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What's Next for the Flames?

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1 What's Next for the Flames? on Thu Jun 04, 2009 6:53 am

davetherave

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The Calgary Flames have been one of Canada's hopes for the Stanley Cup since their move from Atlanta in 1980 and their Cup win in 1989. Known for a robust style of play, the Flames have continued to burnish that image. Captain Jarome Iginla is seen as being not only of the best players in the game, but one of its true warriors.

However, the reality is that the Flames have less than fiery in the playoffs in recent years, being bounced in the Quarterfinals in the past four seasons.

So, now what?

Yahoo Sports' team profile surveys the landscape:

Inside Shots: Calgary Flames Team Report
Yahoo Sports, June 3, 2009

It took longer than expected, almost to the point where Flames fans were starting to think Mike Keenan’s stint as head coach would stretch into a third season.

But the axe finally fell and Keenan, after two seasons that ended in first-round playoff ousters, was fired.

There is no rush to find Keenan’s replacement, said general manager Darryl Sutter. He said the soft deadline he’s staring at is the NHL draft in late June.

It’s widely expected Sutter himself will step back behind the bench after three seasons spent solely in the GM’s chair. It makes sense.

Sutter, who coached the club for 2 1/2 seasons—two while also holding down the GM role—was behind the bench when the team made it all the way to the 2004 Stanley Cup final. He also helped guide the Flames to the Northwest Division’s regular-season title in the 2005-06 season, but at that point he kicked himself upstairs because he decided he couldn’t devote enough time to both jobs.

What’s the difference now? For starters, the Flames have their core players in place for the next few seasons, so the GM duties mainly consist of finding and moving around the supporting cast.

Plus, it’s become evident the Flames’ leadership group needs the man with the hammer on them on a daily basis.

Under Jim Playfair, a rookie head coach, as well as Keenan, the defensive discipline instilled by Sutter when he was coaching dissipated—to the point the team that was the league’s stingiest club in 2005-06 was 23rd in goals against this season.

Season Highlight: A mid-November thrashing at the hands of the San Jose Sharks sparked a turnaround. For 2 1/2 months, the Flames were among the best teams in the league, with a 21-6-3 run. They were strong defensively, received balanced scoring and were outstanding on their special teams.

Turning Point: Two wins over Detroit and another over Dallas in a five-game stretch in mid-March made it appear that the Flames were going to pull out of their doldrums. However, back-to-back shutout losses at Pittsburgh and Columbus began a final skid to the end of the regular season. As the injuries and losses piled up, they eventually lost hold of the Northwest Division title and didn’t recover.

Notes, Quotes

Mike Keenan wasn’t the only coach fired. Associate coach Jim Playfair and assistants Rich Preston, Rob Cookson and David Marcoux were all let go after their contracts expired. GM Darryl Sutter said he intends to let the new head coach—be it himself or somebody else—built his own staff. It’s a good move, because the team needs some new and fresh ideas in the future.

Calgary’s newly moved AHL affiliate—which will play in Abbotsford, B.C., next season upon leaving Moline, Ill.,—will be called the Heat. No word whether the team’s sweaters will be a variation of the current Flames jersey but incorporating the Flaming “A” from the franchise’s days in Atlanta.

Quote To Note: “Right now, I’m the best one. If I find out at the end of the search that I’m the best candidate, then I am the coach. I can do it, easy.” —GM Darryl Sutter on his initial thoughts on candidates to be the new head coach.

Roster Report

Most Valuable Player: LW
Rene Bourque played in only 58 games but in that time scored a career-best 21 goals and was a plus-18. None of his goals were on the power play, which gave the Flames the much needed secondary scoring, and was a top penalty killer. When he was hurt, it was the beginning of the team’s fall.

Most Disappointing Player: A year ago, D
Dion Phaneuf was runner-up for the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman. This season, he failed to come close to expectations. His goal (11) and point (47) totals were a career worst. Phaneuf was also a minus-11. The defenseman is only 24 years old, so it’s not time to give up on him, but he needs a bounce-back season.

