1. The first of two hard questions
Whither Brent Sutter?
Sutter has been the Flames bench boss for just about three full seasons by this point and one suspects that it’s time to start asking hard questions about his viability in the job for a fourth. Now, I’m not one of those "fire Sutter!!!" guys, per se. I think he was dealt three increasingly bad hands with these poor rosters and hasn’t had a particularly large amount of help from the team’s leadership, which seems content to have the occasional closed-door meeting and otherwise go-hard-to-the-net and we-know-we-have-the-answers away the increasingly valid concerns of the press.
Sutter is, I think, a pretty good coach, but one that ultimately must face the axe for this season and, less apparently, seasons past. Again, I don’t think it should happen, but I think I’d bet a large amount of money that it will. Firing Sutter serves two positive purposes for the organization, in my view:
1) Most obviously, it’s the showy "shakeup the organization needs to right the ship" even if there are few coaches who could have done significantly better than Sutter has in the past three years. People in general, and probably ownership specifically, want to see some blood splashed around after this season, and understandably so. Sutter, gruff, short and increasingly frustrated, makes a pretty easy sacrificial lamb.
2) Feaster gets to bring in His Guy, whoever that is, and then the organization can claim to be of one mind on whatever direction in which it happens to shamble off over the next season or three.
Meanwhile, Sutter will go on to successfully coach wherever he ends up successfully coaching, and everyone’s happy.
2. And now the second, much harder one
Whither Jarome Iginla?
(This is one that likely leaves no one happy.)
There is no question in my mind that this was arguably the worst season of Jarome Iginla’s career since he became Jarome Iginla in bolded and underlined letters. And given that he’ll be 35 on July 1 — the easiest birthday in hockey to remember after Wayne Gretzky’s, but only because the, ahem, Great One and I share a birthday — it’s time to start asking very serious questions about his future with the team.
We all see now that Jay Feaster’s assertion that the Face of the Franchise and Best Player to Ever Wear a Flames Jersey was untouchable (this during the now-infamous, to me anyway, Going For It interview session) was misguided, and ultimately a symbol of everything bad about this doomed season: obstinate stubbornness, betting on the wrong horses and generally being disappointments chief among them.
I was shocked, actually, to see the number of people in the comments last week when I raised the question about Iginla and Kiprusoff’s futures with the team who thought one or both should be gone this offseason. I was more shocked to see that the many were vociferous in their willingness to ship out Iginla for whatever package he may fetch at the draft.
A sticky situation. On the one hand he’s Jarome Iginla, for all that means to the city and the organization, particularly in terms of monetary value. And surely, for every internet commenter who wants him gone, logically enough, there will likely be 10 or even 100 ready to personally-and-by-hand tear down the Saddledome brick by brick the second he’s traded for who-knows-what-and-whom.
The obvious risk is that Iginla plays out this contract, and perhaps his career, as a $7 million second-line forward getting first-line minutes because of who he is, and I’m not sure who that benefits besides the hearts of fans who should have already had those organs damaged by the organization more or less wasting the entirety of one of the great careers of the last 15 years.
It’s hard to see him rebounding next year. It’s hard to see him playing somewhere else.
Things, it seems, are hard all over.
3. Sucks to be Olli Jokinen
Olli Jokinen can’t win for losing.
If I had told you in September Jokinen would be pushing Jarome Iginla for the team lead in points at the end of the season, top 60 for the first time since he left Florida and generally have a really good year for a guy making his money, you’d have been ecstatic with all of it.
But as the Flames collapsed this season, Jokinen, whose name had been more or less omnipresent on the scoresheet for much of the first two-thirds of the campaign, sank back into being more or less that the general perception of Olli Jokinen is. Or at least, that’s what a few people would have you believe.
In the last little while, I’ve been fairly surprised to see people making him a scapegoat, as though this mess is in any way his fault. The headline in the Herald, for a story I didn’t even bother to read, went something like "for this disappearing act, he doesn’t deserve to come back."
What a load of shit.
Jokinen coming back likely isn’t conducive to much in the way of winning, just because nothing is, but let’s not act as though any of the collapse has anything to do with him. Disappearing act? He had 10 points in March, which isn’t great or anything for 17 games, but it’s not bad either, especially at his price point. I guess the argument is that Jokinen didn’t have any points in that five-game losing streak that brought the season to an end for all intents and purposes, and that’s fair enough. Know who else didn’t? Jarome Iginla.
I’m all for pillorying everyone who deserves it over this season, Jokinen ain’t one of ’em.
4. What might be most disappointing
Team is directionless and we really learned absolutely nothing about anything.
All we knew about it in October was: It was going to finish somewhere between eighth and 11th and it was old and getting older. It didn’t have a lot of young talent (Sven Baertschi excluded). There were too many holes and question marks that needed addressing but likely could not be addressed, handcuffed as the team was by its egregious cap constraights.
And now, almost 82 games later: It looks like it’s going to finish in 10th place at best and it’s now officially an older team. It still doesn’t have a lot of young talent (Sven Baertschi excluded). There are still a lot of holes and question marks, and it’s unclear how Feaster is going to address them.
Do they blow it up? Who knows. Do they stick with it? Seems more likely but not particularly advisable. How many guys get shipped out? How many come in? How does all that happen? So many questions. Hopefully — hopefully! — we actually get some answers this time around. I hate to be right about everything in situations like this, but my tendency toward told-ya-soism compels me to write that I very much told ya so, and I’m annoyed by that fact. If I, and lots of other people, can see this, why can’t anyone in a position of power?
5. There is good news however…
This regrettable deathmarch of a season is just days from its end, and there’s probably going to be a lot of people getting beheaded over it. Whether they’re the right heads, I guess, remains to be seen.