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Thank You Jarome

I have never had the pleasure to meet the hockey player known as Jarome Igina. He does not know my name, my story, where I come from, and could walk past me on the street and think nothing of it. Since the trade, I’ve been asking myself why I feel emotion for a player that I never met and at the end of the day just a hockey player? Growing up in Kelowna I had the pleasure to watch Jarome for the first time when he played with the Kamloops Blazers. I got to see a player who could combine speed, skill, and strength with a burning desire to win. His passion for the game was second to none and it was just my luck that he eventually came to play for my favorite team. I have been a Flames fan since I can remember and will remain one forever and consider myself lucky to have had the pleasure to watch Jarome. I’d love to be able to pinpoint a specific memory in my mind that stands out in Jarome’s hockey career but how do you differentiate them? We all remember “The shift”, but that could be Jarome on any given night. He had such a unique ability to without being asked just say, “come with me guys, I’ve got this” and you would see him do it. I think I’ve lost count on how many games I’ve been to or seen where he just put the team on his back and led them on, victory or no victory, he was there and his passion was evident. That type of passion is what helps makes sports what they are and part of the reason I love sports.

I love sports, not just hockey, and not just love them but I believe in them. For me, sports are not just a game or a competition they are an arena, an arena of life. Sports can take you inside a game, a community or town, or even a person to show you not just a player but a person or a hero. In today’s day and age players come and go, more frequently go, that you never see people anymore. They are numbers in your programs that a few nights a week entertain you only to be out of the picture almost as soon as they enter. Once in a while, if you are lucky, a player will transcend to the point that you have a sense of personal pride knowing that they are part of your life. For me, that person was Jarome Iginla. He made me proud to wear his jersey, proud to have his poster on my wall because you always knew that whether things were bad or good you had a great person to admire. Not only was he a great hockey player and one that could bring you out of your seat, he was as good a person. He was not just a Calgary Flame or a hockey player; he was a person and not just any person but a person worth admiring. That is not something that comes along very often today, but it’s someone that can really re-establish someone’s belief in the power of sport.

I doubt very much that he will ever read this and I don’t think I’ll ever get a chance to tell him this or share with him just what exactly he has meant to me or even just get to say thank you, but here I go. Thank you Jarome. Thank you not just for what you did on the ice and your passion you brought to this game and this team for so long but thank you for what you did off the ice. Most importantly, thank you for being a constant reminder of what it truly means to be an athlete and for allowing a kid like me to keep his belief in the purity of sports. You deserve success in your future endeavours and I wish you all the best. No one deserves a cup more than you.

Sincerely,

Cross

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The usual power skating drills were done in the morning with the skill development process being 2 periods of 4 on 4 hockey with some work on PP and PK drills as well. Dave Lowry and Craig Conroy coached either side and it was fun to watch. Intial thoughts are that I havn't seen this much skating ability and skill at a development camp in the last 5 or 6 that i've been to.

Goalies

Dan Bakala: Actually liked Bakala. Flashed some good all around skills and for the most part was pretty sound. Not sure there is a lot of potential there but for a training camp try out wasn’t bad.

Laurent Brossoit – Very good size and looks big in the net. Definitely raw and isn’t the most athletic guy so his technique could use improving to make sure he covers side to side better. Having said that, he did make some good saves side to side and with the glove.

Joni Ortio – Looked about as composed as I’ve seen him. Didn’t blow me away by any means, but you can tell he has made progress refining his game specifically his positioning.

Defence:

Chris Breen – Look much smoother than the last development camp in terms of skating. His edge to edge and turnaround specifically both have improved. I don’t think there is high upside with Breen, but its looking like he is a legitimate NHL prospect.

TJ Brodie – He didn’t “wow” like he has at other camps, but he brought more substance to his game. I personally don’t believe Brodie is ever going to have a good defensive game, but he showed a greater willingness to back check hard and be in the right position from what I’ve seen in the past.

Dallas Ehrhardt – One of the invites. There were some times I saw good things but far too often I saw slow foot speed and average at best skating.

Joey Leach – Safe and steady is the easiest way to describe it. Not flashy and there is not a part of his game I could tell you that is great, but I don’t have a lot of weakness’ either. I do think he could get a little more mobile and a little more offense to really crack into the NHL.