Free Agent Focus: The biggest name to likely leave is leading goal-scorer
Michael Cammalleri, but the Flames are looking at a retooled defense corps next season. Adrian Aucoin, Jordan Leopold, Anders Eriksson and Rhett Warrener are all expected to leave. Young blueliner Adam Pardy is an unrestricted free agent but is likely to be re-signed.

The Flames have a handful of other forwards—
Todd Bertuzzi, Andre Roy and Jamie Lundmark—likely to walk, although it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see Lundmark stay in the fold, and even Bertuzzi if he’s willing to remain with a short-term deal and low enough salary.

Player News:

RW
Jarome Iginla appears focused on having a strong bounce-back season. Despite a solid year in which the Flames captain scored 35 goals and finished with 89 points, he was inconsistent offensively and below his standards defensively.

“I looked at the stats. I didn’t know this, but I think there (were) 36 or 37 games I didn’t have a point this season. That’s just not consistent enough. It was good I was able to get what I did in the other games, but I have to work on being consistent because it would help the team a lot.”

D
Robyn Regehr came out swinging when Mike Keenan was fired as head coach, saying he believed the coach had to be let go because he didn’t preach a defensive game enough. Regehr even went on to say Keenan’s style was outdated, pointing out his success had come in the 1980s and early 1990s. “Probably the biggest issue we’re dealing with right now is philosophies,” Regehr said. “(Keenan’s) a coach who had most of his success in the ’80s when the strategy was so much different. I think a lot of coaches from that time, the game has sort of moved past them. I think that was holding us back as a team.”

C Greg Nemisz, Calgary’s 2008 first-round draft choice, was part of the 2009 Memorial Cup winning Windsor Spitfires. The Spitfires late last season lost Mickey Renaud, a Flames draft choice, when he died of a heart ailment, and rebounded to win the Ontario Hockey League championship and then regrouped after losing their first two games at the Memorial Cup tournament to beat the three other squads in succession. Nemisz and the Spitfires beat a Kelowna Rockets team that featured Flames 2007 first-round draft choice
Mikael Backlund.

Medical Watch:

D Dion Phaneuf was rumored to be dealing with hip problems also season, back problems late in the season and then a cracked rib/sternum and separated shoulder in the playoffs. He said a couple of months of rest is all he needs.

D Robyn Regehr was planned to resume skating once the second round began, in the hopes he’d be back in action within a week from a strained knee ligament. He insisted it’s not torn and will be fine within a couple of months.


---

Are changes coming to Calgary? Will 2009-10 be a year where the Flames sizzle, or fizzle? What do they need to stoke the fire and quench their Stanley Cup desire?

Over to you, GM Hockey Members...



Last edited by davetherave on Tue Jul 28, 2009 7:58 pm; edited 4 times in total

2 Re: What's Next for the Flames? on Thu Jun 04, 2009 8:04 am

Cap'n Clutch

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I think Darryl Sutter's window is closing up and he could be on the chopping block soon. With a team that has Iginla, Regier, Phaneuf, Kipprosoff etc... they should be contenders. This is a results driven business and Darryl ain't gettin' it done.


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3 Re: What's Next for the Flames? on Thu Jun 04, 2009 8:25 am

shabbs

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I had high hopes for them after their trade deadline moves... Keenan's style wore thin pretty quickly... could be a very different looking D next season.

4 Re: What's Next for the Flames? on Thu Jun 04, 2009 10:28 am

PTFlea

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Absosmurfly nothing's next for the Flames. Kipper, Phaneuf, Iginla - they all munch up massive $$s. Add in Langkow, Jokinen (backfire!), Sarich, Vandermeer and Regher (awesome) and you haven't got a pot to pee in.

Good luck. No Cup for you.

5 Re: What's Next for the Flames? on Thu Jun 04, 2009 10:30 am

SeawaySensFan

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shabbs wrote:I had high hopes for them after their trade deadline moves... Keenan's style wore thin pretty quickly... could be a very different looking D next season.

I still think those deadline moves can work. Next year.

New coach, less injuries, better chances.

