Calgary Flames should fire the Sutter brothers


darrylsutter.jpgThe Calgary Flames thought that they could parlay some Sutter family magic into sibling revelry. Unfortunately, the pairing seems to be as dysfunctional as anything the Kardashians or Hiltons could muster.

To be fair to Brent, he’s only failed to generate success for a single season. Most of the blunders fall at the feet of his brother (and the Flames’ GM) Darryl. Things simply have been ugly for the Flames coach-turned-general manager ever since he started making personnel decisions. Of course, however you focus the blame, the fact of the matter is that they are clearly a package deal and many – including Brian Costello of The Hockey News – are calling for their heads.

Though still mathematically alive to make the playoffs, the fact of the matter is the Flames have regressed in giant steps this season and have no business competing for the Stanley Cup. And for that reason, GM Darryl Sutter and coach Brent Sutter must pay the price with their jobs.

Unfortunately, the firing of the Sutters won’t soothe the burns left by the general manager’s poor decisions. Let’s take a look at his many failed dealings.

Thumbnail image for brent sutter.jpgOlli Jokinen

Last year, the Flames moved a first rounder for the struggling former member of the Panthers and Coyotes. The funny looking Finn proceeded to become the scourge of many a Flames blogger and proved that maybe – just maybe – he never lead the Panthers to the playoffs because he wasn’t particularly good.

Sadly, GM Sutter missed the one positive thing about having Jokinen on the roster: allowing his contract to expire would mean that his $5.25 million cap hit would come off the books. Instead, Sutter moved Jokinen for two disappointing New York Rangers (Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik). Kotalik is, essentially, a poor man’s Jokinen except that he will make his team $3 million poorer through the 2011-12 season. Ugh.

Dion Phaneuf

It seemed like Phaneuf’s future came into doubt just about the moment the Flames signed overrated defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. Still, there’s no doubt that it was a little shocking how far the “sure thing” fell in the last few years.

The Flames ultimately moved his hefty $6.5 million for a grab bag of outcast Maple Leafs highlighted by on-and-off winger Niklas Hagman. Perhaps Phaneuf’s stock dropped, but that is a pretty weak return for a guy who (at one time) seemed like the next Chris Pronger.

Matt Stajan

Let me say this: however you feel about Stajan, there is no way he justified his 4 year, $14 million contract.

Jay Bouwmeester

Look, Bouwmeester isn’t a bad player but any means. I put together a custom list of defensemen on Dobber Hockey taking into account various categories (from points to time on ice to takeaways) and he came out 14th. Still, when you throw a $6.68 million per year contract at a defenseman, 27 points is still a pretty disappointing result.

No room for comfort

The team simply doesn’t have room to add complimentary players. While Cap Geek shows that the team has about $3.8 million with few spots to fill, at least $15 million is wasted on Steve Staois, Cory Sarich, Stajan, Kotalik and Hagman. When you consider that  about $28 million is wrapped up in their marquee guys (Iginla, Kipper, Bouwmeester, Langkow, Regehr) it’s clear that the Flames are what they are.

Thanks to the Sutter brothers, they should expect nothing more than an annual playoff bubble struggle. It’s time for the Flames to make a change.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist
1 Comment

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
1 Comment

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.