Goosebumps can be caused by many things. Being scared, excited, nervous, cold, anxious, etc.
So is it wrong that I had them running down my arms when I heard the news that Darryl Sutter was no longer the General Manager of the Calgary Flames today?
To say I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time would be an understatement. It all happened so fast. One minute I’m strapping on my own skates to take part in a Canadian winter tradition of playing hockey outdoors. The next thing I know my phone is erupting with text messages and phone calls informing me that Darryl Sutter resigned/was forcefully told that his services were no longer needed.
I didn’t know whether to keep playing, go into full celebration mode or rush home to my keyboard.
It’s exciting, is what it is. It’s a step in the right direction for a franchise that desperately needs a direction other than a downward spiral.
It’s something that needed to be done, and regardless of the timing, it couldn’t have been done any sooner. This is a decision that has been in the works for a long time – my guess is, since last spring.
When Jay Feaster was hired to be the assistant GM, the writing was on the wall for Darryl. A man of Feaster’s stature, a cup winning stature, doesn’t take a lesser role. I’m thinking that he was calmly told by upper management that the Flames GM position would be his barring a Christ-like miracle.
There was no resurrection and no real surprises this season. The team floundered for the first half of the season and despite recent success is spinning its tires in a faint attempt to climb the standings.
So Darryl takes the fall – someone had to. But this time, it was the right person that was given the axe.
To be fair, and despite all my griping towards the 52 year old Viking native, he did save this franchise.
When Darryl arrived here in the 2002-03 season, the team was a mess. They had zero identity and continually wallowed in the nether regions of the Western Conference. Not quite good enough to make the playoffs, but not quite bad enough to get a top flight draft pick.
Darryl changed things and fast, and thanks to an injury to then starting net minder Roman Turek, he was forced to make a move for a tender – that move, was acquiring Miikka Kiprusoff for a conditional pick in 2005.
Kiprusoff shined in Calgary, and behind Darryl’s defence first mentality, the Flames made the playoffs for the first time in 8 long seasons.
Unbelievably, the Flames fought their way to the Stanley Cup Final losing out in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Sutter acted as Head Coach for one more season before concentrating on GM duties full time.
He made some courageous moves over the next couple years acquiring Alex Tanguay in 2006. Tanguay put up career numbers in Calgary in his first season but failed to follow up on that the following year prompting Darryl to make another move.
He traded Tanguay to Montreal for a 1st and a 2nd round pick, and then traded picks to LA for Mike Cammalleri.
Cammalleri blossomed in Calgary alongside Iginla and it seemed like the Flames had finally found a true secondary scoring threat.
Also in 2008 Sutter stole another one by acquiring Rene Bouque from Chicago for a conditional draft pick. It all seemed to be coming together.
March 4, 2009. The Flames traded Matthew Lombardi, Brandon Prust and a 1st round draft pick for Olli Jokinen. This, as I like to call it, was the beginning of the end for Darryl.
The arrival of Olli signalled the end of Cammy in Calgary as there was simply not enough money to go around. Olli blazed onto the scene scoring eight goals in his first six games. The love affair ended quickly though as Olli disappeared from the score-sheet and relevancy.
Cammalleri signed with Montreal, the Flames were stuck with Jokinen.
The 2009-10 the Flames flourished in the early portion of the campaign, leading the Northwest division into December. But the fun stopped there as the team nose dived in early January causing Darryl to panic at the thought of missing the playoffs. He traded away Phaneuf and one of the Flames top defence prospects for spare parts. Proceeded to sign one of the spare parts for a ludicrous amount of money, and then traded away Jokinen for Ales Kotalik and Chris Higgins. Higgins signed in Florida while Kotalik was put on waivers in the summer time – no one grabbed him leaving Sutter and the Flames with a $3-million contract to shell out to a player who doesn’t deserve it.
He also traded for Steve Staios -- a 37-year old journeyman defenceman who makes $2.7 million and is on the hook for another season. He is a 6th defenceman at best. Are you telling me one of the Flames defenseive prospects couldn’t do an equal job at a fraction of the cost? And don’t give me the leadership argument, as there is plenty of leadership to go around that dressing room.
Oh yeah, and he also traded away Dustin Boyd for a 4th round pick for no apparent reason other than to once again trade a young talent away before he had even been given a chance in this organization.
Cue the insanity. Sutter re-signs Jokinen this past summer in one of the most bizarre signings EVER witnessed in the NHL. Sutter proclaimed that the Flames missed his big presence up the middle during the stretch run. So why did you trade him in the first place? A true head scratcher.
He did re-sign Alex Tanguay in the summer which has proved fruitful, to give him some kudos as we boot him out the door.
He continued with the “older is better” philosophy bringing the teams average age up around 30 years old. Only one player under the age of 25 plays on the team – Mikael Backlund – and he has been riding the pine for the past four games. Partially a coaching decision there I admit, but still a product of the team’s creator.
So he’s gone. Exactly 8 years the day he arrived in Calgary and replaced by the man who beat him in the Stanley Cup final.
The game passed Sutter by, it’s as simple as that. With the majority of teams going younger and faster with the new rules of the NHL, Sutter was stuck in pre-lockout times. And when that didn’t work he started shelling out money and trading away the future in a scared effort to salvage the little dignity this team had left.
The result: a colossal mess.
So what is next?
Jay Feaster was named “Acting GM,” so he technically doesn’t have the job quite yet. He is in tryout mode. But for intensive purposes it’s as if he has already been picked, now he has to show what he is made of, and I have little to no doubt that the “Acting” tag will be stripped away in due course.
He does have a lot of work to do. He is apparently formulating a vision of what he believes the Flames should do. Where do you start with this team?
It’s in some serious cap trouble and has little to no flexibility, so maybe that becomes a good place to begin. Wherever it is, people will start to see changes sooner rather than later.
Feaster said he wants to make it fun again. If that’s not a change already I don’t know what is. The Sutter regime never really smiled a whole hell of a lot.
Hopefully more fun turns into better results.
This is the first time I’ve been excited about the state of this franchise in over a year and a half. That has to say something, doesn’t it?
Let the post Darryl Sutter era begin.