The way things are going for the Flames, it’s tougher to find a reason for optimism in Calgary than it is to find a beaming smile on a Sutter brother’s face.
Yet when it comes to the typical need to find a scapegoat, it seems like media members are focusing on the wrong unsmiling countenance. While rumors fly that Calgary Flames head coach Brent Sutter might be shown the door, the truth is that his brother (general manager Darryl Sutter) is the architect of the shambling wreck that is this franchise’s roster.
Looking at the Flames roster, it’s tough to be chipper about any outlook – long or short term. In the present, the team is stocked with high-priced players who are getting long in the tooth (from aging captain Jarome Iginla to floating mass Olli Jokinen). The short and long-term future isn’t much better, as they’re low on prospects and only own one draft choice in the top 100 spots this year.
When you spend the kind of money Calgary does on a roster that sits at the bottom of the Western Conference, it’s reasonable to wonder what kind of job the coach is doing. Yet, when it comes down to it, George Johnson of the Calgary Herald is right in resting most of the blame on Darryl instead of Brent Sutter.
Should they be better? Given the geriatric makeup, yes. Somewhat. Is that partly Brent Sutter’s fault? Of course. He’ll admit as much.
Yet it’s utterly astonishing how many times this requires repeating: The downfall is in construction, not coaching.
They’re old, expensive, set in their ways. One pick in the Top 100 this draft year. Outside of Mikael Backlund, their top “young” players are 27 (Mark Giordano, Jay Bouwmeester), 29 (Rene Bourque) and soon-to-be 29 (David Moss). Yessiree, now THERE’s a boy band that’ll top the charts!
Geez, people, roll out of bed and sniff the dark roast already.
Yet the ground is littered with casualties (the unfortunate Jim Playfair, the not-so-unfortunate Mike Keenan, assorted assistants — it’s always, apparently, a coaching deficiency) and Darryl Sutter still stands defiant, apparently as bulletproof as Eliot Ness’ flak jacket. Why? How?
There is plenty of value in ownership showing some loyalty and patience. After all, there’s enough randomness in sports that an “off” season can happen. Yet it seems like the Flames organization is stubborn in its support of Darryl alone.
It doesn’t take long to notice that the team is not structured to succeed much past the next few seasons. And considering their current results, the present isn’t much prettier than the future.
So, the question is: do you think that Brent, Darryl or both Sutter brothers should go? Personally, I think that the awkward familial connection means that they’re a package deal. Brent’s in a tough spot, but it would be strange to seem him work with a different GM. So perhaps it’s all or nothing, then?
Personally speaking, I would clean house and probably see what kind of value the team could get for Iginla and some of the other team’s older assets. At some point, someone with clear eyes will need to come forward and assess the clear reality of the situation: this is a team that should be in rebuild mode.
Darryl Sutter doesn’t seem like he’s that man.
The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.
For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.
The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch where the Rangers failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).
New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.
This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.
The drama ends up being low for the Rangers going forward, and while there might be a shortage of life-or-death playoff struggles, the battles for seeding look to be fierce.
There’s something beautiful about the symmetry on Tuesday … unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fans, maybe.
On the same night that the longest active NHL playoff streak ended at 25 for Detroit, the longest playoff drought concluded when the Edmonton Oilers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.
The Oilers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2005-06, when Chris Pronger lifted them to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.
In doing so, other dominoes fell. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also punched their tickets to the postseason.
The Sharks, of course, hope to exceed last season’s surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.
Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks continue their run of strong postseasons, even as their Cup win fades to the background ever so slightly. All three teams are currently vying for the Pacific Division title.
The Western Conference’s eight teams are dangerously close to being locked into place, as the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues are all close to looking down their spots as well.
Want the East perspective? Check out this summary of Tuesday’s events from the perspective of the other conference.
Members of the Ottawa Senators were quick to come to Craig Anderson‘s blunder (see above) in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s easy to see why.
It’s not just about his personal struggles, either. When Anderson’s managed to play, he’s been flat-out phenomenal, generating a .927 save percentage that ranks near a Vezina-type level (if he managed to play more than 35 games).
Goaltending has been a huge reason why Ottawa has at least a shot of winning the Atlantic or at least grabbing a round of home-ice advantage, so unlike certain instances where teams shield a goalie’s failures, the defenses are absolutely justified.
Anderson, on the other hand, was very hard on himself.
You have to admire Anderson for taking the blame, even if in very much “hockey player” fashion, he’s not exactly demanding the same sort of credit for his great work this season.
When we look back at the 2016-17 season for the Detroit Red Wings, it will be remembered for some said endings.
It began without Pavel Datsyuk. We knew that their last game at Joe Louis Arena this season would be their last ever. And now we know that Joe Louis Arena won’t be home to another playoff run.
After 25 straight seasons of making the playoffs – quite often managing deep runs – the Red Wings were officially eliminated on Tuesday night. In getting this far, they enjoyed one of the greatest runs of longevity in NHL history:
Tonight revolves largely around East teams winning and teams clinching bids – the Edmonton Oilers could very well end the league’s longest playoff drought this evening – but this story is more solemn.
EA Sports tweeted out a great infographic:
“Right now it’s hard to talk about it, because you’re a big reason why it’s not continuing,” Henrik Zetterberg said in an NHL.com report absolutely worth your time.
Mike “Doc” Emrick narrated a great look back at Joe Louis Arena here: