He made all the right moves. Signed some goalie named Miikka Kiprusoff who turned out to be somewhat of a saviour. He out coached some of the best minds in the business. He cultivated an unknown but exceptionally effective defensive group. He got the most out of a crop of 3rd liners including Marcus Nilson, Sean Donovan and the irrepressible Ville Niemenen. I'm sure there are coaches out there today still wondering how he Sutter did it.
Sutter was God-Like. He brought Calgary out of the gutters and into the stars, even if only for one season. If a fan questioned Sutter during that time the only thing a rational person could do is roll their eyes and shake their head.
'That will all change one day though' is what I kept thinking. In the world of the hockey GM, today's hero is tomorrow's goat.
Tomorrow is today.
It's not so much that Sutter has been a complete disaster. This team is better now than it was before he manned the helm. They're a perennial playoff team (and will certainly be a contender to make the playoffs this year) and although they've only made it past the first round one time, they have been in two separate 'Game 7s.'
Sutter has some strengths which I think we can all agree on:
- Identifying his core players (Iginla, Regehr, Kipprusoff, Phaneuf)
- Turning trash into treasure (Kipprusoff, Huselius, Nolan, Ference, Hale, Giordano)
- Gets consistently good performances out of top players (Iginla, Langkow, Phaneuf, Regehr)
- OK at developing rookies (Phaneuf, Lombardi)
- Allows useful players to leave for nothing (Giordano, Hale, Clark)
- Had a tendency to hire his ex players, seemingly not on merit (Amonte, Friesen, Primeau, Stuart, Nolan, Smith, Marchment, Zyuzin)
- Takes shots in the dark on trades/signings (Amonte, Nolan, Bertuzzi, McCarty, Lundmark)
- Isn't good at identifying coaching talent (Playfair, Keenan)
- Doesn't develop much in house talent (successes include Phaneuf, Lombardi, Moss? Boyd??)
- Tends to prefer old overpriced FA veterans instead (Amonte, McCarty, Aucoin, Leclerc, Weimer, Smith, Primeau, Nolan, Bertuzzi)
- Hasn't restocked the pipeline (top prospect is Backlund but others don't look promising)
I thought I was a bit tardy with this post, especially since CJ and Duncan have both already had great posts on relatively the same subject.
However, I think Lowe getting bumped upstairs the other day brings new relevance to the idea of Sutter moving on. The team simply hasn't progressed the last 2 seasons, and the shuffling of deck chairs has hardly been useful. Take for instance this offseason. Sutter made a nice move for Glencross to solidify his bottom six forwards up front, but was forced to make a desperate move for Bertuzzi because he has zero youngsters ready to fill a top 6 wing position. Jim Vandermeer gets resigned, probably because the Flames are making a Vandermeer family band, and for some reason Sutter acknowledges that Warrener and Eriksson are useless but doesn't do anything relevant about it besides embarrassing one of the most respected guys in the dressing room.
I think it's time for Sutter to move on.
There is of course no way Sutter gets outright fired. Much like Lowe, the Flames management team is enamoured with Darryl Sutter. For the good of the team though, I thing someone in the ownership group needs to suggest Darryl take a 'promotion' and the Flames hire someone outside the organization who will make (or at least suggest) the hockey decisions from now on.