James Martin – Much like Ehrhardt there were times he impressed and I like him better than Ehrhardt as I felt he was the better skater of the two. He could be worth another look at training camp, or at least stay on the Flames radar.

John Negrin – As always, was probably the best overall skater today. He is just so smooth it’s a pleasure to watch, but for Negrin skill and skating is not the problem staying healthy is. I have no doubt that if Negrin stays healthy he will be in the NHL.

Michael Quinn – did not even notice.

John Ramage – Ramage is the type of player any fan would like because he has such a willingness to be involved in everything. Much like Leach there is not a lot in his game that stands out but he is feisty. Much like Leach I’d like to see him just get a little faster and hopefully some offensive punch, especially with his RH shot.

Keith Seabrook – There are such highs and lows with Seabrook. One minute he is splitting the D and deeking someone out to get a shot on goal and the other he is making a dumb pass trying to hold the line. If he could find some consistency I think he would be very, very close to the NHL. However, right now there is just too much inconsistency on a shift to shift basis and he was like that with the Hitmen too.

Tyler Wotherspoon – Not present

Forwards:

Bill Arnold – He is a faster skater than I thought he was, but having said that his stride is too ‘busy” and it takes away from his acceleration. Once he gets to top speed he is fine but getting there is an issue, but if he cleaned that up he is a very good looking prospect who can dominate along the boards.

Scott Arnold – Another player I just didn’t see much out of. Was focussing mainly on the Flames prospects

Sven Baertschi – Has NHL skill right now and is easily the most talented prospect in the organization bar none. Stick handling, passing, and shooting are very advanced and I would say are all NHL calibre. Good, but not great, skater but can get to open areas quick enough although quicker wouldn’t be a bad thing. Away from the puck, he needs work before he can crack an NHL roster.

Carter Bancks – didn’t have the same high energy game I’ve seen from him before. Without that his upside is very limited.

Lance Bouma – Played with a lot of confidence and ended up netting a hat trick in the game mainly just from always being in the right spot. He looks like he is ready to push very hard for a spot on the team and was one of the best players in the game.

Paul Bryon – Byron showed me a lot of what I was expecting to see. He is small, although pretty thick, and a very good although not amazing skater. Very quick feet and good acceleration, but he didn’t flash the “high end” skill we heard about when he was acquired. His willingness to engage was certainly there though.

Bryan Cameron – Cameron has made some progress since first joining the Flames. His skating has improved as well as his confidence which allows his skill to be demonstrated. He is not there yet and I’d like him to be further along but I could see him having a solid year in Abbotsford.

Justin Dowling – Was actually quite impressed with Dowling as he showed very good jump and pretty good hands. There were a couple of occasions where he was able to get around defenders with good moves, but unfortunately could not bury. This was a theme for him both in terms of offence, checks and battles, he just never seemed to be able to finish.

Turner Elson – Again, limited viewing

Michael Ferland – Very disappointed in Ferland. If he wasn’t standing 4 or 5 feet from the net he was next to useless. Skating did not look very good, and it looks like his attitude and conditioning could be question marks.

John Gaudreau – No question, this kid has skill. Gaudreau with the puck was probably the best prospects out there. However, without it you would forget he was playing. Defensively he didn’t know where to be but also had trouble finding open ice to accept a pass. Once he gets it he is fine, but without it needs a ton of work. He is also extremely small out there and although I was expecting it, it still surprised me.

Markus Grandlund – I did not come away impressed with Grandlund. You can tell he has talent, and has very good vision but he really struggled with it. I would call his skating below average mainly because his stride needs work. He is too wild with his body and it takes away from his acceleration and top speed. He also look a little out of place in the sense he was trying moves that you are not going to pull on decent AHL or NHL dmen. Very, very raw at this point.

Ryley Grantham – Grantham is never going to play in the NHL unless you support having someone can only play less than 5 minutes and fight.

Patrick Holland – Was very impressed with Holland. Had great jump and came through the seem several times for scoring opportunities. Shows a willingness to get involved physically and is not very small like I had heard he was. Hopefully he can increase his offensive output in junior and if he does you are looking at a legitimate prospect.

