Disaster in Calgary
|Calgary Flames players, from left, Ales Kotalik, David Moss, Nigel Dawes and Eric Nystromto react at the end of their NHL hockey game against the San Jose Sharks in Calgary, April 6, 2010.|
Dominated by the Sutter clan from the front office to the coaching staff to the scouts to the players, this was as much about one family as it was about one team. That the Flames, managed by Darryl Sutter and coached by Brent Sutter, won't be playing any post-season matches this spring will likely have major repercussions that could render the team Sutter-less in short order.
Darryl Sutter started making bad trades in the winter of '09, picking up Olli Jokinen from Phoenix and giving up his 2010 first rounder in the process, and kept making them this year. The deal that sent Dion Phaneuf was awful, didn't produce a team turnaround and was made worse by a decision to sign Matt Stajan to a $14 million contract that even the doormat Leafs wouldn't have considered.
Jokinen was peddled to New York, which many viewed as addition by subtraction. The only problem was that Jokinen, at least, was an expiring contract. The Flames don't have to worry about the nearly useless Chris Higgins beyond this season, but they get to pay Ales Kotalik $3 million for each of the next two years, heavy dough for a player nearly as useless as Higgins.
As a trio of trades, the first Jokinen deal, the Phaneuf transaction and the second Jokinen represent a remarkably mediocre effort by Darryl Sutter to fix his roster. The decision to sign Jay Bouwmeester to a gigantic contract doesn't look great either given that Bouwmeester was good, but nothing close to great, as a Flame. He's got four more years at $6.6 million per coming and based on this season, is a stay-at-home defenceman without much offensive game.
Brent Sutter, eliminated in the first round of the playoffs two years in a row in Jersey, now misses them entirely.The aura he had as the best coach outside the NHL while guiding the Canadian national junior team to gold medals has completely evaporated.
Then there's Jarome Iginla, goal-less in his last nine games, a hero from the Vancouver Olympics but no hero in Calgary today. There are those who dream the Flames might flip Iginla to Boston for the Bruins top pick acquired from the Leafs, but given that the 33-year-old Iginla has three more years at $7 million per season, the Flames would probably have to throw something else into the deal to make the B's even think about doing it.
Yes, Boston, the NHL's lowest scoring team, needs goals. But the Flames were only one spot better on offence than Boston, and that was with Iginla. Logically, he wouldn't be able to make that much of a difference to the Bruins.
This is a mess in Calgary, and suddenly both teams in Alberta, the Oilers and Flames, have hit hard times. The Sutters might think they can patch things and get back into the playoffs next spring, but as currently constructed, this is a team without a present or a future.
The Oilers, likely with the top pick in the June draft, have a bushel of bad contracts. So their return to competitiveness won't be easy, either.