Welcome to the funeral


What a way to launch a revival of the Flames blog on FanSided – presiding over a funeral.

In the past week, the Calgary Flames’ playoff hopes have gone from alive, to clinging to life, to dead. Grudgingly, we (my group of diehard Flames supporters collectively known as The Flaming Circle of Jerks, who plan to occupy this blog space in the coming months) accepted it.

But did we really have to see the guts spilled out all over the ice?

Saturday’s 5-0 castration at the hands of a barely competent Boston Bruins team exposed what is now obvious about the Flames. This is not a would-be playoff team that’s just been a bit snake-bitten. This is a mess. An ugly, lazy, sloppy, uninterested mess.

Thanks to blowing games that no self-respecting contender can blow over the past couple of weeks (don’t get me started on the past couple of months), now only an act of God would put the Flames in the playoffs. It ain’t gonna happen. So now it’s time to face up to what kind of a team this really is. Saturday’s game showed what kind: A team utterly lacking in drive, determination and character. Quitters.

That’s hard to admit, but it’s also hard to deny. Over the past several years, the Flames have gone through three coaches and none of them have been able to figure out how to get these guys to give the extra effort when it counted. And now, after the team gassed a critical game in Long Island to all but assure a finish out of the playoffs, they don’t even bother to show up for the next game in Boston.

What’s even harder to admit is, I can’t see how this bunch is going to get anything but worse next year, and thereafter.

Darryl Sutter rolled the dice in a huge way with a series of trades at the deadline, replacing a third of his team in hopes of somehow finding the right combination. In retrospect, it was suicide. This team has no personality, unless “screw-ups” is a personality. It’s supposed leaders haven’t been leading. Guys who are supposed to know how to score don’t score. We’ve got a roster of aging underachievers and third-liners, many of whom are so grossly overpaid no one else would want them. We’ve got few prospects in the system, maybe no front-line prospects whatsoever. We’ve got no draft picks to show for this year’s collapse (Phoenix must be laughing its ass off at that one). We’ve got no cap space to fix it.

What’s the solution?

One of my friends in The Flaming Circle – Gus, a tough critic if there ever was one, but he bleeds red and gold – says it’s time to dump Darryl Sutter and trade Jarome Iginla.

The first is, I’d say, a certainty. After years of building and rebuilding this roster, Sutter has only succeeded in moving it backward. The inept, desperate moves of this season suggest he’s no longer up to the job – if he ever was. I loved Darryl Sutter as a coach, but as a GM he’s created a monster. I don’t envy his successor – what he’s got on this team right now is a dog’s breakfast.

As for Iginla, it’s almost sacrilege in Calgary to suggest unloading him, but the Flames (thanks to Sutter) may not have many other choices if they want to right this ship. Iggy is not the player he was a few years ago, and he’s 33 this year; he won’t be getting any better. He’s increasingly reluctant to drive to the net and win the tough physical battles that have defined his game. He no longer seems to have the drive and passion to carry this team on his shoulders.

On another team, with more leaders, more skilled players to ease the load, he’d be hugely valuable. Maybe so valuable that the Flames could instantly get the draft picks, prospects and young talent they need to rebuild. (Which is precisely what Darryl Sutter should have been able to get by being willing to part with Dion Phaneuf – a highly valuable asset that he leveraged for a bunch of bit players who added up to little when crunch time came. Well done, Darryl.)

I personally don’t want to ever see Iggy in another NHL uniform, but there’s no doubt, drastic change is required. The Flames have to dig themselves not only out of the funk that overwhelmed the team this season, but the deep long-term hole the entire organization has ben put in by Darryl Sutter’s lack of vision.

Maybe Jay Bouwmeester goes (big contract, no grit, no passion, no evidence of all this alleged skill), or one or two others in the deep pool of talent on the blueline. Maybe three or four of the surplus forwards get shipped out of town. Hey, I’m willing to consider any and all options.

I hope the Flames’ owners are, too. There’s a mess that needs cleaning up. Just look at the ice in Boston on Saturday and you see it.