Roman Horak – I was very impressed with Horak as a skater and he was one of the smoothest skaters there. He is very compact and with a quick stride that gets him around the ice quickly. However, did not see the vision or offence that was talked about and he often was not able to create anything off of a decent rush.

Ryan Howse – another player I was disappointed in. It looks to me, and sounds like by reading the paper, that Howse may have some conditioning problems. Too often late in a shift he was too tired to do anything at all and these were not long shifts. He also did not appear to have more jump than I’ve seen in previous camps.

Nick Larson – Nick Larson in the offensive zone is impressive. He is a Thomas Holmstrom around the net and does have a very good wrist shot and passing skills. However, he is only an avg skater and does not show the same type of skills in the other zones.

Logan MacMillan – I was very happy with MacMillan’s skating and his defensive work. He did next to nothing offensively, and if he could improve this he could be in the NHL picture in the next couple seasons.

Greg Nemisz – the most impressive prospect of the day. Nemisz looked much faster and far more confident than I have ever seen him. Scored two very nice goals and almost had another in the shootout. Flew around a dman, and was all over the ice. If he skates like this in camp he’ll start some conversations.

Gaelan Patterson – Continues to build and build himself as a hockey player. Skating and confidence were better this year, but he still hasn’t shown that he is capable of providing even a hint of an offensive game.

Max Reinhart – An interesting prospect to watch in the sense that at first I walked away disappointed. Reinhart is not a great skater, but he can get by dman, not high end offensively but he did manage to make some nice plays. However, given that I think there is more skill there to be offered you just don’t see it consistently. He looked behind players he should be ahead of, and at this point that seems to be the biggest con in his game. I would like to see him get some drive and consistency to tap into that skill.

CJ Severyn – Another player I came away very impressed with. CJ has always been a great skater but this time around he showed an offensive touch he has not before. However, those numbers don’t translate to the NCAA so I am anxious to see him try and improve the numbers.

Mitch Wahl – another guy I was very impressed with. He put on a passing clinic on one PP and was amazing to watch. There is really nothing that Wahl can’t do and at this point all he needs to do is prove he can transition that to the AHL level.

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On Tuesday the City of Winnipeg was shutdown with the return of NHL hockey, while today in the city of Calgary a “Prospect Countdown” – insert Final Countdown theme here- polarized the city. Such is life in a hockey mad city that just so happen is lacking blue chip prospects. Tim Erixon was more than just a six foot smooth skating Swedish defenseman; he represented a glimmer of hope for a fan base staring at a cap strapped team with two straight playoff exists. Erixon filled the fan base’s hunger for a young NHL ready prospect to inject life into the team and the fan base, all the while on a cheap dollar. Yet today fans are not pre ordering Erixon jerseys or awaiting prospect camp to see their prize prospect, they are starring at the three unknown assets he was traded for. The Flames were unable to sign Erixon, through no fault of trying, and the immediate fan reaction is much distaste towards Tim Erixon. Fans are warming up their vocal cords for the chorus of boos they plan to rain down the first time he sets a skate on Dome ice wearing those New York colors. While it is hard not to look at Erixon with a degree of disgust, what does it say about a franchise that cannot sign its first round pick?

In today’s day and age of advanced scouting and extensive interviewing, did the Flames scouts ever determine if Erixon wanted to be a Flame? Many fans have already pointed out that at the 2009 draft Erixon barely cracked a smile while pulling on the Flames jersey. However, Tim Erixon has attended several prospect and team camps since being drafted. Maybe I’m reaching here, but if Erixon never wanted to play in Calgary why bother coming here at all and why not just either demand a trade or stay home and in today’s scouting world its hard to imagine he was never asked if he viewed Calgary as a fit. So, perhaps this goes deeper than simply the thoughts and wishes of Tim Erixon. If he was ok to be drafted by the Flames, what as changed?

