The biggest change this year for the Flames isn't going to be the loss of Cammy and Bertuzzi. Or Aucoin. (And certainly not Vandermeer.) Or the dependence on youngsters due to cap issues.
It isn't even going to be the signing of J. Bo.
It's going to be Brent Sutter.
He's going to (hopefully) bring the structured system and accountability this team has been sorely lacking for at least 3 years. I don't know what happened to the angry insane "motivator" that Keenan used to be...but he must been on valium or prozak or something. Useless as a tactician, we could have at least used his temper. But he didn't even have that. So lacking motivation and strategy, we struggled yet again. Fell apart when in mattered.
Enter a whole new mindset with Sutter.
Our vets aren't going to get 20+ minutes a night whether they deserve it or not, as they did under Darryl or Keenan. (Like Nolan/Bertuzzi/Amonte/Marchment). I'm pretty sure you'll have to actually earn your ice time now. Bert went through two 20-game goal-less droughts and still played 20 minutes every night. That's absurd.
Brent will force the youngsters to step up their game. I'm quite looking forward to what he can do with Boyd and Pardy and even Dion. Maybe even Backlund. What Sutter did with guys like Parise and Martin and Oduya in NJ is fun to think about when applied to the Flames. If they play well, they'll likely be rewarded with more ice time in this new regime.
We'll have an actual system. "High tempo defense" was how Brent described it. Players will know what to do and when to do it. Unlike the chaos that ensued under Keenan, who seemed to think coaching was "changing lines 17 times a game." There was no plan. There was no structure. Players might actually know what to do and when to do it now.
And yes. I suspect we'll even actually practice the freakin' powerplay this year. The 3.5% powerplay over the last 20 games of the season, including playoffs, cost us the division, home ice advantage, and the series against Chicago. I don't care WHO you have on the ice - you have to score more than 3 goals on 60-something tries. And despite all the injuries, we still had Iggy, Cammy, and Dion out there...there really isn't any excuse for that. That has to change.
If Brent can get these underachieving idiots to buy into his system, it's going to be a remarkable change. If the players DON'T buy in...some of our "untouchables" are going to find themselves in another city next year. (Looking at you Dion...)
It's not going to be the coach who takes the fall again if this team fails this year. It's going to be our "veteran leadership" - who are proving they aren't really great leaders.
Side note: I'd put money on the Flames absolutely sucking the first 20+ games. Not just because they always do - but because I suspect the new coach and system is going to be an absolute shock to the players. There's going to be a painful adjustment. But if they can adapt...I like how things are going to look in the long run.