Despite still feeling the sharp sting of being eliminated from the Stanley Cup play-offs in the opening round, Calgary Flames general manager Darryl Sutter was very optimistic when talking about the future of his team.
While various rumors have been circulating that the club will fire head coach Mike Keenan and make other major changes, Sutter, whose team lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, had a different view of what needs to be done.
“We have a nucleus of elite players that are looked on as elite players—and they have to be that,” said Sutter, who was in his office at the Pengrowth Saddledome on Monday.
“We’re not trading or moving elite players, or anything like that. They’re good players and they’re the reason we’re a good team. We’ll find ways to make them better.”
The first step that Sutter wants to take is to get some input from all his players, in one-on-one meetings, and question the coaches about what needs to be done to take that next step in the playoffs—and eventually win a Stanley Cup.
“We’re very fortunate to have the number one goalie, but there is a point also where he needs a reduction of minutes or games played; and the development of another goalie is very important.” said Sutter.
Lots of decisions will have to be made this summer in terms of who to bring back among the ten unrestricted free agents. One of the prominent names on the list is young forward Mike Cammalleri, who had a breakout season with 39 goals and 43 assists.
“He’s a good player—a good guy,” Sutter said. “He and I have a good relationship. We’ll work at it.”
A second prominent UFA is veteran Todd Bertuzzi, who had 15 goals in an injury riddled season.
“You’re talking about two guys that have been here for a year,” Sutter said. “We don’t know how much that player likes it here or if his family likes it here. There’s a lot more that comes into it—than just money.”
Sutter, who said that he expects coach Keenan back next year, doesn’t have the financial luxury to compete in the market with the 29 other teams for these two players.
“As unique as it is, our top players have been grown here—and have developed here—and are going to stay here—and probably play their whole careers here. That ties up a lot of money.”
Late in the season Calgary, who finished fifth in the Western Conference with 98 points, were decimated with injuries that carried over into the playoffs.
Robyn Regehr and Dion Phaneuf, who make up the nucleus of Calgary’s blue line, were injured in the playoffs. Fellow blue-liners Cory Sarich and Adrian Aucoin were far from healthy. Also injured late in the season were forwards Bertuzzi and Rene Bourque.
“I think everybody that went in for our injured players all played really good,” Sutter said. “They gave us a chance to win every game.” Sutter has stressed that he will take his time, and analyze everything, before making any moves this summer.