Through Jay Feaster’s interview we were informed that there were several issues the Erixon’s camp continued to put forth to the Flames. The issue of several no movement or trade clauses and high priced blueliners was raised by the Erixon camp. The returns on Cory Sarich and Jay Bouwmeester are sure not meeting expectations yet their salaries and contracts dictate that they are going to remain and are not going to be moved or demoted if struggles continue. In this circumstance, a two way deal is going to pay the price as has been shown in the past with Dustin Boyd and Mikael Backlund. However, perhaps the most interesting point from the Erixon camp was his worry that the Flames prefer a more veteran line up and that would work against the rookie. It is really hard to blame the young man when you look at a Hockey News publication that ranks the Flames 27th out of 30 teams for prospects, or young players on their team under the age of 21. Only a handful of young players have been able to graduate to the Flames in the last half dozen years, and many end up being traded away. The average age continues to stay at or near the top of the league, and most recently you had a prospect ask for his release from the club feeling his development was not best served with the Flames organization. This certainly does not bode well for an organization that is severely lacking in the development of top end prospects of any kind, causes serious worry for an organization that is not moving forward at a steady pace. Are the Flames just no longer considered top notch?

The simple fact alone that a division of hockey operations as extensive as the Flames could not identify from pre draft, though the draft, to the two years afterword that there may be an issue with Erixon is quite puzzling. The idea that a player can look at an organization, that has fulfilled his dream of being drafted, and logically determine that it is not the best place for young players to play is a truly worrisome and troubling idea. The pressure has been on the new GM Jay Feaster for the last few months, but I would suggest the time is now to put everyone in the hockey operations under the microscope. The biggest story of the day should not be a 20 year old man who wanted to choose his hockey path, but that a once first class organization may have to take a long, deep look at themselves and their future. The light of the end of the tunnel that fans keep searching for appears to get dimmer and dimmer by the day.

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A rare live glimpse of the Calgary Flames pipeline was a positive experience, even if the game wasn’t. With names such as Wahl, Chucko and Negrin out due to injury, and the Oilers having recalled Omark and Chorney, the game didn’t set up well to be a classic. However, the chance to get a live look at the prospects still was a nice treat and allowed for a review. I’ll go player by player, but should note that this was a disappointing game for the Heat and one where I thought the pressure seemed too much. Not many players had what I would consider “good” games.

Leland Irving – Irving looked like a first round pick. Not so much in skill level, but just his confidence not only in himself but his trade. He was almost always in the right spot and good with his movement. Irving takes a lot about how his summer “puck tracking” training is very helpful and it shows. A problem that I’ve had in previous watching of Irving was that he relied too much on his athleticism and was often out of place because of it. This seems to be corrected, but the athleticism remains. I don’t think it’s long until he is in the NHL.

Defence:

Brodie – Did Brodie disappoint? No that’s not fair. Did he wow, no he did not. Brodie did play the same way he played in preseason, and that was safe and confident with the puck. He mans the blueline very well on the PP and skates extremely well with the puck. His defensive game was a little up and down and I thought there were some bad decisions throughout his game. I’ve seen him play better, but I still thought he was easily one of their better players.

Joe Piskula – Not a Flames prospect and that’s probably a good thing. He rushed his decision and never looked relaxed the entire game. Has some skating ability and puck moving ability though, but not enough to warrant anything.

Gord Baldwin – Played his usual safe/steady game. Similar to Brodie, he didn’t give you anything one way or another it was just another reliable game. Skating has improved, but I don’t’ think Baldwin offers enough to be anything more than an injury call up at this point. He’s not overly physical, not a great skater, not a great puck mover, etc etc. However, at the same time he also plays virtually mistake free hockey.

Seabrook – I liked his game although I’ve seen him play better games. I thought his defence game was pretty sound, but he seemed to hold a little back as well. Because of the type of game it was there really wasn’t an offering for Seabrook to get involved offensively, but I thought he moved the puck well out of his zone and into the neutral zone. Wasn’t overly physical either which surprised me, and I would have liked to see him be a bit more physical.

Chris Breen – I was a little surprised Playfair liked Breen’s game as much as he did. I thought Breen was pretty solid, but I didn’t think his game was enough to get excited about. I did like the Breen/Pelech pairing because the two of them really did well clearing the front of the net and were pretty physical on the forecheckers. Breen skates pretty well for a big man, and for the most part makes sound decisions but there were some occasions where he made some very puzzling decision. None backfired luckily, but for a dman that doesn’t skate all that well decision making is going to be a premium. He’s not a bad prospect and I don’t disagree with Playfair that he could see the NHL. I see a lot of Keith Aulie in Breen.

