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Okotoks, AB • Canada • 27 Years Old • Male
I've been waiting for Ken King or the ownership group of the Calgary Flames to come out and publicly back Darryl Sutter ever since the season ended.

If you are one of the folks who, for some reason or another, think that Darryl Sutter should have been on the chopping block for what happened this season, I urge you to give your head a shake.

I am a staunch Sutter supporter. If you've read any of my other blogs you would know that. I don't hide it. I've got many reasons for my loyalty towards Darryl, which I will address in this blog among my analysis of his job as Flames GM.

Today, in the Calgary Sun, Vicki Hall has written a piece, following an interview with Ken King, that shows me the Calgary Flames are just as committed to Sutter as I am.


Let me start by saying this. I've been a Calgary Flames follower as far back as my memories take me. The Stanley Cup championship of 1989 is a great memory of mine. The following years still brought great hockey, that is, until about 1997.

A lot of the current Calgary Flame fan base jumped back on board the wagon right around the time Peter Maher let out his first "Yeah Baby!" of the 2003-2004 season; and that was when they Flames clinched their first playoff birth in 7 seasons and went on their remarkable run. For the first round against the Canucks, you could buy playoff tickets on Ticketmaster quite easily; I even got seats on Ticketmaster for game 6 of the SECOND ROUND vs. Detroit! (Also my favorite Flames moment of all time). It wasn't until the third round that fandom hit a fever-pitch and the city of Calgary went literally crazy. This is just how fan bases work.

Of these "new" fans, how many actually remember the dark years. The 7 seasons of futility. The year the Flames were in first in the West at Christmas but managed to miss the playoffs altogether? Remember when our high scorer was Cory Stillman with about 60 points? Remember the tandem of Rick Tabarracci and Ken Wregget? Most people in Calgary really, truly, don't think about that. If that were to happen again for a couple seasons, the 'dome would empty out again or everyone would be trying to sell their season tickets.

Thankfully, we don't have to worry about that because we have a management group that is among the elite of the NHL.

When Sutter was hired as coach, the team instantly started playing better. When he became GM that off-season, the whole mantra of the Flames changed, and losing was no longer an option.

The team in 03-04 overachieved because of the system, and the goalie, that Sutter put in place. In 05-06 the team was playing their best hockey since the early 90s. Defense was the key and Miikka Kiprusoff was literally god. Unfortunately, the team quit in game 7 against Anaheim that year. That was still the worst game I've ever seen them play at home. Had they won, Alberta's dream would have came true with a second-round matchup with the Oilers. Instead, the whole mood of the team seemed to change and we've been struggling to recover ever since.

Sutter stepped down as coach following that season saying the team needed an upgrade at that position. It also allowed him to focus on building our farm system which was in desperate need of some good young bodies.

Which brings me to where we are today. After our fourth straight first-round exit, the fans want answers. Well, you got it already in the form of a house-clean of the bench staff. And while it was absolutely necessary for Mike Keenan to be fired, as echoed by Sutter in his news conference when he said even a first-round win wouldn't have saved Keenan's job; we still have to look at the performance of the GM.

To win in the post-lockout NHL you need a number of things.

1. Two scoring lines.
2. A solid checking line.
3. Combination of shut-down and puck-moving defense.
4. Contributers still on entry-level contracts (or equivalent deals).
5. Solid goaltending.
6. Capable farm system.
7. Good leadership (captain).
8. Franchise Centre, Defenseman, Goalie
9. Good special teams.
10. Good coaching.

Let's break it down.

1. Check. With the addition of Olli Jokinen the Flames have two excellent scoring lines. Allowing Daymond Langkow to be a 2nd line, two-way centre. Rene Bourque really solidified the second line.

2. Check. Craig Conroy has always been a defense-first guy. Now he really can be. The addition of Curtis Glencross solidified this line; how great of a signing was this? But, really, shouldn't we just be thanking Kevin Lowe for letting him go?

3. In progress. Shut-down D, check. Puck-moving D... well, certainly Giordano fits the mold but the Dion Phaneuf situation keeps this from being a rock solid Check. John Negrin fits the bill as a solid puck-moving prospect.

4. Check. Eric Nystrom, Dustin Boyd, Marc Giordano, Curtis Glencross and maybe you even include Rene Bourque in this equation.

