Darryl Sutter's Trades Will Improve Flames, History Won't Repeat Itself

Steve McSween@dansallowsSenior Analyst IFebruary 2, 2010

TORONTO - MARCH 14:  Jarome Iginla #12 of the Calgary Flames is checked by Matt Stajan #14 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during their NHL game at the Air Canada Centre March 14, 2009 in Toronto, Ontario.(Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

After the Calgary Flames' apathetic outing against the Philadelphia Flyers Monday night, exasperated management and fans alike must have been thinking, "Oh, no. Not again," as the 3-0 loss regurgitated memories of the Doug Gilmour trade of Jan. 2, 1992.

But as poorly as the Flames played, the moves made by Darryl Sutter are in no way going to turn out as badly as the infamous trade that turned the Toronto Maple Leafs from pretenders into instant contenders in the early '90s—and Calgary into a Western Conference doormat.

How can I be so sure?

Well, first off, Sutter isn't an inexperienced NHL general manager—as was the case when Doug Risebrough was at the helm of the franchise and traded Gilmour to his former mentor, Cliff Fletcher, for basically a bucket of pucks and a lifetime thank-you card.

Secondly, as good as Dion Phaneuf is, he is no Doug Gilmour. Let's face it; Dion would probably rather make YouTube videos and gallivant around town with his uber-hot girlfriend, Elisha Cuthbert, than put his body on the line for a chance at the Stanley Cup.

And while he brings an occasional goal or two from the point with his big slapshot—and absolutely annihilates opponents at times—he can also be like watching a bad movie over and over again when it comes to his play defensively.

Case in point: The Calgary Flames have never made it outta the first round with him patrolling their blue line.

And third, Matt Stajan and Ian White are two very good young NHLers. Sure, maybe not first liners, but definitely good enough to contribute. Niklas Hagman and Jamal Mayers are proven pros.                                                                            

The fact is, Calgary just got a lot deeper up front than they were a week ago by moving a player who wasn't playing anywhere near close to his potential.

On that note, Sutter also parted ways with Olli Jokinen and his $5.5 million contract to obtain two other underachieving wingers in Ales Kotalik and Chris Higgins.

While Kotalik had fallen out of favour in New York, he was a bona fide threat when he played for the Edmonton Oilers last season—and was just as dangerous in Buffalo with the Sabres.

The thinking is, he will regain his form with a change of scenery in Calgary.

The same can be said for Higgins, except he had been playing well with the Rangers and was getting chances, but the puck just wasn't going in—which meant he was rotting in the Big Apple. If he can be the same player he was in Montreal, then Sutter just stole the 26-year-old blindly from Glen Sather.

In the course of two days, Sutter has stockpiled some assets and lowered the club's payroll, which is tough to do under the NHL salary cap.

Which means, if all else fails, there will most likely be a few more moves made.

Looking at the Flames' roster now, however, they definitely have a better chance at making a run than they did heading into the season in September.

That's if they can get it together enough to make a playoff spot, which shouldn't be too much to ask for, considering this club will have a two-week break to get to know one another while the Olympics are taking place.

Yes, there will be the naysayers who believe this team isn't going anywhere now, and that Sutter got ripped off. But the fact is, this team wasn't going anywhere as it was, and Sutter just added six fresh faces who can play by simply giving up two. And really, that is all you can ask of the GM of your favourite pro sports team.

Sutter has accomplished in two days what most general managers can't do in five years, and that is make his club a genuine contender.

Kudos, Mr. Sutter, on a job well done.