Pelech- While he certainly did not look like a first round pick, I didn’t mind Pelech’s game. He plays with a lot of confidence and I liked that he jumped up offensively a couple of times. His skating still isn’t fantastic, and I’d be hard pressed to suggest he’s improved since his short NHL stint. I just liked his solid/defence aspect but at this point that’s really all he is offering. I thought Breen and he worked very well together, but apart it may have been a different story.

Forward

Nemisz – Such a smart player its really awesome to watch. Unfortunatley, he is smart in a way that a lot of fans are not going to appreciate. When it comes to adhering to the system or knowing where to be Nemisz is exceptional. His skating continues to improve and his top end speed is not a problem, his acceleration is. Its still not quite where you want it to be and IMO he still needs to fill out. He showed some hands and passing ability which creating scoring chances. All in all, like a lot of the players here, he played a safe game but the flash was certainly not there.

Stone – Probably their best forward. Was really the only forward I thought was good in all three zones and it was a pretty nice goal he scored. He would certainly have been in the mix for the 4th line had he been healthy.

Kotalik – Most of the time he looked pretty disinterested and for a guy with his skill level he certainly was not the best player on the ice.

Cam Cunning – I thought he looked very good and is such a battler. I had him in the mix for the 4th line in preseason and I think he will continue to be in that conversation. Probably the hardest Heat player on the forecheck all night and he is very tough to match up with at that level. However, he isn’t the most fleet of foot and doesn’t create much off the fore check either so the upside is minimal.

Matt Keith – Skated pretty well with the puck and was pretty solid with Cunning and Patterson on the forecheck. However, doesn’t create very much and was so/so defensively.

Patterson – Very similar to Cunning, just not as strong. Very strong defensively and played that way. Quick and tough to contain down low, he looked solid for a player playing his first pro season.

Quintin Lang – He really didn’t stand out, which is too bad for an AHL veteran like him.

Bouma – Played very similar to how he did in Calgary, rough and rugged. He tough was tough to contain down low but he didn’t get rewarded or really get much opportunity to finish. I didn’t think his effort level and his jump was quite what it was with Calgary.

Rheault – honestly, very disappointed in his game. I like him a lot in the preseason but he didn’t play with any type of energy like he did there. Looked pretty flat for most of the game and was not sound with the puck.

Meyer – Solid, and really continued his play from the NHL this year. Like Bouma and Rheault I would like to see him create more offensive chances for he and his line mates though.

Cameron – Didn’t like his game and he has a long way to go. His skating is ok but like Nemisz his acceleration isn’t where you would want it. He did show a pretty sound defensive understanding, but was nowhere to be seen in the offensive zone. Not good for a former CHL leading scorer.

John Armstrong – Had a really tough time noticing him, and found myself having to look for him. His skating is back and he is tough along the boards but needed to be even more physical. He really did nothing when he had the puck, but was very solid in the circle and in the defensive zone.

All in all, the team itself played extremely similar to the parent club was playing a few months ago. They were solid positional and understood their game, but the jump/effort just wasn’t there enough through the line up to show much of anything.

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The fans voiced their displeasure, the star goalie faced questions, and again the Flames suffered a loss in a big game. A game the Flames needed in order to remain on the 4 points in every 3 games pace the team believes will be required to make the playoffs. An ambitious goal for a team that has not been over .500 in months, but a goal that until last night the Flames were following perfectly. Coming back off an impressive road trip and some solid hockey, the Flames surprisingly look disinterested and slow. The 6 points in 4 games on the road trip suggests a positive, but are the Flames are playing well or is this another illusion the team has become famous for?

There is no question the Montreal game was a resilient effort but is it fair to call it a comeback, because they fell short as they did in Carolina. While a glass half full person points to the fight in the Flames to argue that they can play good hockey, the glass half empty person asks “why are you down 4 goals in the first place?” For a team that needs every point they seem to have developed a trend of slow starts that put them behind the 8 ball. The “comeback” demonstrates resiliency but also questions the ability of the team to come all the way back to win games. Just like most of the season, the Flames continue to fall just a little short in their goals…..

However, up until last night the Flames were on track to reach their goal of 4 points in ever 3 games. A goal the originated as win 2 of every 3 is now simply 4 points in ever 3 games. 3 OT/SOL points are all that is keeping this team on their pace and fans with some degree of hope. While keeping games close is a positive sign, how many teams have played solid hockey all the way to the Stanley Cup or jumped back in a playoff race?

The opponent last night provides a different perspective of what a team needs to do with their backs to the walls. Back on Dec 18th/20th when the Wild took the back to back games against the Flames it marked a huge turnaround in their season. Many fans will remember that going into those games the Flames and Wild were neck and neck in the standings of the Western Conference. This morning, the Minnesota Wild are 7 points ahead of the Flames and 1 point back of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. So in the same time that the Flames have gained little ground on their competition, the Wild have themselves right back into the playoffs with some great hockey. During that time have only benefited from the loser point twice, and won some of their games with their 3rd string goalie. The Wild are on pace with their goal, while the Flames remind their fans that it takes time and patience to climb back in a playoff race.

Patience has long been considered a virtue, but how long until patience forms into reality and the team is seen for what it is and where it should be slotted in the NHL picture?

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Welcome Aboard Jay!

The axe has finally fallen, and the Flames have turned the page that fans had begun to scream for. Almost 8 years later, the tenure of General Manager Darryl Sutter has come to end and Jay Feaster takes over as the “acting” GM. I would like to start this by stating a Thank you to Darryl for all his hard work. This will look more toward his successor, not the past as I’ve written about that in the past.

The attention turns to his successor, Jay Feaster who steps forward to try and deliver the Stanley cup he prevented the Flames from lifting in 2004. A cup that many people believe he did not earn, but simply lifted on behalf of the actual architect of the Lighting, now Atlanta GM Rick Dudley. One should note that throughout the entire tenure of Rick Dudley Jay Feaster was side by side as his assistant GM, but none the less Feaster is rarely given credit. Looking at the roster of the 2002 Tampa Bay Lightning, the year Feaster took over, and the cup winning roster you Can see some truth to that. Cory Stillman, Darryl Sydor, Brad Lukowich, and Chris Dingman are the only notable names that were acquire by Feaster and helped Tampa win the cup. However, Feaster deserves some credit as those are all very key players to the 2004 cup run and none were acquired at a very high price. Feaster was also instrumental in the promotion of John Tortorella and developing Vincent Lecavalier, who Feaster managed to co exist with Tortorella. Feaster’s down fall is often linked with the “big three” in Tampa and the fall of the Lightning from champions to First overall pick. The term obviously referring to Feaster’s decision to pay Richards, Lecavalier and St Louis almost half of the team’s salary cap over long term deals. What most have not done, is look at the situation that Feaster was in.

One of the key changes to the CBA from pre lockout to post lockout was the huge drop in the age of unrestricted Free agency and it had a unique impact on Feaster. Feaster entered the new landscape with Lecavalier and St Louis both as restricted free agents, but both were now looking at unrestricted free agency in 2006 along with key defenceman Pavel Kubina. Kubina and Lecavalier would not have been looking at free agency for several seasons had the CBA not changed. Kubina hit UFA in the 2006 season and the money was not there so sign him and Toronto swiftly handed him a 4 year 20 million dollar deal. Under the old CBA, Kubina would not have been a UFA until 2008. With Lecavalier now only having 1 year left until UFA, the option of a short term, low money, deal was no longer available as Feaster would have been looking at losing his star for nothing. However, it was the Richards deal that really handcuffed the team. Having already signed Lecavalier and St Louis, Feaster stared down a 2006 offseason signing of his Conn Smyth winning, 90 points center in Brad Richards who only had one more year until he hit UFA. Again, due to the change in the CBA, Feaster was dealing with only one season until Richards would have been eligible for UFA status, whereas in the old CBA he would have been an RFA until 2011. Whether you agree with the decision or not, people have to recognize the unique situation Feaster found himself in and there is no doubt that the destruction of the Tampa Bay Lightning was due in large part to the changing economic structure of the NHL.