5. Check. Kiprusoff is still a world-class goalie. With some tweaks to the defensive-zone coverage this season I expect his numbers to be back up at the top of the league. However, a backup would still be nice.

6. Check. We saw first hand some of the prospects that are nearly ready for NHL duty. Strength down the middle (Backlund, Nemisz), on the back-end (Pelech, Negrin) and in goal (Irving, Keetley).

7. Check. The current front-runner for Team Canada's captaincy in 2010. This is a no-brainer. Jarome Iginla is a premiere player, captain and leader in the NHL.

8. Check. Finally. I will address this further in regards to Olli Jokinen below. FYI, the d-man is not Phaneuf.

9. In progress. The penalty kill could use some tweaks, but the bodies are there. The power-play has been doing the same thing since 03-04 and is brutal. Will be addressed by the new coaching staff I'm sure.

10. In progress. Sutter's biggest mistake as GM of the Flames so far was the hiring of Mike Keenan. Although I don't believe it sent us backword, it certainly provided no movement forward. Safe to say this off-season is absolutely key for the hiring of the coaching staff alone.

I urge you to go through the other NHL teams and see who can fill all of these necessities. You won't find many.

The biggest concern for this franchise ever since Sutter took over has been their ability to go out and get a number 1 centre. We all know that. They talk about it every season, then every draft and then every trade deadline. This year, Sutter was given the opportunity to acquire that centre, in Olli Jokinen, for a fraction of what was being asked for him last season. So he did it. And although I'm not a huge Jokinen fan, he proved in spurts that he will likely be exactly what we've been looking for all these years. And had the Flames not made the deal, then bowed out in the first round, everyone would be criticizing Sutter for not making that move. It became clear that Matthew Lombardi was not capable of being a top-line centre on a contending team.

Which brings me to the salary cap issue. It ties in with the previous paragraph as this was a move that Sutter had to make. As was the Leopold deal. And strangely enough, Sutter admitted to having ANOTHER deal at the deadline that fell through. That would have likely put us even closer to the cap! The catastrophic amount of injuries and the crazy CBA rule that wouldn't allow the Flames to put Robyn Regehr on injured reserve is what put Darryl in the tight salary cap space that we were in. There are a number of teams in the league, that, having suffered the same bout of injuries at the same time frame would have had to field a short roster. Should they all be fired because there's a small chance it COULD happen to them too? I don't think so. If Sutter had put this team into this position without acquiring a number 1 centre, my thoughts may be different... but he did get that guy and it's going to make a world of difference for this season.

Do I have to point out the fact the Flames are 1 of 5 teams to make the playoffs in each of the last 4 seasons? How about the fact that the waiting list for season tickets is several years long? Or that the team is making money every single year? I have a feeling ownership may be happy with this...

Fire Darryl Sutter? I don't think so.

If you still think he's the problem... well, the only solution I have for you other than absorbing the facts I just stated is this....