6 Re: What's Next for the Flames? on Thu Jun 04, 2009 11:17 am

davetherave

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The view from Calgary:

SUTTER AWAITS SUTTER?
Timeline for GM's coaching choice likely hinges on brother's status

Randy Sportak, Calgary Sun/June 3, 2009

It's now been more than one week since Darryl Sutter's non-announcement.
Remember that one? It was his four-days-after-the-fact explanation about why Mike Keenan was fired as head coach and his proclamation he'll take the job unless he can find somebody better.

The silence has been deafening.

So have the rumours.

Even amidst the Stanley Cup final and with the Calgary Stampeders -- the defending Grey Cup champions -- about to open camp, tongues wagging over a double-double in this city are wondering when Sutter will make his decision over a new bench boss.

It could be today or tomorrow.

It could be -- as he said during the press conference -- around the time the NHL Entry Draft is held, June 26-27.

Still, it makes sense the wait is happening for a reason.

There hasn't been a concrete decision from Brent Sutter as to whether he'll return for one more season with the New Jersey Devils -- at least, not that we know.

Since the Flames wouldn't have to provide compensation if Brent leaves the Devils and joins the Flames, as per the NHL bylaws, it very well could be a case of waiting for all that to shake down.

(That's not to say the Devils wouldn't pay Brent with the stipulation he can't coach until his contract is completed, although it wouldn't be financially prudent to make those kind of demands of a coach who simply doesn't want to be there because it means so much time away from his family.)

Or, it could be a case Darryl Sutter's call for applicants has found more and better candidates than he expected to hear from.

Who knows? Maybe he's waiting for Scott Arniel's Manitoba Moose to finally end their season. Or somebody from the NHL in the same boat, like Brad McCrimmon in Detroit?

Or maybe now that Joe Nieuwendyk has taken over the GM duties in Dallas, the possibility exists Dave Tippett will be available? Hey, it's happened before that a new GM comes in and lets go a better coach simply to have 'his guy.'

Or maybe Sutter is still trying to figure out who'll be on his coaching staff -- Ryan McGill? Dave Lowry? -- and the contracts are in the finishing stages so we'll find out in the next day or two. (One hot rumour making the rounds has tomorrow being decision day for the Flames.)

Either way, expect it to happen sooner rather than later now that the calendar has flipped to June.

With the draft just around the corner and the free-agency period soon after, Sutter will want his ducks in a row well before he and the rest of the brass head to Montreal for the draft.

Free agency won't be overly taxing for Sutter, but he does have tough decisions to make with the likes of Michael Cammalleri and Todd Bertuzzi.

As much as Cammalleri wants to stay here and the Flames would love to keep him in the fold, it's not likely to happen unless a high-salaried player is sent elsewhere -- and all of those in that boat seem to have no-trade clauses.

Meanwhile, Bertuzzi would love to stay and -- for the right price -- probably will, while the likes of Adrian Aucoin, Jordan Leopold and Andre Roy are pretty much gone.

As well as Sutter has been able to juggle all the balls simultaneously in the past, he still prefers to strike items off his to-do list in order.

At the top of that list is deciding who'll be the coach.

It's just a matter of time before he finally breaks the silence.

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA

7 Re: What's Next for the Flames? on Thu Jun 04, 2009 12:11 pm

Cap'n Clutch

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IF this thing drags out much longer you'd have to think he's going to take over as coach at least for this season.


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8 Re: What's Next for the Flames? on Thu Jun 04, 2009 4:41 pm

davetherave

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The Flames' defensive issues and the over-reliance on Kiprusoff were exposed in the SCPs...the question is, what does Darryl Sutter the GM do to help Darryl Sutter the coach...or does he make this a brother act?

And could the Flames--with the improvement of teams like LA, and probably Dallas, find itself outside the already crowded field of teams fighting for playoff spots?

The West just gets tougher...

9 Re: What's Next for the Flames? on Sat Jun 06, 2009 9:23 am

davetherave

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Curtis Mac is back...per the Calgary Sun's Randy Sportak:

EXPECTING AN IN-CREASE
Flames fans will see more of McElhinney

Randy Sportak, The Calgary Sun, June 6, 2009

Curtis McElhinney will receive his opportunity.

