Thursday, April 26, 2007


Tea Leaves

I was reminded yesterday, reading BDHS, that there are visitors to this site looking for enlightenment on the Flames, as opposed to merely fanboy win predictions and numerical assessments of who's productive. The Oilogosphere has (most notably) Lowetide to parse statements from the GM, float trial balloons, and make educated guesses as to where the Oil is headed; so, on the heels of yesterday's comments by Sutter, I might as well take a crack at something similar.

The most important thing to know about Darryl Sutter is that he has a lot of belief that he's doing the right things. I'm not saying that he's sufficiently arrogant (or deluded) to believe that he doesn't make mistakes, or that he can misjudge the full range of consequences of his decisions, but he is extremely confident that the general principles and plan under which he is operating are not only correct, but the best. So, the chances that his assessment of the 2006/07 team will be of a deeply reflective, soul searching nature are zero. The nature of the assessment will be better described as Who is fucking up my shit?

The other thing to remember is that, while he truly does have the run of the hockey side of the business -- the owners and Ken King are not micromanaging ("interfering") -- he still has bosses, and he has to answer to them. He may not get overruled on major decisions, and he may not even have to defend them per se, but he does have to explain them. And you can be damn sure he doesn't take the same evasive & condescending tone with them as he does with Eric Francis and Jermaine Franklin.

So with this in mind, let's look forward. The current Flames who are going to be UFAs on July 1st are: Tony Amonte, Jeff Friesen, Marcus Nilson, Wayne Primeau, Darren McCarty, Byron Ritchie, Brad Stuart, and Roman Hamrlik. As I see it, there's not a single player on this list who's more likely to be re-signed than to end up elsewhere.

Amonte, Friesen, Nilson, and McCarty are all destined for lower salaries than they pulled this season. I can't imagine Amonte coming back for less money in a reduced role, despite seeming to be a coach's favourite. In fact, he seems like a proud enough guy that I wouldn't be surprised if he retired, even though he's still good enough to play somewhere. Nilson just seems utterly replaceable. I guess McCarty could be back for 1 year at the minimum (he married a Calgary girl, and he needs the money), but I don't know if he's wanted.

3 days ago, I would have given Friesen the strongest chance of returning, though at a <$1M salary. Though he's a void offensively (0.82 ESP/60), he was Calgary's most effective penalty killer -- only 10 GA (and 4 GF) in 183min of PK ice-time, which is tremendous and a clear team weakness. However, he bafflingly believes that he wasn't given enough of an opportunity to contribute this season (" was a step back into becoming a defensive forward"). Maybe there's a GM out there who still sees Friesen as a "skilled forward", despite 3 straight seasons of evidence to the contrary; even if there isn't, I'd have to guess that if a small 1-year deal is all that's available to him, he'll take one somewhere else in the hopes of gaining this elusive opportunity.

I hesitate to describe Wayne Primeau as a "dime-a-dozen" player exactly, but decent 2-way veteran forwards who don't score much and take too many stick penalties are replaceable, and since he has no roots with the Flames (the obvious contrast here being Ethan Moreau), it'd be surprising if the Flames offer him a better contract than he can get elsewhere. I like Ritchie; I hope and suspect that he'll get an offer from another team. And unlike Friesen, he may actually benefit (blossom?) with a new opportunity.

Rumbles from locker-cleaning day were that Brad Stuart is interested in fielding offers as a UFA (translation: gonzo), and that Hamrlik is hoping to stay. "Hoping to stay" isn't exactly a killer data point, but I certainly think that the Flames would like to keep him provided that the terms are somewhat more favourable than the open-market terms. My general sense of the world is that veteran players who have bumped around a lot of teams in their careers and then landed in a favourable situation are more inclined to go along with such a thing, but who knows.

Core Pieces: Playfair, Iginla, Kiprusoff, Tanguay, Langkow, Huselius, Regehr, Phaneuf. Odds are, given this season's results and the quest for improvement, that at least some piece of this core will change this off-season. I'm glossing over Lombardi, Moss, Giordano, and the prospects, as they're not going anywhere unless as a piece of a bigger blockbuster. Same with Conroy, Yelle, Warrener, and Zyuzin: if they move, it's either as part of something bigger or of minor impact in and of itself.

Phaneuf is the one untouchable; he's going nowhere for any reason. At least this off-season, neither is Tanguay: for one, I can't imagine that Sutter feels like he got less than what he was expecting when he acquired him in the first place; for two, his excellent production at EV did not translate into gaudy counting numbers (weak PP production), making it tougher to get a great return for him; and for three (the clincher), it would look too much like an admission of failure.

Iggy, Kipper, Langkow, Juice, and Regehr are the guys entering the final years of their contracts. Sutter did actually provide a bit of a window into his mentality on these situations, I thought. And, since this is getting pretty long already, I'll look at that in another post.


I wouldn't be surprised to see the Flames renogiate one of the 'big pieces' this summer to get a bit of a head start on '08. Kipper seems the most likely and the most valuable. He's going to be at least 6.5per, you could probably extend Iggy at the same price. If I had to guess, I'd say Langkow's out and Huselius is signed but that seems to run counter to the Sutter grain.

should be 'renegotiate', sheesh

I agree that the Flames will be trying to lock up Kipper this summer. He's going to get Luongo money here or somewhere else, so why not accept it and give it to him.

I have doubts that Iggy can be signed at $6.5 per year; he's going to be the premier free agent in the summer of '08 and can expect some team out there to make at offer at or near the individual player maximum ($8.5-ish?).

I believe the Flames will make all efforts to lock these two up for the next few years, but it won't be cheap. And it will be necessary to expand the use of younger, cheaper guys. Happily, the David Mosses and Dustin Boyds look like they are ready to make the jump. The growth of the salary cap to maybe $48 million will also make it easier to fill out the balance of the roster with decent players.

I'm thinking Iggy goes to Pittsburgh for Jordan Staal, Ryan Whitney and a couple of picks ...

Penguins make their run next year, giving up a guy who they probably can't afford sign in 2 years. (Staal)

Flames get a couple of proven young guys and don't get Smyth'd by Iggy at the deadline.


I would happily make that deal with the Pens this instant if they were willing. Which probably means it's skewed in Calgary's favor and is unlikely to happen.

My rookie post - thanks Matt, Andy (or should I say Sugar Ray) for your hard work on this site!

Regarding Playfair - I say bring him back. What did you expect for a rookie head coach - the Stanley Cup?

If the Flames organizational mantra is patience in player development, then should the coaching staff approach be different?

I agree that at times Playfair looked like he was about to soil himself behind the bench, but so doe 90% of standout minor league players that make the leap to the big show. Remember Dion dropping the gloves for a fight only to find himself tripping backwards and falling on his ass last year? I'm sure that did wonders for his short term confidence - but he's learning!

Both coach and players had trouble adjusting to Playfair as top gun, as he formerly played the good cop to Sutter bad cop.

Did the team underachieve? For sure, though I wouldn't call their 2006/07 record horrible. They'll be better next year, including Playfair.

Dump Amonte, McCarty, and Warrener, as they are simply warriors whose time has passed. Nilson and Friesen are also expendable. Huselius should be kept for his regular season point production and then used as trade bait next year prior to the deadline; he's too soft for the playoffs. Try to keep Stuart and Langkow if you can.

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