Does that absolve Feaster of blame, absolutely not he deserve a fair portion of it. Tampa was unable to cope mainly due to the fact that their drafts under Feaster were awful. Under Feaster, Tampa only drafted one player who has played over 100 games in the NHL, Mike Lindin, with Dana Tyrell looking like he may be the next one in line. Over a 6 year period, that alone would get some people fired. Feaster also struggled to find any answer in net, when many teams seem to find goalies all over the world year after year. Needless to say, Feaster will be under the watch in Calgary. Some of his tenure is something to get excited about, other is not. Ken King’s suggestion that Feaster will be the acting GM until the summer seems to have perked some ears rather than name him a permanent GM. But after a systematic look, it would appear it’s simply a case that perhaps the Flames don’t have 100% confidence Feaster is their guy. While I supported the decision to name Feaster assistant GM, I agree that perhaps 100% confidence in Feaster will require some time and results. We shall watch with a microscope to see what direction Feaster takes this team, but I think his experience and his past warrant the audition.

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The Defence Rests?

In the wake of yet another disappointing and listless effort from the Flames, positives are as rare to find as a Sutter supporter. I felt it was time to take a look at two positives the Flames have going for them, not only for this current team, but also for a rebuild should that be required.

Perhaps no player has felt more heat, from this writer included, than Jay Bouwmeester. Bouwmeester represents the vision and direction of Darryl Sutter that so many have come to hate. He can be viewed as the piece that replaced Mike Cammalleri, and his 39 goals, on a team that is now starving for goals. He represents a move from being one of the top offensive teams to the bottom in just one season, all at a 6.6 million dollar per year price tag. The relationship has not always been positive, up until now.

Bouwmeester currently sits at 11 points, with 3 goals, 8 assists and a plus 5, all while being right near the top of the league in time on ice. People will look at those stats and likely not be blown away or really at that impressed. At the end of the day, Bouwmeester is on pace for 7 goals and 26 points and all for over 6 million dollars. However, what if one were to take away the first 6 games of the year where there was no question that Bouwmeester struggled. Through the first 6 games of the year he recorded no goals, no points and was a minus 1. Since then, through 27 games, he has recorded 3 goals 11 assists and is a plus 6. Over an 82 game season that pace would result in 9 goals and just over 30 points which is far more impressive and much closer to the pace fans would expect, and would indicate an improvement over last season. At the beginning of the year he was averaging about 2.6 shots/ game, and after that 6 games mark it has fallen to 1.7/game. Last year, Bouwmeester’s average was 1.5 shots/game and during that time he was ridiculed constantly. Many would look at those stats and suggest that he needs to shoot more. However, his shooting percentage has also gone from 2.3 last year up to 5.1% this season and much closer to the 6-9% range he typically recorded in his Florida days. I would suggest that this shows a comfort level he has reached finally as a Flame. He is taking more shots, but also is successful at a higher ratio which would suggest he is more comfortable picking his spots and his opportunities. All while remaining very solid in his defensive game. Is his level at the 6.6 range? That is an arbitrary debate that everyone will fall on different sides of. For now, it provides a much better return on investment, and a player that flames fans should feel very comfortable with long term.

While not his direct partner, Mark Giordano is another defensemen that should have Flames fan very confidence in their future. There has been no “sophomore” slump or any fall in his place especially after his contract. With the improved play of these two dmen, the Flames have two building blocks for now and for the future that are both below the age of 28. Whether it be a rebuild, retool, or stay the course, it’s very clear that defence will not be an issue.

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On April 11,2003, the Calgary Flames added the title of General Manager to Darryl Sutter. Coach since Dec 28th of that season, Sutter became the main powerbroker in the Flames organization and in complete control of the hockey operations. At the time, he took over a down and out franchise, with no playoffs in 7 years, and no playoff series win since their cup win of 1989. He inherited a superstar in Jarome Iginla, a budding star in young defencemen Robyn Regehr, and a slew of solid depth players such as Jordan Leopold. However, he also took over a team with a bloated payroll, an anchor of a goalie situation, and a prospect cupboard that was so bare mice wouldn’t be able to find any crumbs. At the time, Eric Nystrom, career 3rd/4th liner, was considered one of the Flames top prospects and a young Brian McConnell was a top prospect as well. Case in point for the Flames system at the time, McConnell has played a grand total of zero games in the NHL and even zero games in the AHL.