Not a cursory chance, but a legitimate opportunity to prove himself to be a NHL goaltender with the Calgary Flames.

The two-year, one-way deal he signed with the Flames yesterday worth a little more than US$1 million, combined with GM Darryl Sutter saying recently No.-1 netminder Miikka Kiprusoff will play fewer games in the coming season, means

McElhinney will be counted upon to show he can play with regularity.
Which is both what the Flames need and what the 26-year-old netminder wanted after a season of being used mainly in games on the second half of back-to-back nights on the road.

"If I honestly believed I would play just five starts and mop-up another five to 10 games, I probably wouldn't be here," McElhinney said. "It was made clear we need to give that guy (Kiprusoff) a little more rest and I'm here for a reason. I know I'm capable of playing, that's for sure.

"Whether that will be 10 to 15 games, it's going to be substantially more than I have in the past year and a half, and I need that experience. That's what I'm looking for, too."

Kiprusoff insisted the heavy workload he's experienced the past couple of seasons was not a factor come playoff time, and now-departed head coach Mike Keenan insisted he only played Kiprusoff that often because the netminder wanted it that way.

But it was to the detriment of the team and McElhinney's development and will change this coming season.

Sutter said as much at the end of the season and backed it up by inking McElhinney -- despite a 1-7-1 record with a 3.59 goals-against average and .889 save percentage -- to a pact which all but guarantees him a bigger role.

To think some figured the 4-1 win over Edmonton to end the regular season was the last we'd see of McElhinney in Calgary. Part of that was the fact he struggled when given a chance, and a bigger factor being how poorly the team played in front of him.

However, the Calgary product was told he still remained in the team's plans -- great news for him, wife Ashleigh and their three-and-a-half-month-old son Trenten.

"I had a good chat with Darryl when the season ended, and he made it very clear to me they were still interested and would like to give me an opportunity," McElhinney said. "Two years, I'm a little surprised by that, figuring it would be a one-year deal, but we're really happy and I really believe the opportunity is still there, and that's the main thing."

Unless McElhinney falls flat on his face, it means the Flames are not going to be in the market for a "proven" backup netminder.

It's a vote of confidence for a goalie who has just one career NHL victory to his name.

This past season, McElhinney saw action in 14 games but received only six starts, pretty much one per month.

Sutter said he expects the backup netminder to start about 15 games.

"You start out the year and look at the schedule and think, 'Your backup is going to play all your back-to-back games.' Well, that's not necessarily the best way to go about it," McElhinney said. "It may look good on paper, but you don't know what will happen with your starting goalie at the beginning of the year.

"Maybe he's on a roll, and you want to play him in back-to-back games. Maybe he needs a couple of games off during a week. You need somebody in a position who can make the decision to give him a night off, judge how he's feeling, and also judge the backup goalie, whether it's in practice or in limited playing time.

"We'll see what happens, but I'm certainly confident there will be quite a few more games than there has been the last while."

Now, McElhinney has to make the most of the chance.

But at least he'll finally receive it.

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA



10 Re: What's Next for the Flames? on Tue Jun 09, 2009 7:13 am

wprager

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TSN is reporting that Brent Sutter set to announce he is stepping down as head coach of the Devils.

http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=281325

11 Re: What's Next for the Flames? on Fri Jun 12, 2009 6:40 pm

davetherave

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From The Herald, thoughts on the Flames' next coach and why Heatley doesn't light their fire in Calgary...
Good move, bad move
Unemployed coach Dave Tippett would be a good fit with Flames, disgruntled trade-seeking scorer Dany Heatley would not

George Johnson, The Calgary Herald, June 12, 2009

Dave Tippett is available. Dany Heatley, too.

Only one of them makes a lick of sense for the Calgary Flames.

While the Flames' head-coaching saga remains murky for the moment, and the job is almost certainly Brent Sutter's for the taking if technical details can be ironed out in New Jersey, Tippett's firing by the Dallas Stars on Thursday adds an intriguing name to the cauldron of conjecture.

He fits all requirements here.

