CALGARY – Change is coming on a Calgary Flames team built to go deep into the playoffs, but didn’t.
Head coach Mike Keenan has one year remaining on a three-year contract with the club. His future with the team is unclear because more was expected of a club that spent right up to the US$56.7 million salary cap to create a Stanley Cup contender, yet exited in the first round for the fourth straight year.
“You know changes are forthcoming,” captain Jarome Iginla said following Monday’s 4-1 loss to Chicago in Game 6. “It’s always tough to take at the end of the year when you don’t win your last game and you don’t move on from the first round.
“I’m not sure what their plan is but as players here, we know we were given every opportunity and we didn’t get it done.”
The Flames will clean out their lockers and conduct season-ending medical testing Wednesday.
The main argument against a Keenan dismissal was he had no control over a rash of injuries that began in February, when they were leading the Northwest Division, and continued into the playoffs.
Defenceman Mark Giordano underwent season-ending shoulder surgery Feb. 23. Winger Rene Bourque suffered a high ankle sprain Feb. 19 that both sidelined him for the last 24 games of the regular season and limited his effectiveness in the playoffs.
Second-line centre Daymond Langkow missed 10 games with an injured left hand suffered Feb. 17. He took a slapshot off his right hand in the fourth game of the playoffs and couldn’t shoot the puck.
Those injuries in February contributed to the erosion of what had been a 13-point cushion at the top of the division in January. That drop ultimately cost Calgary home-ice advantage for the playoffs.
The Flames’ top three defencemen were either missing or injured in the post-season, which severely compromised their ability to hold back the speedy Blackhawks.
Robyn Regehr (knee) did not appear. Dion Phaneuf played his usual big minutes, but wasn’t fully functional because he played with broken ribs and was scratched from the lineup Monday after a hard check in Game 6. Cory Sarich played on a fractured foot.
But Iginla said during the season this was the deepest the Flames had ever been during his 11-year tenure. The depth Calgary paid so much money for to cover off shortfalls down the stretch and into the playoffs did not show itself in the playoffs, particularly on offence.
Mike Cammalleri was acquired from Los Angeles last year at the draft to draw pressure away from Iginla. He had a career-best 39 goals during the regular season, but just one in six playoff games.
Cammalleri also scored a team-leading 19 power-play goals during the regular season, but had none in the playoffs. Calgary went 2-for-18 on the power play.
“It feels like a lot of hard work through a season can end pretty quick,” Cammalleri said after the game. “It’s definitely a lesson to be learned. I just wish we were still playing, that’s for sure.”
Centre Olli Jokinen ran hot and cold after the Flames acquired the Finn at the March 3 trade deadline to be their first-line centre alongside Iginla. He scored eight goals in his first six games as a Flame, but didn’t score again until Game 4 of the playoffs.
The 30-year-old played in the post-season for the first time in his career with Calgary. Jokinen was impact player in Games 3 and 4, with two goals and an assist in the latter, but didn’t produce in any other post-season game.
“This is going to be the longest summer ever,” Jokinen said.
He has one year remaining on a contract that will pay him $5.25 million next season.
Todd Bertuzzi, headed for free agency, had one playoff goal and it was Calgary’s last after Chicago had taken a 3-0 lead in Game 6. He also had one assist. The 34-year-old had 15 goals and 29 assists during the regular season, but was also minus-13 over those 66 games.
Iginla scored three times, including one empty-netter and had one assist against Chicago. He took a share of the blame for Calgary’s post-season fizzle.
“This is the hardest one and I definitely feel a big responsibility and a part of it for not helping us get it done,” he said.
Calgary’s core, or Big Four, of Iginla, Regehr, Phaneuf and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff are locked up in long-term contracts.
The Flames will likely have movement on the back end, however, as Anders Erikkson, who spent the regular season in the AHL, but was paid his NHL salary, Adrian Aucoin and Jordan Leopold, also acquired at the trade deadline, will all be UFA’s. Rhett Warrener spent all season on the injured list and his contract has run out.
Backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney and forwards David Moss, Jamie Lundmark and Andre Roy are also up for free agency. The 27-year-old Moss had a solid 20-goal year and is worth re-signing, although he will likely want a substantial raise on his $575,000 salary.