Most hockey fans have always loved to put down Darryl Sutter and the things he does. My cousin, who happens to be a Canucks fan, really enjoyed pointing out that Sutter looks like some strange creature grazing in the background during some scene in Star Wars.
However, most Calgarians have been grateful for what Sutter has done to this franchise in Calgary over the past seven years. He coached and managed the team to the Stanley Cup Finals in his first full year and then a division championship a year later. He found a way to achieve the impossible by keeping both Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff under long-term contracts.
Since joining the organization in Calgary, the Flames have been perennial playoff contenders and for several years, skated one of the NHL's best teams on paper.
Now Calgary fans are on his case, and many are already calling for him to be fired. I've been more patient than some, but I'm definitely seeing where most are coming from. Therefore, if I were Darryl Sutter, the following is what I'd do to save face:
1) Free Up Cap Space
I know this has been overstated by many already, but it's scary how close the Flames are to the cap and how far they are from being ready for the season. As it stands, we had to lose guys like Eric Nystrom and Craig Conroy, who in my opinion were valuable players in their roles.
As a team that lacks speed and explosiveness, we missed out on an opportunity to sign Matthew Lombardi again (but went for Jokinen and Tanguay?). And it's looking like hell will freeze over before he has the space to keep Ian White, the only piece of the infamous Phaneuf trade that produced and played as well as could be expected for Calgary.
At least one of the several ridiculously fat contracts (see Cory Sarich, Ales Kotalik, Daymond Langkow, Niklas Hagman, and Matt Stajan) on this team will have to be moved in order to fill holes.
Moving Sarich has been a topic that Flames fans have suggested for a while now. It's hard to imagine somebody who would take his salary, but there are a few teams looking to build a solid, young defense, and his experience and physical play might appeal to them. I could see him going back to Tampa Bay in exchange for a prospect and/or mid-round pick.
This could open up the opportunity to resign the previously mentioned Ian White, who would be a more than capable replacement for No. 6.
As for the rest of those I listed in parentheses, they might be even harder to move, but personally I'd prefer that we keep Langkow around for a while, even though his production doesn't justify his income at this point. He's a dependable and consistent player and I think his production will increase with ice time and a good line (remember Langkow, Bourque, and Dawes earlier in 2009?).
2) That Regehr Trade
So where's all this salary going? The over-paid blueline and the secondary scoring. I didn't believe much about the Marc Savard/Robyn Regehr rumours, but if that were possible, Darryl Sutter would be a hero in Calgary. Sure, Regehr is among the greatest stay-at-home defensemen when he's at his best. And yes, I believe that his forgettable season was simply the result of injuries. However, let's take a look at the risk vs. the benefit. Risk: we lose our best defensive defenseman, and still have a solid sextet with J-Bo, Giordano, Sarich, et al. Benefit: we provide Jarome Iginla with the playmaking center that he's needed for almost a decade. You take your pick.
If that deal isn't sweet enough for the B's, throw in a scoring winger like... hmmm... oh wait. Never mind. Would Greg Nemisz be worth it? Would they take Kotalik or Hagman off of our hands?
However, this all depends on whether or not Savard is willing to waive his NTC to play on a line with Captain Calgary.
3) Give Prospects A Chance
If somehow the Flames could manage to pull off every move I just suggested, they'd create more holes in the lineup than they'd fill. However, I think that might be just the right thing at this point in time as the team can strive to be a contender as well as move forward.
Imagine a top line of Savard, Bourque, and Iginla? That's as solid a line as pretty much any in the league (on paper). A second scoring line of Jokinen, Tanguay, and Langkow (provided either Jokinen or Langkow could switch to the wing) could also be potent if chemistry can develop.
As for the secondary, the most exciting player would definitely be the up-and-coming Mikael Backlund. Hopefully Curtis Glencross can provide another solid season for the club, and hopefully David Moss can bounce back. Also, it appears that Matt Stajan is here to stay, and it is likely that either Kotalik or Hagman would still be here. Sutter still has his plethora of goons to throw in the mix there somehow.
So who's filling in those few gaps left? That's what the prospects are for. By bringing them in, Sutter would be putting the team in position for a smoother transition into the inevitable rebuild as well as bringing energy to a team that seemed to play on the back of their heels at times last season.
On the blueline, with Regehr and Sarich gone, Jay Bouwmeester could pair up with Mark Giordano for a solid top pairing. Ian White, Steve Staios, Adam Pardy, and possibly someone like Matt Pelech could fill out the rest of the defense.
Well, that's all I have to say about that. I realize this is all nothing but a pipe dream, but I feel like it would not only put this club into a position to win, but to move forward. Leave your thoughts here, I'm interested to see what other people think would work for the franchise.