Where do the Flames go from here?

Alexander Monaghan asks a variety of questions regarding the Calgary Flames and where they should go in the post-Sutter era.

Yesterday, Calgary Flames president Ken King asked longtime GM Darryl Sutter to step down from his position as the team desperately needed a change in direction. In his place will be former Tampa Bay Lightning architect, or the man who put on the finishing touches on their Cup run, Jay Feaster.

EDMONTON, CANADA - FEBRUARY 4:  Kristian Huselius #20 of the Calgary Flames skates against the Edmonton Oilers during their NHL game at Rexall Place on February  4, 2008 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  The Oilers defeated the Flames 5-0. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)

Kristian Huselius is just one of the players to come and go under Sutter

While we are unsure whether Feaster will hold a fire sale come February or just keep the seat warm for another perspective general manager at this point, which leaves the door open for a plethora of speculation.  Will the team trade Iginla to the Penguins or another contender in the East? Would the Flyers or Capitals want Kiprusoff?

Flames fans see this move as an excuse to make tons of moves and fully replicate their NHL 11 fantasies, and honestly, who can blame them? They watched their team trade for a number of fine players like Michael Cammalleri, Kristian Huselius, Jay Bouwmeester and more recently Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen and watched all of them either fail to meet expectations or leave for better surroundings.

While the team struggles with consistency offensively and defensively they can look around the League and see plenty of their former players like Toni Lydman, Eric Nystrom, Chuck Kobasew, Brandon Prust, Jordan Leopold, Steve Montador, Matthew Lombardi and Dion Phaneuf provide serviceable play for opposing teams.  At one point they all played for the burning C and now they bring that same level of play to another team as Sutter and company failed to see what they had in front of them.

Even worse is their farm system.  Take one look at the Washington Capitals, as they have the most players in the World Juniors this year and still manage to win.  Aside from trading away Stephan Della Rovere, they have kept all of their top prospects, not forcing themselves to make moves that put the team over the top.

Where do the Flames rank? Dead last according to Hockey’s Future. Even though they have made some decent draft choices with Greg Nemisz, Tim Erixon and Mitch Wahl, their poor choices with Matt Pelech, Leland Irving and mishandling of Mikael Backlund have forced their system to look simply weak.  As Flames Nation so cleverly discovered, trading of draft picks and choices were similarly done in Tampa Bay under Feaster and the trades of core players were even worse, unsurprisingly.

Trading Jarome Iginla for the same prize as the team received for Brad Richards would surely be foolish.  At this point the team needs to make small moves and smart moves.

Re-signing Mark Giordano proved to be a very smart move as he effectively does everything Robyn Regehr used to do and should do. After realizing this fact, however, they should have traded Regehr. Their rival Colorado Avalanche got a nice offensive player in Tomas Fleischmann for a similar player in Scott Hannan, the Flames should have jumped on a similar deal and added some much needed skill.

Of course, my hindsight is crystal clear there.

The team has addressed their weakness on the depth chart by signing their selection Ryan Howse of the Chilliwack Bruins of the Western Hockey League.  They would be even better served by trading some of their better players like a Niclas Hagman, Alex Tanguay and Cory Sarich for some additional draft picks or a nice depth prospect or two.  Not many teams have the cap space to afford either Miikka Kiprusoff or Jarome Iginla while it probably would be difficult to find a buyer for Jay Bouwmeester.

If they want to get back on the right track and once again be a contending franchise, the Flames simply need to stay the course of this season and just continue to add and hold on to their bright spots while shedding their dead weight.  They started the latter process yesterday, now Feaster just needs to keep on going.

Alexander Monaghan
NHL Managing Editor