Inhale...exhale...inhale... scream in frustration...inhale.
I'll be fair, I waited a long time to post this because I wanted to not write while still upset over the Islander loss. I wanted to step back and look at things logically, maybe speak to some people who have an outside point of view, surprisingly some Oiler fan friends of mine are being pretty classy about it and offering their logical point of view.
Obviously the team is not making the post season now, that's a given right? They'd have to run the table or just lose one game and, after losing to a horrible team last night in the islanders, it's tough to be optimistic about that. So we as fans are left wondering, "now what?". I love reading the comments on Vetter's blog because all of you regulars here, who's opinion I respect, sound your voice and put forth some really good ideas. Here's some points on the most popular items of interest.
Sutter and the trades:
My take is that D.Sutter has made some great trades in his time here. The Jokinen trade while a flop was also an experiment that needed to be tried, if he turned out to be great and a #1 center we would have been okay with the lack of a pick. The Kipper trade for a 2nd rounder (vlasic I think) was incredible, he's been awesome. In fact up until this year I would say that his trades have been great, Cammalleri, Tanguay and others. The fact is though that this year was a train wreck and nothing worked for him like it used to, his free agent signings have been historically, and epically, horrible as well (Freisen,Amonte ect...). He's been given several years and a huge payroll to do something and has basically had the team stay the same with the exception of one year where Kipper and Iggy played lights out. The Flames are not an elite team, the Flames are an average team and for that I would say that Sutter's time is now up. I think he's not the worst G.M. but he has been given the opportunity and couldn't get this team to where it needs to be. If you take yourself back in time before the season started and got asked what would you think the Flames would get for Jokinen and Dion you would have said at minimum a solid top line guy and a first. Minimum. They got a load of crap, Hagman and White are the two exceptions to that but I feel that they both could have been had for a lot less. That's the truth here, Kotalik is horrible, simply horrible. Higgins can skate and tries hard but so can our entire system, he's just as effective as Brett Sutter or Nystrom. Stajan is a good 2nd line center and worth that much truth be told but why do the Flames need three 2nd line centers? They don't and the Number one center issue has plagued D.Sutter forever and may be the one reason above all he is done. I have no problem with the way Staios has played, he been solid and done what's asked of him, I like him, but the Flames through bad signings and trades have 8 d-men under one way contracts and are now trading away their defensive prospects like Aulie. It makes no sense.
Yzerman and Nichols:
Yes this would be great but I'll believe it when I see it. Ken King has done a ton of great things in his role as president but maybe his ongoing belief in Sutter will be his undoing, at some point he has to hold someone accountable for the losing, if he doesn't then he needs to be replaced. In my dream Yzerman (who ironically played his last game here) would bring some Detroit scouts with him! I'm a draft and prospect guy, I love the idea of it, I hate that Sutter every year trades his best pick for two lesser picks, it's too important.
Locker room Politics:
There's something to this, I would be lying if I told you I had some inside track on this but it's been widely rumored Langkow and Iggy don't get along. They don't play together even though, at least in my opinion, Langkow is our best center and Iggy our best winger. There's been numerous talk about how it started around a wife tiff and also Iginla being hit by Langkow. Jokinen and Dion were divisive figures in the room as well, Dion wanting to take the "C" and being a leader. I don't care how bad Dion played for the Flames this year, and yes Leaf fans he was bad here, he has a TON of heart and compete in him. More than I'm seeing from Iginla right now and I'm seriously wondering if they traded the wrong guy. I just like Iginla so much and the guy does pot 30 goals a year! I guess right now it's Iginla's team but at some point there has to be some major changes, probably soon to shake up this negative room.
Who stays and who leaves:
I wrote about this recently but basically I look at production and pay, Langkow is bad this year and is not earning his keep. Kotalik is soooo bad, it hurts to watch him. Sarich isn't horrible but gets paid too much, Regehr is replaceable, if you think he's not you're not watching the rest of the league. He wasn't chosen for the Olympics for a reason. Bouwmeester I'll give another year but if this continues... fans will want his head.
I think everyone is happy with Giordano, White is playing well, bourque is a bright spot also. I think Mayers has contributed more than thought but will probably not be signed along with Mcgratton, Higgins is too much for what he brings, Hagman always seems so close but the reality is his production has been poor as well.
So can the bad players be traded? I guess we'll hope that the G.M., whomever it is, will try to trade them and basically get something. Personally I'd forgive a buyout of Kotalik, there's better roster guys who can play.
So What Now??:
I guess get ready for your play off pools, pick a team to cheer for, I'm going the high road route and going with the Canucks, and wait with baited breath to see what ownership decides to do.
P.S. just noticed Howard Berger's blog, "Leafs need more from Phanuef", I guess get used to it Howard.
The guys I want to keep: Kipper, Gio, Glenny, Bourque, Brett Sutter, Hagman, Nystrom. Everyone else can go. Iggy, I wish you well but we don't have a center that can set you up, so I'd rather have the picks and prospects that you could get us.
Don't read too much into Howie's blogs... he takes the most negative stance possible on any issue in Leafland. Phaneuf's defensive game has been better than advertised, so most people are pretty happy. Most Leafs fans are letting him get acclimated before expecting offense.
Where Stajan really helps the Flames is in the faceoff dot... Jokinen (dearly departed), Langkow and Conroy have not been as effective as needed on the draw this year. What dealing Phaneuf for a collection of serviceable but decidedly average players did was grant salary cap flexibility. This flexibility would later be squandered by acquiring Kotalik and signing Stajan to an inflated deal.