Get used to it. Because he's not going anywhere. And don't count out more of his brothers, sons and nephews and whatever other family he's got, because let's face it; The Sutter's are what hockey's all about, and more specifically, what Alberta hockey is about... south of Red Deer that is.
Filed Under:   Flames   Sutter   Keenan  
May 28, 2009 2:22 PM ET | Delete
I think Sutter is a top 10 GM in the league. He's got this Flames team going in the right direction. I think it's a matter of time before the pieces come together and Calgary makes a solid run. The guy's gutsy, goes out and makes moves, and does what's necessary to make his team better. It will be fun to watch them this summer.
May 28, 2009 2:42 PM ET | Delete
I've been critized for being a homer and for too vigorously defending sutter against his critics but there is really only one thing he has a tendancy to do that in my mind are mistakes and that is his free agent signings. Freisen, Amonte ect... Until last year with borque and glencross that was his achillis heel. Now the coaching is. He, as a G.M. is awesome, we're lucky to have him and I'm hoping he maintains his role as G.M. and he gets in a coach that is progressive and sharp.
May 28, 2009 3:12 PM ET | Delete
May 28, 2009 4:21 PM ET | Delete
Been told this by many people this will happen even if he claims he is interviewing 4 other gm's . Great blog
May 28, 2009 4:30 PM ET | Delete
Regardless of whether or not Sutter has done a good job-and I feel he's done a good one-an "open ended" contract is insane.
May 28, 2009 4:37 PM ET | Delete
well done!
May 28, 2009 5:41 PM ET | Delete
don't know why I keep posting blanks... I agree on the signings of Amonte and Friesen, and to an extent would put Bertuzzi in that bracket. He ended up being a downgrade to Nolan based on performance in big games. Jsaquella, I agree a bit, but if he were to falter or start doing a poor job, I have to think the "open-ended" status of the contract may be re-negotiated. For now, I think we just take it as a vote of confidence.... and a deserved one at that.
May 28, 2009 10:09 PM ET | Delete
The best line from Sutter in his press conference was, "This is a difficult group to coach, obviously." So he knows the leaders on this team are, well, not good leaders. He knows it just isn't bad coaching/coaches. If he comes behind the bench and can't get these idiots to smarten up, the core's time together will probably be up.
May 29, 2009 12:27 AM ET | Delete
Don't know if I'd call Kiprusoff a 'franchise goalie' anymore... his numbers have been in steep decline since his first season and aside from wins, his stats this season were pretty lackluster.
May 29, 2009 10:19 AM ET | Delete
May 29, 2009 12:15 PM ET | Delete
What do you guys think of Iginla? Do you still consider him your franchise player, or do you think there might be other plans in store for him in the future? How'd he do in ths playoffs this year?
May 29, 2009 3:12 PM ET | Delete
May 29, 2009 5:35 PM ET | Delete
Here's my Flames dream tem:Allstar coach: Darryl SutterFranchise Cpt: IginlaAll World shutdown D combo: Regher and SarichLargest noggin in the NHL: JokinenTop Goalie in the league if you play him 60 games: KipperTop support staff: Glencross, Bourque, LankowTrade bait of the decade: DionTop signing of the summer: Jay BouwemeesterBiggest offseason move: Replacing Rich preston's Powerplay with anyone else!
May 29, 2009 7:39 PM ET | Delete
Largest noggin in the NHL... now that's funny! Amerk... I absolutely do consider Iginla to be our franchise player. He's the face of our team and is still the best player on the team. He had a tough year, I don't know why, I'd love to be able to explain it. I really think with a change in the coaching staff that we'll see these guys that had average years come back to life. I can't imagine the Flames without Iginla.
May 29, 2009 7:42 PM ET | Delete
Are we still not paying attention to the JayBo for Dion rumours? Normally I wouldn't, after all, those rumours to NJ last season were pretty bogus. But I have to hand it to Ek, he really nailed the Jokinen deal with Calgary. He'd been on it for a long time and ended up being right. I don't know if it's gonna happen, but I'm paying more attention this year after the Olli deal I'll tell you that much.
May 29, 2009 10:38 PM ET | Delete
Except Dion for J.Bo.s rights make no sense at all. You don't trade a guy under contract for 4 years for the rights to a UFA who could walk away. That's insane. If you trade Dion, you get a whack of picks/prospects for him...and then sign J.Bo anyway. He's UFA in a month. We don't need "rights".
May 30, 2009 2:11 AM ET | Delete
Trading for rights doesn't always work. Just ask Tampa Bay.
May 30, 2009 4:02 PM ET | Delete
Nasvhille philly, only way it happens is if calgary already has a deal worked out with him, I'd imagine they've been negotiating. I'd also imagine calgary gets a 1st rounder in this deal.
June 1, 2009 2:14 AM ET | Delete
June 1, 2009 11:47 AM ET | Delete
June 2, 2009 10:26 AM ET | Delete
Yes Jarome had a very average 89 points this season......I hope he continues his average play cause it is still some of the tops in the league. I have no problem with his goal production either because 9/10 he was getting an assist on a Cammy goal. I think calling Jarome out for having a tough year is ridiculous!
June 2, 2009 11:21 AM ET | Delete
I don't actually see anyone calling out Jarome. Yes, I said he had a "tough year", and I'll back that up by saying he was incredibly streaky and was less than stellar in the playoffs. But, I believe I made my thoughts clear on Jarome in the blog when I addressed the Captaincy. Let's not jump to conclusions here...
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