I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. After a disastrous start to the 2010-2011 season, the Calgary Flames announced today that Darryl Sutter has resigned as the Executive Vice-President and General Manager of the team. Jay Feaster will assume acting duties as General Manager of the Flames.
I’ve seen this before, so don’t let the “stepping down” rhetoric confuse you. Sutter was fired, pure and simple. However, when someone has a good relationship with the team they manage, including the ownership and “Presidency” they save face by saying that it was actually their choice to leave instead of “being fired”. You’ll notice in the note on calgaryflames.com that Darryl Sutter isn’t quoted. The only two quotes are one saying that Jay Feaster will be the new GM and this one about Sutter:
“Darryl has performed valuable service to the Calgary Flames organization for 8 years,” said King. “He was the leader that ignited a renaissance of Flames hockey, moving us from a non-playoff team to an organization that was viewed as a respected and popular contender each year. We thank Darryl for his leadership and his important contributions to re-establishing the Calgary Flames as a model franchise. As we enter the next phase of our growth in the NHL, we are restructuring our leadership and processes. We are pleased that Darryl has agreed to assist in an orderly transition and will provide his valuable guidance in the process. He remains dedicated to the success of the team he worked so hard to build”.
I think that a lot of what King says is true, but the part that Sutter failed to do was manage the team to be a true contender. On paper, the Flames should be a contender, but in reality, they were not. It’s relatively easy to put a “paper contending” team together by promising everyone more money than they are worth and giving them no-trade clauses in their contracts. But it is very difficult to lead a team and create a winning culture that makes it truly a contender on the ice.
Darryl Sutter needs to be congratulated for a few good moves, including getting a gritty Flames team to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004, but his legacy will show more of his shortcomings than his successes. By giving away too many draft picks and signing the wrong players to big, long-term contracts, Sutter has condemned the Flames to mid-level mediocrity for years to come. I’ll be surprised (though very happy) if they actually manage to win a cup before 2015. The Sutter-built team of mid-level talent should ensure that the Flames either scrape into the playoffs or just barely miss them for long enough to not get any serious young talent in the draft.
So Flames fans, what do you think?