The Advocate introduces Calgary-area sports columnist Jeremy Nolais today. He will write every second week on the Calgary professional sports scene. On alternate Wednesdays, Edmonton-area columnist Jason Hills will look at the Edmonton pro sports scene.
Spring cleaning is an important yearly ritual for households and sports teams alike.
It’s a time to part ways with old junk that will likely never again serve a purpose as well as new items that you simply have no need for.
Darryl Sutter isn’t a big fan of spring cleaning.
In fact, the Calgary Flames general manager would just as soon spend the free agent period crowding what little salary cap space he has with a bunch of unproven, unmotivated talent (Olli Jokinen, Tim Jackman, Raitis Ivanans, to name a few of his more recent projects) and washed out veterans in desperate need of employment (Daymond Langkow, Steve Staios and so on).
This year, the Sutter machine took its monolithic approach one step further, bringing back two supposed superstars who already flunked out of the Flames’ system in Alex Tanguay and Jokinen.
While Tanguay’s efforts were never appreciated in Calgary, despite posting career highs in points and assists during the 2006-07 season, the 30-year-old struggled greatly last season in Tampa Bay. As well, he doesn’t play the Sutter way, an over-hyped bump-and-grind style that is as outdated as Darryl himself.
Let’s hope Tanguay rebounds and finds some of the original chemistry he had with Flames’ poster boy Jarome Iginla.
The Flames’ big free agency shocker was re-enlisting the services of Finnish flop Jokinen.
Once the prodigal son of the Florida Panthers, Jokinen joined the Flames in 2009 and found moderate success at best, potting 19 goals and 50 points in 75 games.
As his days in Calgary became obviously numbered, Jokinen slowed down even further and provided little more than a big barrier at centre. The Flames shipped him to New York earlier this year for a lazy lummox by the name of Alex Kotalik and winger Chris Higgins — neither are expected to wear the flaming C next season.
Now, Sutter, who was openly critical of his failed Finnish project the first time, has shaved nearly half of the yearly price tag off Jokinen’s contract and is championing him as the spark that could reignite the Flames’ top line.
Am I the only one confused here?
And if Tanguay and Jokinen are the two big free agent acquisitions made by the Flames this season, let’s turn to the other new members of this dysfunctional family that no one is talking about.
First, we have Jackman, a former New York Islander who will fill in at the less-than glamorous role filled by Jamal Mayers last season. A big boy who doesn’t mind throwing his body around, look for Jackman to log less than five minutes of ice time per game next season — the classic grinder role that Sutter seems hell-bent on filling the bottom half of his depth chart with.
Next up is Rainitis Ivanans. The bruising Latvian’s numbers speak for themselves: just two points to go with nearly 300 penalty minutes in 137 games for the Los Angeles Kings over the past few seasons. Ho-hum, another Sutter goon.
Finally, we have Ryan Stone. A transfer from the northern rival Edmonton Oilers, the 25-year-old drops the gloves more than he scores goals. He could turn into a defensive fail-safe that helps bail out Calgary’s ever-encroaching defensive corps, but will more than likely fall through the cracks of a misguided franchise that already has well-documented troubles when it comes to putting the puck in the net.
That’s three Sutter-type goons to supposedly round out the roster. I think the common denominator in this predicament is obvious.
The organization’s lack of innovation isn’t confined to the big leagues either. On July 18, the Flames farm team in Abbotsford chose to re-sign a bunch of familiar faces in defencemen Matt Pelech and Gord Baldwin, forward Kris Chucko and netminder Matt Keetley. All four have seemingly developed into fringe talents.
The only one with a hint of promise is Pelech; however, with eight defencemen already signed to one-way contracts on the Flames roster, the 22-year-old is unlikely to leave Abbotsford anytime soon.
All of this is very uninspiring and with the summer months now upon us, Sutter is more likely to go on vacation than orchestrate some sort of mastermind deal.
The best hope for Flames fans at this point is that someone else will be calling the shots next spring and Sutter himself will be the one swept aside.