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.
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.
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.