I’ve never been a big fan of the Calgary Flames, and anyone who reads this column with any sort of regularity can attest to that.
But I was a big fan of the move they made last week.
After eight years in the big chair, it was announced that general manager Darryl Sutter was stepping down and being replaced, on an interim basis, by assistant general manager Jay Feaster.
Call it a late Christmas present for Flames fans who have been waiting quite some time to see their team return to sort of dominance they saw in 2004 when Calgary came within a goal of winning it all.
(To be fair, and I’ll never admit it again, Calgary should have won the Stanley Cup that year. Martin Gelinas scored a goal in game six of that series that did not count, allowing Tampa Bay to win the series in game seven).
When announcing the resignation, Flames president Ken King admitted that he asked Darryl to step aside, a move commonly known in the media as being “resi-fired”
You know, “resign or be fired.”
Either way, and I’ve written about this before, the Flames made the right decision on which Sutter to jettison and which one to hang on to.
Before I delve into why getting rid of Sutter was the right move, I must say that Darryl should be given a lot of credit for bringing hockey success back to Calgary.
When Darryl first took over the Flames in 2002-2003, they were a floundering squad, leaderless and rudderless, and looking like they might never make it back out of the bottom echelon of the National Hockey League.
By the end of that year, Darryl had coached the Flames back into the playoffs, and of course, the next year, we all know what happened with the “C” of Red.
Following that magical run though, Darryl made some decisions that ultimately led to last week’s announcement.
Darryl, never one to be afraid of making a big deal, completely exhausted his club’s depth in an attempt to trade his back to the finals.
He handed out a league leading 11 contracts that have no movement or no trade clauses in them, making those guys next to impossible to move (and I would argue, also removed a bit of that fear that can sometimes motivate a player who is looking for his next contract.)
He also made the call to relinquish his duties as head coach to focus solely on his general manager gig, and what resulted was a revolving door of head coaches.
We saw Jim Playfair, Mike Keenan and Brent Sutter all take turns behind the Flames bench, with each of them failing to take this team beyond the first round of the playoffs.
Of course, Brent is still with the Flames today, and I think that was the right way to go for the long term future of the franchise.
Red Deer Rebels fans know firsthand just what kind of coach Brent is, and what he can do when given the right horses to race with.
A Memorial Cup championship, a pair of Eastern Conference championships, and two gold medals from the World Junior hockey championship prove that Brent is a guy who can coach young talent.
Brent also won championships as a player, and led the New Jersey Devils into the playoffs in his two seasons in the swamp (although, both were first round exits).
He is a guy who can work with veterans and rookies, and the Flames rightfully kept him on when Darryl decided to step aside.
I still think the Flames should consider following Edmonton’s lead, and completely re-build the club, but I’m also interested to see what Feaster can do to improve the lineup, and what Brent can do when he actually has some guys that can play the game.