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Flames Watch: Long road to recovery

I found it unusual Saturday when GM Darryl Sutter used a media outlet – Flames pay per view – to call out his “top guys” after dreadful road losses in Boston and New York.

Sutter typically discloses little to the media and is almost always crusty about it. That made his message even more profound in a stretch run that is oozing desperation.

Just what will it take for the GM and/or coach Brent Sutter to keep their jobs? It’s tough to imagine the axe not falling if the Flames fail to make the playoffs. But say they do qualify and lose in the first round, what happens in the off-season?

Insomuch as Flames players will determine the fate of their GM these next few weeks, in one way it’ll be a shame if Darryl Sutter is let go.

That’s because a rebuild will take a minimum of five years to bear any fruit. The team has less than $4 million in cap space next season and if Ian White signs as expected, that number will be down to about a million bucks.

So what’s a new GM to do at that point?

Would a new GM keep Brent Sutter behind the bench? That’s a possibility, though you’d think he’d want a fresh start.

A new GM could maintain the roster he inherited and try a new coach with a different approach. Experienced men such as Ken Hitchcock and Andy Murray are available.

A new GM could move or buy out some overpaid players – Daymond Langkow ($4.5 million), Ales Kotalik ($3 million), Cory Sarich ($3.6 million), Matt Stajan ($3.5 million), Steve Staios($2.7 million), David Moss ($1.3 million). With the cap room, the new GM could make his own moves to upgrade the roster.

If this fails to spark the team, the new GM could trade one of the so-called cornerstones by next year’s deadline to facilitate the rebuild. Let’s face it, if the Flames can’t win with regularity next season when Jarome Iginla is 33, Robyn Regehr 30 and Miikka Kiprusoff 34, they’d be better off trading them for building blocks and picks rather than watch their value deplete on a floundering team.

Sadly, the Flames don’t have a first round pick this year, nor more than a couple of skilled prospects in the system to expedite a re-load. That’s why firing the GM and blowing the whole thing up would be a five-plus year proposition.

This article also appeared in the Calgary Metro newspaper.

Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to You can find his blog each weekend.

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