This is someone who knows Calgary well, having spent the 1983-84 season as a checking centreman for Dave King's undermanned, underloved, box-lunch national side, before turning pro in Hartford. He also wrote his masters thesis on the art of the defensive side of the game, an area that Flames general manager Darryl
Sutter publicly admitted has gone to seed down at the Pengrowth Saddledome, and one of the main reasons Mike Keenan was drop-kicked through the back door following another first-round playoff exit.

Doesn't hurt that Tippett's a standup western Canadian guy, either, from fine Moosomin, Sask., stock. And those who know him from Cowboys-mad Dallas say that after the years spent adrift in the hockey wilderness of Texas, he'd absolutely love to coach in Canada, where the game is all.

He's smart, quiet, and has a proven track record (steering the Stars to the conference final a year ago before an appalling spate of injuries sabotaged their playoff challenge this season).

The final call on what's going to happen behind the bench at the Dome seems to be down to Brent Sutter, and the Devils. But should Jersey GM Lou Lamoriello officially withhold permission for the Flames to talk to Sutter, looking for some sort of compensation in return for a valued employee still under contract, or if Sutter himself is just peachy with life running his ranch and the Red Deer Rebels for the moment, or is understandably wary about the dynamics of coming to work for his brother, there's a viable option out there.

Darryl Sutter, be sure, would rather be trapped overnight in an elevator with a gang of mealy mouthed media mongrels than coach again, his public stance to the contrary.

Complicating the issue, Tippett is far from a Band-Aid fix for a year, pinch-hitting while Brent Sutter decompresses an hour and half up the road or waits for his Jersey deal to elapse. He'd demand, and deserve, commitment, and will doubtless be pursued by other teams in search of fresh leadership.

So if it's only a short relief pitcher the Flames are after, then Darryl Sutter--however unwilling--makes far more sense. But if they are left to actively search for a long-haul coach other than Brent Sutter, Dave Tippett more than fits the criteria being laid out.

Dany Heatley is another matter entirely.

The man's a talent, indisputably. But to skim even a sampling of the near-universal vitriolic reaction from Ottawa over the past 48 hours, he's also radioactive.

Why, pray tell, would Darryl Sutter deal, as has been widely(and wildly) speculated, anything so valuable as a front-line defenceman--Dion Phaneuf or Robyn Regehr, say--for a one-dimensional offensive player? No matter how prolific? Phaneuf's overall game certainly regressed last season, but at only 24, with the right man in control of the lash, he could yet be whipped into the blueline beast everyone had predicted as recently as two years ago.

At 28, Heatley's probably past rehabilitation.

The rights to soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Mike Cammalleri? The betting here is the Cammy Man has his sights set on a destination infinitely larger than our nation's capital, so that doesn't figure. He still goes free July 1. So squelch that rumour.

Outside of the place of birth on the certificate, there's really no earthly reason to connect Heatley with the Flames at all. Sutter is preaching 'we.' Heatley, acting so high-hat, is proving to be all 'me.' Sutter has pinpointed Job 1 as cleaning up Calgary's end of the rink. Heatley is only interested in the end opposite to that one.

Significantly, his current, irreversible rift with the Sens has only strengthened the critics' perception of him. When challenged to be accountable for his ice time by incoming coach Cory Clouston, Heatley, who must have started taking improvisational freedom as a birthright, bridled. Rather than do the manly thing and accept Clouston's stance as a challenge, coming back to camp with a single-minded desire to prove him wrong, he's reportedly gone all pouty, balled his fists up and jammed them into his mouth, demanding a trade.

Clouston also brazenly 'demoted' him to the second power-play unit.

Well, boo hoo.

Doesn't seem as if The Heater needs a change of scenery so much as a change of nappy.

There doesn't seem any way back into Ottawa now for Heatley. The Senators have to deal him. Perhaps to a languishing team looking to land a marquee name and stir stagnant interest; to a place where he needn't adhere to stringent guidelines. But he does come lugging a selfish rep and a big ticket--$37.5 million owed over the next five years.

With the Stanley Cup final sure to be wrapped up tonight, everyone's focus will immediately turn to the draft, the free-agent deadline of July 1, and improving their teams --both on the ice and behind the bench.

