The 2005-06 Calgary Flames were a really good regular season team that
collapsed in the playoffs. The 2006-07 Calgary Flames were, in many
ways, a team that was lucky to make the post-season dance.
it was some new additions or their brand-new head coach, the Calgary
Flames began their gradual post-2004 descent in 2006-07 – a process that
continued largely unabated until the team was finally blown up in the spring of 2013.
Look at that PDO!
The 2006-07 season was preceded by head coach Darryl Sutter stepping down from that position to tend full-time to his general manager’s duties. He promoted his right-hand man and protege Jim Playfair to the big chair with the hopes that Playfair’s steady hand could continue the team’s work and momentum and finally bring a Cup back to the Stampede City. And Sutter seemed to do his best to set Playfair up well; he added Alex Tanguay to the roster, and loaded up on experienced veterans for a hopeful playoff push. The Flames had depth and high hopes.
And then they ended up being fundamentally a worse team than the 2005-06 club, eked into the playoffs by a single point and were dispatched in the first round by the Detroit Red Wings. The Flames were much streakier in 2006-07 than they had been in the past. They opened and closed the regular season by alternating four-game losing skids with six-game winning streaks, and generally swung from being pretty impressive to being downright awful almost on a dime.
And that’s with Miikka Kiprusoff giving them All-World goaltending. If 2003-04 was the triumph of Darryl Sutter’s chemistry experiment and 2005-06 was the team building a fairly impressive house of cards in the regular season, 2006-07 was the year the experiment utterly failed and the house of cards came tumbling down. The 2006-07 Flames would have been a monster team in 2004.
Unfortunately, the game had changed.
Miikka Kiprusoff was everything the Flames wanted him to be in the regular season. He started 74 games and won 40 of them. He had a very good .932 even-strength save percentage. Jamie McLennan was competent with a .910 mark but lost most of his starts. In the playoffs, Kiprusoff was actually better (.938) than he was in the regular season.
Because of the lockout, we get to enjoy (via hindsight) two years worth of off-season adjustments from Darryl Sutter!
- January 29, 2007: traded Jamie Lundmark, a second round pick and a fourth round pick to Los Angeles for Craig Conroy.
- February 10, 2007: traded Andrew Ference (who had just signed a contract extension before the season) and Chuck Kobasew to Boston for Brad Stuart, Wayne Primeau and a conditional fourth round pick.
- February 22, 2007: traded a third round pick to New Jersey for David Hale and a fifth round pick.
- June 22, 2007: traded Andrei Zyuzin and Steve Marr to Chicago for Adrian Aucoin and a seventh round pick.
- June 22, 2007: traded down in the first round (from 18 to 24) with St. Louis, adding a third round pick in the process.
- June 23, 2007: traded two fifth round picks to Buffalo to move into the fourth round.
- June 23, 2007: traded two sixth round picks to Colorado to move into the later part of the fifth round.
Darryl Sutter went on a spending spree in the summer of 2006. The results were uneven, but you have to give him points for trying. He signed Andrei Zyuzin, Jamie McLennan, Jeff Friesen, Brad Ference and Eric Godard. If you were a free agent with a name that he had kinda heard-of, you probably got a phone call. The team ended up being fairly veteran-laden when he was finished, for better or for worse.
The 2007 Draft class turned out decently in retrospect. Backlund is a good, useful NHLer. Negrin and Aulie at least became pro assets. Severyn didn’t amount to anything – but he was a seventh rounder – while sadly Mickey Renaud passed away before we got a sense of how good he could be.
RETHINKING THE 2006-07 FLAMES
Jim Playfair was demoted in the off-season, and seemingly made the scapegoat for Calgary’s failure to capitalize on their momentum. And yes, under his watch the division-leading, possession monster Flames turned into one of the league’s lesser lights almost overnight. They had a 9th-worst Corsi percentage (at 48.2%, way from down the 51.1% they had in 2005-06).
Was it Playfair’s fault? Was it Sutter’s fault for bringing in the players that he did?
It’s hard to isolate.
The following regular players had worse possession numbers under Playfair than under Sutter: Tony Amonte, Jarome Iginla, Chuck Kobasew, Matthew Lombardi, Darren McCarty, Marcus Nilson, Byron Ritchie, Stephane Yelle, Andrew Ference (slightly worse), Roman Hamrlik, Dion Phaneuf, Robyn Regehr and Rhett Warrener. Kristian Huselius and Daymond Langkow saw their numbers improve. Basically everyone’s numbers rebounded with Mike Keenan as head coach in 2007-08.
What’s the more likely explanation: that adding Tanguay, Zyuzin, Friesen, (Brad) Ference and Godard – most of whom played small minutes – made everybody worse at hockey, or that the team-wide impact was them failing to adjust to Playfair? (Or Playfair failing to tailor a system to the players that he had?)