If the Calgary Flames’ season heads south in the next few months – or even treads water around the .500 level – then the franchise has little option other than to send captain Jarome Iginla south.
The fans may not appreciate that scenario and the managerial Sutter team would never acknowledge it is considering trading Iginla publicly, but that would be the only sound course of action is this becomes an old, floundering lineup in need of a facelift.
But if this does start to unfold over the next 40 games or so, it would be foolhardy for the team to hang on to its best – and most diminishing asset – on the off chance it can make a push for a playoff spot. I’d like to see one thing happen before it ever gets to that point in January. And it involves a fair amount of risk.
If the Flames can’t put together a decent run during their lengthy stretch of mostly road games, coach Brent Sutter should be dismissed in favor of a coach who’s more willing to play a free-wheeling, puckmoving style. Clearly the players are still resisting buying into Sutter’s defense-oriented scheme for more than a couple of periods at a time. He’s had almost 100 regular season games to stir the Kool-Aid and still his best players are not interested in drinking it.
What, you say, let the inmates run the asylum? Well, if it means salvaging the season and squeezing the best out of Iginla over his last few seasons of top-notch hockey, then why not?
Sutter’s kitty-bar-the-door style is admirable and I would have really loved to see it work, but it just doesn’t generate enough offence in today’s game. I know there are theorists out there who believe defense is the only way to win in the playoffs, but I think that’s changing. Pittsburgh and Chicago broke from tradition the past couple of years and this year teams such as Washington, Tampa Bay and Los Angeles have open-minded approaches.
Calgary doesn’t have the horses that most of the top-scoring teams in the league do, but it does have some players who have shown they can generate offense if and when the defense-shackles are taken off. Besides Iginla, players such as Olli Jokinen, Alex Tanguay, Brendan Morrison, Niklas Hagman, even Ales Kotalik, David Moss, Jay Bouwmeester, Ian White and Matt Stajan have scored at much higher paces at other times in their careers. Let them freestyle for a while, guys. Let’s see what happens.
The Flames have one of the highest-paid bluelines in the league and a top-flight goalie in Miikka Kiprusoff. An offensive system will ensure they’ll be earning their money in the defensive end. I think they’re up to that challenge.
Would this work? Maybe not against the best teams in the league, but for sure this would be a more exciting system to watch against middle-of-the-pack teams. And I think the players and fans would much rather be part of 5-4 victories over the Minnesotas and Phoenixs and Colorados than grind-it-out 2-1 losses.
This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.