The 2010-2011 season for the Calgary Flames will be about one thing: the players.
It won’t be about Ken King stopping the big bad media bullies. It won’t be about Darryl Sutter’s particular brand of strange goofiness. It won’t be about Brent Sutter’s ability to get the players to buy in.
It won’t be about any of those things, because all of those things are largely secondary to the script that has been written this year. And that script is largely based on the Country Club.
Don’t get us twisted. It is a big, big year for Darryl Sutter, because Darryl Sutter finally has vision of his team constructed. He has Tanguay, he has Jokinen, he has his mobile and hard hitting defence corps (also featuring Jay Bouwmeester). He has his goalie. This is the team Darryl Sutter has always wanted.
Failure, then, would mean reality is refuting the Sutter vision of hockey.
But Darryl Sutter doesn’t take face-offs. He doesn’t set up plays and he doesn’t finish them. He doesn’t stop pucks. Whatever your opinion of the man, it is not debatable that Darryl Sutter knows hockey. He has spent his entire life at the rink. You may agree with his vision or you may not, but it comes from a good faith effort to win hockey games.
Results are on the players on the ice. There is a question as to whether or not the roster is flawed, but the roster was horribly flawed in 2004. It’s on the players. And we hope that’s what the fans focus on this year.
Jarome Iginla quit on this team last year. One goal in the last month of the season isn’t acceptable. Especially when that was the time the team needed him to perform if they were going to squeak into the playoffs.
Jay Bouwmeester played with no fire or passion. At 6.5 plus million dollars, he has to step up and be a leader. He may not want or like that responsibility, but nobody stuck a gun to his head and made him sign for a dump truck full of cash. If you want the cash, you get the spotlight. He has to embrace the challenge and honestly, man up. When Ken King is defending him from Peca, it looks like a little kid who got bullied and then got his mom to call the other kids parents. It’s time for Jay to grow up and fight his own battles.
Reggie demanded a trade. Or he simply waived his NTC when asked to (to go to Boston). Whatever the case, he needs to re-establish his worth to this team. Olli Jokinen’s story is well known, and Tanguay is one bad season from being out of the league. Kotalik probably should be out of the league. Hagman needs to prove he is worth the contract he was given by Toronto. Stajan needs to prove he is worth the contract Calgary gave him.
Get the narrative? The players need to prove. The Flames have done everything else. They have fired coaches, they have fired scouts, they have brought in help for Darryl. They have gotten rid of locker room cancers.
There is simply no other place for a finger to be pointed. It’s pointed squarely at a group of players who have had their characters loudly and publicly questioned. It’s time for them to respond. This city pays some of the highest ticket prices in the league. The building is always sold out. Everyone in the building is wearing $100-$250 dollars worth of jersey and Flames merchandise. We sell out for this team, it’s time for this group of players to sell out for the city.
Because if this team can’t make the playoffs and cause some damage, then it needs to be broken up completely, from Jarome on down.
Playoff talk from us? Yeah, why not? Team has a goalie, team has a stacked defence, team has NHL caliber wingers, and what should be enough NHL caliber centres (eventually). And they have had their reputations tarnished. For proud people, that is motivational gold. There should be no question that this team will play with a fire in their bellies. If they don’t, then the players on this team will prove true the perception that they are just money hungry clock punchers, more interested in being superstars at the Calgary bars then winning NHL games.
The national media may have buried this team, but the fans of it shouldn’t. There are enough players on this roster that, to us, and hell, we may be crazy, a first round exit wouldn’t be enough. Letting the players on this team go meekly into the night because nobody expects anything from them is not acceptable. This team should have expectations on it. It’s a 60 million dollar hockey team.
Brent Sutter has a very hard job. He needs to coach a team full of veterans, most of whom have been in the NHL far longer then he has been (as a coach). But Brent needs to bench the floaters this year, whoever they are. If Jarome pulls the same act he did in the last month of the season during this year, he needs to be benched. If Tim Jackman is floating, he needs to be benched. This year, the rules need to apply to everybody. Benching a floating Jarome isn’t going to cost the team wins. Not benching a floating Jarome will. But Brent has, or should have, the backing of the administration. He should be able to bench his star without the star going over his head. He needs to do it this year if it comes to that.
The season, as we said, is starting. Go Flames, go. Beat Edmonton.
Furthermore, I think Peter Loubardias should be fired.