Within one year of having the dual job, “In Sutter we Trust” was one of the most common signs at the Dome. Darryl Sutter had the Midas touch as it just appeared like every trade he did he won. Miikaa Kipprusoff was an afterthought in San Jose and acquired for a 2nd round pick, he went on to win the Vezina. Even trading the very popular Jamie McLennan netted a very valuable Chris Simon, drafted Dion Phaneuf, signed Regehr, Kipper, and Iginla all to very fair long term deals and the rest is history. There were some ups and downs along the way, and Sutter did lose some trades (Brad Stuart anyone?), but at the end of the day it has always been “In Sutter we trust”. Up until now that is…….

While I do not wish to take away anything that Darryl Sutter as done for the Calgary Flames organization, a GM is often going to be measured by where the franchise is when they are nearing an end or leave, versus where it was when they came on board. So it begs the question, is the 2010 Calgary Flames organization better than the 2003 version Darryl Sutter inherited?

The Flames sit today a fair distance outside of a playoff spot in the West, 3 games under .500. In 2003, they were 7 games under .500 and finished out of the playoffs. In 2002, they had a too many players making contracts their budget at the time couldn’t afford which hurt their depth, namely Chris Drury and Roman Turek. 7 years later they have a team with too many players not playing to their contract value, Jokinen, Stajan, Iginla, and their team suffers as a result. In 2003 the Flames were considered one of the worst in the league in terms of prospects. In 2010, while most will acknowledge the depth is solid, they are considered to have one of the worst prospect pools in the NHL.

Are there more similarities or are their more differences? A very key different is that when Sutter first took over he was sitting on a superstar and some potential top players. Right now, he sits with no future star player and no future franchise leader.

The more things change… the more they stay the same…..

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As the Flames woes continue, and the slide in the standings more evident everday, the fan’s anger typically falls on the desk of Flames GM Darryl Sutter. The once popular slogan of “In Sutter we trust” has been replaced with a “Fire Sutter” watch. However, are fans fixated on firing the right Sutter? Brent Sutter came to Calgary with great fan fare and great expectations. Having set records in a very successful New Jersey system, his hire was seen as the final Championship piece for the Flames after the then deemed unsuccessful tenure of Mike Keenan. Fast forward to today, and Brent Sutter sits at a combined record of 48 wins and 43 losses with a winning percentage of less than .500 (wins versus games played). Yet a .54 winning percentage couldn’t save Mike Keenan’s job, nor was a .524 enough to give Jim Playfair one more year. Clearly, the Sutter regime has failed to meet expectations, so it begs the question does Brent Sutter have control of this team?

Perhaps there is no more telling sign than the game against the New Jersey Devils. The first return for Brent Sutter to a home that he left with a degree of animosity, and to some disparaging comments was met with a flat effort. A game that was called a “must win” by more than one Flame player, saw the Flames play a generally uninspired game. I recall a game in December of 2007, where Mike Keenan was still the leader of the troops. Searching for his 600th win, the Flames won a 5-3 road game in St. Louis, and Captain Jarome Iginla presented Keenan with the game puck. Back in his old stomping grounds of Florida, the Flames rallied for a 2-1 win for Keenan, with reports the players took the coach out for dinner afterword.

People can, and always have, questioned the methods of “Iron Mike” Keenan, but little question remains that he had the control of the team. Brent Sutter was brought in, not because Keenan failed in that area, but because he failed in the defensive area. Perhaps too much focus was given to the on ice versus the off ice?

So the question is presented, how much longer should Brent Sutter remain Head coach of the Calgary Flames if he doesn’t have control of the room? Jim Playfair was thought of to be too inexperienced to handle a veteran laden NHL team like the Flames. Perhaps the time is now to see if Playfair has learned enough to be Head coach of the Calgary Flames for the longer term.

It brings us back to the original question: Do Fans want to Fire the Right Sutter? Both is probably the right answer, but it would appear Brent should be first to go.