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7 Years Later: Are The Flames Better Off?

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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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I don't think you can answer this question yet. I have written before that I think D Sutter is the 2nd best GM in Flames history and I still stand by that. He restructured the farm system by bringing it out west. Overall he made the team stronger not weaker. The pieces we have today are stronger than what we had in 2003 despite the teams poor performance.

His failure I think will be his hesitation to really clean out the scouting department when he came aboard but as it sits now we do have some prospects there. Not many but more than before.

He made the team stronger by the trades for Kipper, Bork, and the patience to develop Gio who very well may be a future Flames Captain in a post Iggy-Regehr era. The jury will be out though until we see what is recovered from potential Iggy, Kipper, Regehr trades.

When these results come in, in the 2010s, we will truly see if the Flames as a franchise are overall stronger than they were in the dark 90s era. I think they will be. Therefore although the team will weaken here in the short term I foresee a quicker turn around and brighter future in mere years rather than the past time line of a decade.

Provided of course the moves for Iggy, Regher, kipper are made and they are good ones. In conclusion the jury is still out...

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I think Sutter's a GM that takes gambles, and a lot of them paid off well in his first couple years. Then things started to go downhill, as we saw with Amonte, Stuart, etc. I think he's still too set in his defense first mentality, and that for the Flames to be successful in the new NHL, speed is extremely important. We have several players that can skate for sure, but the team doesn't use as system that USES that speed. The franchise is without a doubt stronger than what he started with and there is no denying he made the team better, but the midas touch has turned to a touch of death, and its time that we sought new leadership.

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