I believe parting ways with Brent Sutter was the right thing for the organization, regardless of who ended up making the ultimate decision. It was time for a change in that particular area, but make no mistake: more change has to be on the horizon for this offseason to be a success.
Sutter was not a fit with this organization. He was given three years to elevate a somewhat mediocre group to a postseason spot and did not, which is unfortunate, but it wasn’t for lack of his best efforts. The guy did everything in his power to try and get the most out of the team, and it just never worked out. I really wanted it to, because I respect the man a great deal, but in the end, I believe it was time to move on.
However, if anyone thinks making a coaching change is going to be the cure all solution for the Calgary Flames, they’re wrong. This team needs numerous significant changes, and a coaching change better be just the first of a number of shoes to drop.
The core of their problems this year was not locker room issues, it was not coaching issues, it was simple: the team was just not good enough. They are a team with middling talent that needs to overachieve to get beyond 82 regular season games. That is not a sustainable model for success and it has yielded diminishing returns since the lockout came to an end.
It’s all fine and good to talk about building a high end team, but there are specific ways the team needs to go about that. And more importantly than that, there has to be a realization that it will take time. The next couple years will be transitional years in my eyes, where the team will look to stay somewhat competitive while also giving time to allow their next impact players to develop to that level.
A big start will be letting most, if not all, of their pending unrestricted free agents to walk away. Full stop, that signifies a new way of doing things for next season. Sven Baertschi seems to be guaranteed a spot for next year, and that’s great…having some open room at training camp makes that a realistic possibility.
By having a few spots open, it allows somebody who could surprise us to jump up and earn a spot. Maybe Roman Horak is a legit day one starter next year, as opposed to being a guy who’s in there thanks to an injury in camp. Maybe Max Reinhart shows us his short time in the AHL was enough for him to take a huge leap. Maybe midway through next season, Michael Ferland shows us he understands the game at a high enough level that he can play the final half of the season on the big team. These things may or may not happen, but the opportunity needs to be there.
Let’s be clear here: Parise and Suter aren’t signing with the Calgary Flames this summer. But that dosen’t mean the team shouldn’t look at exploring free agency. I believe the team needs to address two main areas: a tough minutes center and a top four defenseman. There will be options there, and filling those two voids on two year contracts will be possible. It’ll help the team stay competitive while developing, and it will give the team possible options to bring back if the fits are right.
Finally, we have to address the big topic. Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff cannot be untouchable. I’ve been on record as saying I don’t believe trading the captain is the way to go, but to close the door completely on it and be unwilling to explore the possibility would be doing a disservice to your team. If the trade is right and if the partners are there, the Flames must explore the options, and they must be willing to pull the trigger. They don’t have the option of having any one player untouchable at this point.
The only way a team becomes a truly elite squad is by taking the time and energy to draft and develop properly. The Flames have missed the playoffs for three straight years and are not facing an easy climb, but the patience to let something grow needs to be there, or else the same results will just keep on coming.