleifs!

  • Here’s the quote from the Johnson articule that stood out for me…

    “The minimum standard here,’’ said King, “is making the playoffs.’’

    So let me get this straight, the minimum standard is making the playoffs and in response to failing to acheive even the minimum standards is to do… nothing?

    Standards are meaningless unless there are consequences for not meeting them. Seriously, at this point, I think maybe someone other then King ought to be put in charge of the management EPAR.