CALGARY – The dust having settled from the previous day’s tremors, it was business as usual for the Calgary Flames on Wednesday.
Darryl Sutter had resigned as general manager and executive vice-president 24 hours earlier after serving eight years in the organization. Assistant GM Jay Feaster was upgraded to acting GM.
It was a major move for the organization, but the reality is the Flames (16-18-3) are still an older, expensive team trying to climb into playoff position in the Western Conference. That’s not going to change in the immediate future.
Captain Jarome Iginla is one of several Flames with no-trade or no-movement clauses. Feaster couldn’t move an elite player quickly even if he wanted to. The acting GM is also limited by a roster that has zero room under the NHL’s salary cap of US$59.4 million.
So while the Flames felt the departure of the man who either traded for, drafted or signed them, the short-term impact on the team and its makeup is negligible.
“Nothing really changes for us,” defenceman Cory Sarich said. “You think about it, you digest it. As far as what we’re doing on the ice, it doesn’t really affect much. Same old, same old.”
Iginla’s name has come up in trade rumours constantly since he assisted on Sidney Crosby’s goal to win the Olympic gold medal in February. He struggled to score upon his return to Calgary and the Flames missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003.
But he and prominent Flames such as Sarich and defencemen Robyn Regehr and Jay Bouwmeester, goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff and forward Rene Bourque would have to waive their no-trade clauses in order to be moved to another club.
“Everybody isn’t walking on eggshells and staring at each other wondering,” Iginla said. “I’m fortunate I’m an older player. It’s not like it would be a surprise move and I could be traded tomorrow. There is a process, so that worry is not there.
“When you’re younger, if you don’t have a no-move, or no-trade, it can be very abrupt and I guess you worry about that more.”
The person most affected personally by Sutter’s departure was Flames head coach Brent Sutter. Brent said following Wednesday’s practice he hadn’t spoken to his brother since the previous day’s announcement.
“It was obviously an emotional day yesterday,” Brent said. “I haven’t had a chance to hook up with him yet. One thing we’ve always been able to do is separate the business (from) personal stuff.
“Yesterday was a tough day. You wake up this morning and start forging ahead, moving ahead.”
The Flames rank in the bottom third of the NHL in special teams. Calgary has the worst road record in the Western Conference (6-11-3). Brent spent much of Wednesday’s practice working on the power play and penalty kill.
Sarich played four seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning while Feaster was the GM there. They won a Stanley Cup in 2004, beating Calgary in seven games in the final. The Saskatoon native is interested to see what Feaster will do with the Flames.
“Trade deadline days, big significant days, there weren’t a lot of big moves,” Sarich recalled. “It was a lot of little pieces to the puzzle and working with what he had already.
“I wouldn’t expect big surprises, but you never know. He’s going to do what he has to do to get the team to where he wants it to be.”
Sarich added that Feaster allows himself and his coaches and players to revel in victories.
“He gets pretty enthusiastic when you’re winning,” Sarich said. “I’ve seen some pretty big celebrations in the dressing room. I hope the guys get to witness a few of those around here.”
Darryl Sutter’s stern and serious professional demeanour led to speculation the players didn’t have fun under him.
“I don’t think it’s been that bad around here,” Sarich said. “Yeah, it could be a little more loose in here. I think at times it’s been a little bit tense and I don’t think hockey players are any good when they’re uptight.”
While there were no shortage of smiles and chatter on and off the ice Wednesday, that joviality could also be attributed to the Flames’ first two-game winning streak since October.
Calgary will try to extend its modest streak to a season-high three games Friday versus the Colorado Avalanche. Entering Wednesday’s games, the Flames were seven points out of a playoff spot.
“We think we’re going to get on a run,” Iginla said. “We think we have started it.”