Sutter slammed the door Wednesday on questions about head coach Jim Playfair and player contracts. The GM was more forthcoming on his team’s season in which the Flames posted a 43-29-10 record and lost in the first round of the playoffs.
“I’m not going to say we had a great year and I’m not going to say we had a bad year. I think it’s OK,” Sutter said during a news conference. “The philosophy of this organization since I came here is OK is not OK.”
The burning question in Calgary, even before the Flames lost in double overtime of Game 6 to Detroit on Sunday, was: had Playfair done a good enough job in his first year as head coach?
The man who chose Playfair to replace him behind the bench did not answer it.
“I’m not going to critique or give anybody accolades three days after,” Sutter said. “It’s kind of the norm for the media to single people out. That’s not a good practice to do publicly.”
Sutter said assessment of the coaching staff and scouts would happen next week.
“We’ll go through that whole evaluation period and not be satisfied with just saying we’re a playoff team,” he said.
Franchise player and captain Jarome Iginla and star goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff are both under contract for one more season. Iginla’s salary is $7 million US and Kiprusoff’s will be $3.6 million next season.
Iginla said Sutter told him that he would speak to Iginla’s agent Don Meehan “sooner rather than later” about a contract extension.
Sutter did not elaborate Wednesday.
“Don’t discuss contract extensions or business with me publicly,” Sutter said.
He felt finishing the regular season with 96 points for eighth in the Western Conference and scoring 40 more goals than the previous season were positive developments, adding he felt the Flames were better than an eighth-place team.
But Sutter also wanted to debunk the notion that scoring more goals was the answer for a team that had been the best defensively in the NHL when he coached them in 2005-06.
“Scoring more goals, which seemed to be the mantra of perhaps the media at this time last year, why (we) weren’t more successful is just a bunch of bullshit,” he said. “It’s still based on goals against and work ethic and commitment.
“That’s why our team didn’t have as many points in the regular season as last year.”
Calgary’s Achilles’ heel this season was giving up more goals against and more shots against, particularly on the road, Sutter said.
“If you’re a team that can only score, you’ll never make the playoffs. If you’re a team that can only defend, you’ll make it, but you can never get past the first round,” he said.
“If you’re a team that has the consummate player who can do both and understand that, you can go a long ways. We have that.”
As for off-season transactions, Sutter pointed out the Flames have 16 players under contract and added that league rules forbid him to talk about what he would do when free agency begins July 1.
“We have a very good hockey team that’s done really well,” he said. “If you look at what we have accomplished, it’s not about major changes and anything like that.
“It’s making sure we stay the course.”
Calgarians have faith in Sutter and for good reason. After seven straight years of missing the playoffs, Flames went all the way to the 2004 Stanley Cup final the season after he took over as head coach and general manager.
Sutter says it is wrong to compare these Flames to that team. The season-long lockout of 2004-05, the new collective bargaining agreement and new rules have changed the game dramatically.
“Speed, rules, neutral zone, all that has changed dramatically,” he said. “That (2004) team probably wouldn’t have been a playoff team. Honour it, but don’t live in it.”