Report Card Day: The guys in charge






Now obviously it would be at least semi-reasonable to throw a blanket over everything with something like a D+ grade for everyone, and I’d probably get very little in the way of argument from anyone who watched this team for 82 games. It wasn’t, to put it lightly, a pretty season.

But not EVERYONE had a bad year. No, no, it’s true. Not everyone did. Odd though that may seem. So now, let’s go through the Flames’ brass to make sure each and every performance is given its due, good OR bad (not all bad!).


Name: Brent Sutter
Team record: 41-29-12
Summary: Bob pretty well summed up my thoughts on Brent last week in his own post, but here’s a quick summary:

What to say about the job Brent Sutter did this year?

If you had asked me what I thought the Flames would do this season back in September or October, I would have said they’d be a decent enough team that struggled at times and either barely made or missed the playoffs.

So by that measure, I suppose, Brent did just about what was expected of him.

But there is also this to consider: if the Flames don’t stumble so spectacularly out of the gate, due largely to what seems to have been Brent’s puzzling personnel decisions, Calgary is probably a five- or six seed in the playoffs, no joke.

Now I know what you’re thinking: given the drastic and dizzying improvement the team underwent upon his brother’s firing and the reportedly-icy relationship that followed, one can draw the conclusion that Brent let the big fella pull a few too many strings.

Perhaps part of that is being a little brother, and perhaps that’s the problem with having your big brother as the boss. Maybe that dynamic never goes away. Or perhaps that was Brent deferring to Darryl a little too often because he felt like it was in his job description. I obviously have no inside information or even anything resembling it, so I can’t say for sure, but whatever it was, it was clearly not working at any point last year, and I think to some extent it was on Brent to tell Darryl to back off. But he didn’t.

As a consequence, October through Christmas were just ghastly, abhorrent months of hockey and clearly cost the Flames a playoff spot they could have otherwise waltzed to. Whether you want to argue semantics, at least part of the blame has to rest with Brent.

The other problem Sutter seemed to be plagued with was an inability to keep the lines consistent, which was problematic. Only upon realizing the alchemy between Iginla and Tanguay didn’t need anyone else — so he put in Brendan Morrison whose main job was to make be heard and not seen — did he have a regular top line, for example. His sticking with the same D groups seemed to be fairly consistent, if with a rotating bottom pairing because at that point it’s all interchangeable parts.

To be fair, he was never going to get this team to win. It was old and slow and had the quality of two or three different puzzles where the pieces got all mixed together and never fit properly. Next year, and the following few for that matter, will likely be little different.

However, the team’s tendency to piddle down its own leg in important games down the stretch was also frustrating, and can be seen, to some extent, as the hallmark of Brent’s reign so far.

But as I say, overall, Brent Sutter probably did about as well as he could have hoped to do with this team once Darryl was out of the picture, though let his brother loom too heavily in the first half to be as a successful as he probably should have been.
Grade: C-

General Managing

Name: Jay Feaster
Team record: 25-11-9
Summary: It’s difficult to say how much of the team’s success after Feaster took over from Darryl was his or Brent’s doing, and how much was a series of seemingly-impossible statistics the Flames suffered through in the first three-ish months of the season regressing toward the mean.

But you gotta give Feaster this: he did very little, and he got the hell out of the way. And I don’t think that was a coincidence. Knowing not to involve one’s self too heavily when things are going bad can be just as valuable a skill as overinvolving oneself when things are going slightly well but need to be better.

The league is positively littered with teams that put themselves in terrible positions for the future because they thought sneaking into the playoffs once (and promptly getting creamed) would placate the fanbase and media wonks who demand results results results. Feaster could have easily traded a couple picks and what meager prospects the team has left to get a rental player that could have snuck them into the playoffs, where Vancouver would have gutted them like fish.

But instead, he didn’t. The roster moves he made were mostly minor — trading for Freddy Modin for no readily apparent reason (though to no one’s detriment except maybe Freddy Modin’s), calling up a few guys, claiming a minor league plug off waivers — and that was probably for the best. In fact, his best move was one that should have been made in September: sending Ales Kotalik packing to Abbotsford (though he did eventually recall him again because nothing gold can stay).

I’m not sure I like the guy for the job long-term or anything (in fact, I’m fairly sure I’m against it), but as a six-month steward of the club, he probably had the power to improve his resume over the summer by mortgaging another small parcel of the future to maybe make the playoffs. It took responsibility and, frankly, professionalism, to not do so.

I’m fine and slightly surprised with what Feaster has done as acting GM. But that’s about it.
Grade: B

Name: Darryl Sutter
Team record: 16-18-3
Summary: Hoo boy. Not good.

Obviously everyone has lined up to spit on Darryl’s grave and I think we’re all a little tired of it at this point. It would be easy and understandable to give him a nice F, in red, bolded, quadruple-underlined size 96 comic sans. But he doesn’t deserve that. Not quite.

After all, you can throw all the aspersions around that you like, and it won’t change the fact that for all his mistakes, Sutter did get Alex Tanguay off the scrap pile for next to nothing. Same goes for Brendan Morrison. That’s two-thirds of what turned out to be a fairly successful top line.

