Calgary Flames: How To Rebuild Without Wasting Five Years
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Fire Darryl Sutter
Everyone in Calgary, and around the league, knows there are serious problems with the Flames. Everyone that is, except Ken King and Darryl Sutter, who continue to insist that the team is just underachieving and will pick it up any day now.
I understand that you have to support your team, but it’s getting a little ridiculous. I mean, just a few weeks ago, Darryl Sutter insisted in a radio interview that the Flames don’t have an offensive problem. Now, they’re 15th in the West, and every team between the Flames and a playoff spot has one to three games in hand.
Clearly, Sutter just doesn’t get it anymore and won’t admit that the team he’s spent the past six years building isn’t going to get it done. He's spent the last year making desperation moves to try to save his job, and it's hard to believe he wasn't fired after bringing Olli Jokinen back as a free agent last summer. Now, the best this team is going to be is mediocre, and even that is starting to look like a pipe dream at this point.
So, the first move to rebuild the Flames is to relieve Darryl Sutter of his duties as GM, and let Jay Feaster step in. The Flames have some valuable assets to work with, and Feaster is a very good GM who should be able to turn the Flames into a consistent contender with a few key moves.
Trade Kipper to Tampa Bay
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This is a deal that makes a lot of sense for both sides. I propose that the Flames send former Vezina winning goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff and solid physical defenseman Cory Sarich to the Lightning, in exchange for goalie Mike Smith, 2010 sixth overall draft pick Brett Connolly and power forward Ryan Malone.
The Lightning have an extremely potent offense this season, with the likes of Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Simon Gagne. Their defense and goaltending, on the other hand, have been absolutely brutal.
The Lightning are clinging to sixth spot in the Eastern Conference right now, but are last in the league in goals against; they’re even worse than the pitiful Edmonton Oilers.
Miikka Kiprusoff is still amongst the best goalies in the world and would be a great fit in Tampa Bay. It offers Tampa a bona fide No. 1 goalie, as well as an extremely physical shutdown defenseman who can help shore up the defensive weaknesses.
For Calgary, they’ll receive a veteran goaltender, who shouldn’t be with the team for long, but will be a key piece in a second trade with the LA Kings. What will really benefit the Flames from this trade is Brett Connolly, the No. 6 overall pick in last summer’s NHL Entry Draft.
He’s a pure sniper and a power forward who already overpowers most defenders in the WHL. He became the first 16-year-old to score 30 goals in the WHL and is off to an incredible start this season with 22 goals in his first 30 games.
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The other piece of the deal that will really help the Flames is Ryan Malone, a big body who plays a physical style with pretty good scoring touch.
Malone is locked up for the next five years, and if the Flames play him on the opposite wing on Rene Bourque’s line, they’d make a line that no defenseman in the league would want to see coming in on the fore-check. Malone will also be an important presence for the Flames after the second trade proposal.
This trade gives the Flames an elite prospect, a veteran power forward and helps clear up about $3 million in cap space, which solves a lot of problems for them. As for Tampa Bay, adding a goalie of Kiprusoff’s quality to the offense they already have elevates them from playoff hopefuls to Cup contenders.
Trade Iginla and Regehr to Los Angeles
Another trade that clears up a lot of issues for both teams involved. I propose that the Flames send goalie Mike Smith (who they just acquired from Tampa Bay), superstar right wing and captain Jarome Iginla, and veteran shutdown defenseman Robyn Regehr to Los Angeles for 24-year-old goalie Jonathan Quick, centre Brayden Schenn, who was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, defender Thomas Hickey and centre Jarret Stoll.
LA receives Iginla who, even at 33, is one of the best forwards in the game. Iginla is also one of, if not the best leader in hockey, and his veteran leadership presence will be invaluable on the young LA team. His goal scoring prowess will fit beautifully beside Anze Kopitar, and will help the Kings who are best in the conference in goals allowed, but a dismal 12th in the West in goals for.
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A top six forward group boasting Ryan Smyth, Dustin Brown, Wayne Simmonds, Michal Handzus Iginla and Kopitar would be seriously difficult for other teams to play against. All six are physical, solid two-way players who would be able to wear down virtually any team in the league in a seven-game series.
The Kings will also receive Robyn Regehr, who is a great defensive defenseman. Regehr will bolster the Kings defense corps and set them up with a top six of Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson, Regehr, Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi, and one of Matt Greene, Davis Drewiske or Alec Martinez, which would be the envy of the league.
Having all three of Mitchell, Regehr and Scuderi would also enable LA to trade one of them for a second line centre to play behind Anze Kopitar, which would drop Handzus to centre the checking line.
Calgary would receive Jonathan Quick who, at only 24, has proved himself in the past two years to be a quality No. 1 goalie, and would make a nice replacement for Miikka Kiprusoff. Both Quick and Jonathan Bernier should be No. 1 goalies, but can’t both get enough starts while playing together in LA.
Bernier seems to be the Kings' pick for the future, which makes Quick expendable. In Quick’s place, LA receives veteran Mike Smith, as insurance in case Bernier happens to falter.
Calgary also gets a future cornerstone of the franchise in Brayden Schenn, who is the No. 1 centre the Flames haven’t had since they traded Joe Nieuwendyk for one Jarome Iginla. Schenn has played eight games with the Kings this season and has looked really good in his games in the AHL.
With the Kings having released Schenn to Canada’s World Junior Championship team, he’ll get a chance to be a leader on a big international stage and should come back with a ton of confidence.
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Thomas Hickey also heads to Calgary, which is his hometown. Hickey was highly touted as the No. 4 overall pick in 2007, but hasn’t developed as quickly as LA expected and is now in a logjam behind proven NHL defensemen and prospects who have developed faster. Coming back to his hometown may give Hickey the fresh start that he seems to need.
Finally, Calgary gets Jarret Stoll, who is mainly involved in the deal to keep Los Angeles under the salary cap, but will help Calgary on face-offs and can replace Iginla as a right-handed shot with a powerful one-timer on the powerplay.
This trade leaves LA with a number one goalie in Jonathan Bernier, a quality backup in Mike Smith and one of the most complete lineups of defensemen and forwards in the entire league, and solidifies them as a Cup contender.
As for the Flames, they clear up about $4.5 million in cap space, which alleviates their concern if they have players come off the long term injured reserve.
Overall, these moves make an LA versus Tampa Bay Stanley Cup Final a realistic possibility, while at the same time restocking Calgary’s flow of prospects, clearing up cap space to keep those prospects, and rebuilding the culture and the team very quickly.
It leaves the Flames with a core group of forwards that will include Rene Bourque, Ryan Malone, Mikael Backlund, Brayden Schenn and Brett Connolly, a defense built around Mark Giordano, Jay Bouwmeester and Thomas Hickey, and a goaltending tandem of Jonathan Quick and Henrik Karlsson.
Add to this someone like Adam Larsson who the Flames will have a good shot of getting with the lottery pick that should arrive at the end of the season, and the Flames can quickly not only become, but also stay, a Cup contender for years to come.
And who knows, maybe after Iginla plays out the next two years of his contract in LA, he can come back to Calgary and win the Cup with the Flames like all of his fans have been dreaming of for so many years.
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