Dave Tippett is available. Dany Heatley, too.

And from a Calgary Flames' perspective, only one of them makes a lick of sense.

gjohnson@theherald Canwest.Com

12 Re: What's Next for the Flames? on Tue Jun 23, 2009 8:29 am

davetherave

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EJ Hradek and Robert Vollman send up a few smoke signals as to the Flames' future.

FIERY FORWARD COULD IGNITE FLAMES
Calgary needs to rekindle relationships with blue-collar types
EJ Hradek, Robert Vollman/ESPN INSIDER, June 22, 2009

Plugging Holes Calgary Flames]Calgary Flames


The Hole: Defensive forward

Some fans were quick to blame
Miikka Kiprusoff for the dramatic rise in goals against this past season, but he saw 29.3 shots per game, more than 10 percent more than his Vezina-winning season in 2005-06. The truth is that the Flames were very poor defensively, with a GVT of minus-11.4, dead last among playoff teams. Their top forwards like Mike Cammalleri, Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen, Daymond Langkow and Todd Bertuzzi combined for just a 3.2 defensive GVT. The Flames need more players like Craig Conroy, who was 5.8 all by himself.

The Fix: Sign F
Chad LaRose (unrestricted free agent, Hurricanes)


While there are better available defensive forwards than LaRose, there certainly aren't any who can fit into Calgary's limited cap space. It makes sense to invest in a forward given that the Flames already have sunk more money in their defensemen than any other NHL team except Florida. LaRose is tough and can play a system, hopefully helping the Flames recapture what made them great five years ago. His defensive GVT was 3.2 this past season, and his playoff performance suggested he is poised for a breakthrough. He's one of the better values among unrestricted free agents and would be a great fit in Calgary.

E.J.'s Take: LaRose would be an excellent fit for the Flames, who have gradually drifted away from this type of player (competitive, fast, physical) since they made a trip to the Cup finals in 2004.

Unfortunately, I doubt that LaRose will be available. I believe he'll re-sign with the Hurricanes before hitting the open market.

And, even if LaRose does test the market, the Flames won't have much cap room to make it work. The Flames likely will have to plug their holes through a trade or from within.

Robert Vollman is a writer for Puck Prospectus. E.J. Hradek is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine

Note: A mainstay of Puck Prospectus's metrics is "Goals Versus Threshold" (GVT). The stat blends an array of offensive and defensive figures to measure the value, in terms of goals, a player contributes above what the marginal player would over the course of the season. A marginal player is one that could be replaced with a player of equivalent skill, e.g. from the minors. For instance, Evgeni Malkin had an offensive GVT of +18.9, a defensive GVT of +4.5 and a total GVT of +23.4 for the 2008-9 regular season, meaning that Malkin was worth 23.4 goals more than a marginal player over the course of the season, or worth about 0.3 additional goals per game. In the team context, GVT refers to performance above an NHL average team. For the regular season, the Detroit Red Wings had a +30.8 offensive GVT, a +15.1 defensive GVT, a -21.5 goaltending GVT, for a +24.4 total GVT. Therefore, at even strength, Detroit was 24.4 goals better than the average team.

13 Re: What's Next for the Flames? on Fri Jun 26, 2009 10:15 pm

davetherave

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6'2, 190...another big young Swede, who bolsters the blueline as The Sutter Clan seeks to re-ignite the Flames.

14 Re: What's Next for the Flames? on Fri Jun 26, 2009 10:17 pm

Guest


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Great pick.

15 Re: What's Next for the Flames? on Thu Jul 02, 2009 6:07 am

davetherave

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With Bouwmeester, Regehr and Phaneuf...the Flames begin the Sutter Brothers era with an impressive blueline.

A view from Calgary of JayBo's arrival, from one of Bouwmeester's former coaches...written just before the signing of the deal:

CALGARY PERFECT FOR STRONG, SILENT BOUWMEESTER, SAYS FORMER COACH
Scott Cruikshank, The Calgary Herald, June 30, 2009

CALGARY - This scenario, according to Rick Carriere, is worth a chuckle or two.

