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Calgary Flames

Flames Won’t Rebuild, But Sutter Firing Offers Fresh Start

After firing Darryl Sutter, for the first time in more than two decades, the Calgary Flames GM and coaching jobs are vacant at the same time.



Maybe, finally, the Calgary Flames franchise is going to get some of the timing right.

After firing head coach Darryl Sutter this morning, there’s an opportunity for an epic overhaul in attitude for the first time in more than two decades.

But what a way to walk into it.

Sutter’s two-year extension offered by ownership in the fall was set to kick in this summer. He’ll be paid a handsome $8 million over the next two years to tend to his ranch.

The inability to fire Sutter was reportedly a factor in former GM Brad Treliving deciding to walk away at the end of the most disappointing regular season in recent history. Despite multiple contract extensions offered to him, Treliving informed the club of his decision to leave before exit interviews with the players were conducted. That meant extra bodies in the room for those meetings — a key point to remember in how this all played out.

Newly promoted president of hockey operations Don Maloney sat in as the players voiced their concerns. Two weeks later, the coach is gone, and the Calgary Flames have a vacancy at GM and head coach at the same time for the first time since 2000.

In the end, maybe that’s what’s best for a club that refuses to rebuild — that philosophy is not one that will change even with this injection of new blood in the front office. It’s a mandate that comes from the very top.

Maloney did suggest that the refreshing of leadership would at least mean dropping some of the tactics Sutter employed. Like sticking with a fourth line full of older, veteran bangers and playing them regularly regardless of situation.

Jakob Pelletier was a healthy scratch down the stretch. Adam Ruzicka was on a milk carton. Even the grittier Walker Duehr was in the press box at times when the team seemed like it could use some energy during a late playoff push.

“We have some young people that need to get into our lineup, bring the speed and energy and enthusiasm you need during the course of an 82-game season,” Maloney admitted on Monday during his media availability.

The interim Flames GM said he debriefed with Sutter for two-and-a-half hours, trying to understand how the coach viewed the season, and what he did during its duration.

“Darryl is a very sharp man. He’s got a good hockey mind. I think in today’s world, he’s a firm coach, a hard coach, demanding coach,” Maloney said. “There’s a shelf life to that type of coach. Unfortunately, we felt his time expired with us.”

That’s where the disconnect on the whole thing rests. Why the franchise has failed to transition properly from one year to the next. You don’t give a coach with a shelf life a two-year extension after a summer that saw the most dramatic core player transplant in maybe the entire organization’s history. Yet that’s what happened in the fall.

Treliving didn’t accept his, wanting to see, perhaps, how this all played out.

But even ownership couldn’t ignore the noise after the Calgary Flames missed the playoffs for the second time in three years, in a way that was nothing short of dramatic all season long. Rumoured rifts between player and coach, player and player, coach and management popped up frequently. End-of-season interviews made it clear players wanted change.

Maloney said he didn’t want it to sound like the players were running things, but he also said their voices couldn’t be ignored.

“Players today want a voice and have a voice and you have to listen,” Maloney said. “They had some real observations on how in their minds we should move forward. It’s just one piece of the puzzle.”

The puzzle has many pieces remaining, with a new coach added to the list right below the need for a new GM.

But at least, for once, a brand new GM will get to pick his brand new coach.