The Jackman signing turned out to be a good one as well. Olli Jokinen wasn’t the Hindenbergian disaster we all assumed it would be. He also partially made up for the Ian White acquisition by at least working a serviceable second-group power play quarterback for him.

And while, obviously, things like the Stajan extension is the kind of deal that only a complete moron would make, he also locked Mark Giordano up long-term for a price that is not entirely unreasonable.

These are all at least somewhat good things.

None of that changes the colossal wreck of the roster overall, or the first 27 games of the year, or the continued interference in his brother’s work. But it has to be acknowledged, and saved him from what would have otherwise been an incredibly easy failing grade.
Grade: D

  • T&A4Flames

    I think that Brent has finally hit his stride with this group. The core seems to be believing in it and working within the system. I think with some of the coaches being let go Brent will have a chance to hire his people. Retaining Lowry was a good idea; perhaps the future head coach. I like Brent’s system, I think it works for Calgary Flames style hockey. We just need a few more key pieces. I like our bottom 6 and our D for the most part. We were close this year, if the team bought in a little earlier, we would’ve made the playoffs.

  • everton fc

    I think the White for Babchuk and Kostopoulos was a good deal for this club, as well. Both played well here.

    The Stajan signing came back to bite us hard. The Kotalik trade remains insane. Both look horrific. But Jackman… Tanguay… Jokinen… Morrison… Babchuk… Kostopoulos… Not bad deals by Darryl.

    I think Brent will do well next season. If we can keep the Glencross/Jokinen/Moss line together… Things may bode well for us.

    We still need a qualified centre between Tanguay and Iginla. Would the group here take Backlund in that role, and committ to not complaining about it, if it failed?

    • everton fc

      If they can keep Glencross-Jokinen-Moss together I would have no issues using Backlund in that role. Dont forget Langkow will be back and had his most successful year playing between Tanguay and Iginla. As a side note we are assuming Tanguay is coming back too. I think they can find a way to make it work.

      • everton fc

        I could live with:

        1st Tanguay/Langkow/Iginla
        2nd Glencross/Jokinen/Moss
        3rd Bourque/Backlund/?? (Jackman? Morrison??)
        4th Kostopolous/??(Stajan?)/Jackman (??)

        I think these lines, with the coaching staff in tact, make us competitive. We did score some goals this season.

        Will we be first in the league? No.

        Would we make the playoffs? I think so.

        Could we survive the first round? I think so.

        Could we win the Cup? Who knows…

        We have to let these contracts either expire, or sell the likes of Hagman and Stajan for nothing, whilst parking Kotalik (and maybe Hagman) in the minors…

    • T&A4Flames

      I would still rather see Backlund 1 year running the 3rd line; slow progression. But, if that’s what we have to do, so be it. I would like to see GlenX, Jokinen and Moss together again, I’m just not convinced they are a great option for a 2nd line; more suited to a 3rd lone I think. But again, it could be worse.

    • Matty Franchise Jr

      I will absolutely not commit to not complaining about anything!

      Not being a professional hockey player , scout, or coach I can’t say for sure but I don’t think Backs is ready for the top line yet. Maybe split time between line 1 and 2 with Langks.

      Glencross/Jokinen/Moss is a respectable 3rd line.

      • Oyo

        that third line would crush other third liners and right now we have no one to occupy second line. id rather have bourque on third line absed on last season, unless he can prove he isnt a bum

  • Emir

    I’ll be perfectly honest, I don’t care for any of the analysis done here. It is an awesome analysis and Rob you should be happy with your work. I think it is well developed and fun to read. But what I care for are little quips like”lining up at his grave to spit on it.” wow, I love reading your articles for that, makes me laugh so hard every time. Gets me through the day, and for that I thank you kind sir.

  • T&A4Flames

    “As a consequence, October through Christmas were just ghastly, abhorrent months of hockey and clearly cost the Flames a playoff spot they could have otherwise waltzed to.”

    Yah. And if my aunt had b*lls she’d be my uncle.

  • schevvy

    I think Brent did a great job with the team after his brother left. Also, after Darryl left, the team seemed to buy into his system, so it makes me wonder if as long as Darryl was there they were safe, and once he left they realized they no longer had a security blanket. If they played poorly, they would be put in the press box, put in the minors, ex: Kotalik, Hagman, or be put on the 4th line ex: Stajan. So I think King should give Brent 1 more year to make the playoffs and go past the 1st round. Ultimately they have to, not enough contracts go off the board until summer 2012.

  • everton fc

    As an aside – I wonder if Reinhart and Howse can make the jump? Not to mention Nemisz… And is Keith a dark horse? Led Abby in scoring.

    Reinhart’s five goal evening makes me wonder if he can crack the lineup next season.

    • Emir

      When it comes to our youth we should be patient. I would love to see them up here but realistically they will probably need 2 years in the ahl to learn to play at the pro level.

      I’d like to give backlund a go at the top line, lanks and Bourque have chemistry together and would work just fine on the second line.

      Stajan won’t be as bad next year as he was this year, but lets hope somebody like slather is interested for some unknown reason lol.

      I think if the ownership of the team is serious about winning, they will have to be open to the idea of burying guys in the minors or loaning them to the khl.

      As for Brent, I think he deserves one full year at the helm with no dutter over his shoulder. Plus If we were being wild and talking new coach, who is out there that we could say is an “upgrade”?