Sitting down for contract "talks" Monday afternoon in Edmonton were two famously tight-lipped parties--Calgary Flames boss Darryl Sutter (notorious for being a gruff dude of few words) and Jay Bouwmeester (a polite young fellow with a well-known shy streak).

"Imagine the conversation," Carriere--a family friend of the Bouwmeesters, a current coworker of Jay's father Dan, a former coach of Jay with the Medicine Hat Tigers--was saying.

He then laughs.
"It wouldn't be much. 'Yup' . . . 'Yup' . . . 'Yup' . . . 'OK' . . . 'What do you think?' . . . 'Yup' . . . 'Don't know' . . . 'Yup.' "

Of course, the Flames and their fans would dearly love to hear just one word from Bouwmeester-- yes.

Carriere feels it's possible.

Despite teaching with Dan at Vimy Ridge Academy in Edmonton, he possesses no inside information-- "I haven't seen his dad yet. That's the first thing I'm going to do--run in there and see what Jay is up to"--but he can envision the year's ripest free-agent plum happily coming to terms with the Flames.

"Knowing that he wasn't going to be back in Florida, you're waiting for the shoe to drop," he says. "Saturday, I was out shingling at a buddy's place and I just happened to catch the news. And I thought, 'Geez, wouldn't that be something if he ended up playing in Calgary?' Because Calgary would be a great place for him to play.

"He wants to play somewhere where hockey is more of a front-page news item . . . rather than buried at the back of the sports section."

A one-time cog in the Tigers' hockey operations--coach from 1997 to 2000, general manager from 2000 to 2004--Carriere had the pleasure of dealing with a teenage Bouwmeester on a professional, as well as a personal, level.

In other words, he knows the lad.

"One thing about Jay--he's always had a quiet, level-headed disposition about him," says Carriere. "He doesn't get real emotional. He doesn't get wound up, one way or the other. There's a great even-keeledness about him. A real good demeanour. And he certainly doesn't talk out of turn.

"I remember I drove him to the (2002 Hershey Cup) all-star game in Red Deer and I thought, 'Ah, great, a chance to get caught up with Jay, to see how things are going.' I tell you, if I didn't ask question after question after question, there would have been no conversation because there was nothing coming back that would have led me into more conversation.

"But he's polite. Very respectful. Lots of time for everybody. Just a regular guy when you get him away from the rink. Awesome family. Mom. Dad. Sister. Great, great people. I've known Jay since he was a baby."

However, can Bouwmeester's reserved personality jibe with a hockey-mad market like Calgary? Where press responsibilities and fan requests arrive daily? Where the spotlight can be blinding?

"I think he'd do well," insists Carriere. "It's an area he's been doing some work on--his interaction with media. I'm sure he's very aware and conscious of that. He'll do just fine. The fact that there's other people like Jarome Iginla around . . . that's really going to help that, too. There's some top-end marquee guys there. Robyn Regehr's a levelheaded guy--Jay's no different than that. I don't hear Regehr talking anyone's ear off, either."

Besides, the Flames aren't a debate club.

Nor is bleating at reporters a priority.

And what Bouwmeester brings to a team is plenty. Endurance (top minutes per night in the NHL), durability (the full complement of 82 games in five of the past six seasons), savvy at both ends of the rink, and his calling card--that tremendous stride.

"You know what? He never drops his head at all--it's up all the time, on offence and defence --and his skating is phenomenal. Fun to watch," says Carriere. "He's able to log the minutes because he's so efficient.

"Because he was in Florida, he's probably a hidden gem. If he comes up here to Calgary, people will see him for what he is. Every year, you see him get more and more comfortable with taking the reins, with being the guy, and all that.

"He patterns himself after Bobby Orr--you couldn't ask for a better role model, on or off the ice."

Even though negotiations are ongoing (this article written before the deal was concluded--Ed.), Carriere admits that he's pictured Bouwmeester in a certain shade of red.

"I think the Flames have been so close to being so good the last couple years," says Carriere. "If they freakin' land Jay Bouwmeester? That's an unbelievable defence."

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