You know it's playoff time when there's snow on the ground in Calgary and the Flames have been eliminated from contention for almost a week, as an alternative to awaiting their annual first-round bow-out at the hands of the Western Conference's flavour of the month. So, while other teams' fans exchange verbal blows and prepare for the first of many grueling playoff series, we're left to sift through the rubble of this season and attempt to find something worth salvaging. But alas--a glimmer of hope! Answers and truth and clarity and direction surely lie ahead in today's Ken King/Darryl Sutter press conference! Any of us who have listened to the pair's famous season's end pressers, or any pressers for that matter, knew that this likely wasn't the case--and, as usual, we were right. I'm really at a loss for words to describe what we all heard this afternoon; none of it was particularly unexpected--your typical, run of the mill load of management mumbo-jumbo bullshit--but the situation going into the off-season now appears more convoluted and, if possible, bleaker than ever for those of us who were holding out hope for significant change. With that in mind, here are a few points from today's presser:
- Sutter essentially blamed the team's failure to make the post-season on a poor home record, and not the fact that the they pulled up the rear in terms of goals for this season. The most ludicrous part of the whole hour was the GM's contention that goal scoring wasn't an issue. It took about five minutes for the "League parity/If we played in the Eastern Conference..." excuse to rear its ugly head.
- The plan for next season seems to be to bring up a few more young guys and keep the rest of the roster in tact, hoping for a resurgence from the likes of Iginla, Langkow, Bouwmeester, Stajan, and Hagman and praying that Kiprusoff has another Vezina-calibre season up his sleeve. Call me crazy, but wasn't that the plan going into this season as well? That worked out well, right?
- Sutter justifies the return of his trades by saying that the players acquired in his dealings ended up 3-4-5 in scoring. Those players are Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, and Ian White and all did the majority of their scoring while still wearing the Maple Leaf. He contends that the team is still young and fast enough to compete, and thinks that Jokinen is still a "really good player" and that the trade "wasn't based on how he played".
- It appears that Conroy likely will not be back, as Sutter doesn't think he has the potential to improve next season, which are probably the truest words he uttered over the course of the hour.
- Sutter all but admitted to much talked about "locker room issues" being part of the reason for the mid-season trades of Dion Phaneuf and Olli Jokinen, stating that there were "different personalities that don't always work," and that players needed to "want to play here," whatever that means. The closest he came to admitting he made a mistake was by saying that as a GM, he should have been monitoring the situation more closely.
- Darryl is very happy with the progress of the Heat and the Flames' junior prospects, although he can't seem to name any of them other than Backlund and Erixon. He did acknowledge that the team needs to work on drafting college players and that he will "work at obtaining draft picks." At the same time, he stated that he feels there is no need to move any more big contracts and that the struggles of his "core" players aren't an issue, so how he will go about acquiring those picks is beyond me.
- Believes that the coaching staff is solid, young, accomplished what he wanted them to (likely speaking in terms of defensive improvement) and will learn from this experience.
- Sutter claims that he's not looking at the off-season from a personnel standpoint, but trying to "reclaim" the team's "identity." Good Lord, I shudder to think what that means. [Insert name of latest Sutter Reclamation Project™ here]
- Ken King discussed the prospect of bringing in more staff to help Darryl in the hockey operations department and spent much of his time praising and/or defending Darryl while essentially guaranteeing the safety of his job despite any pending "review." The pair laughed when faced with a question pertaining to the terms of Sutter's contract and whether it disregarded any league regulations, confirming the belief that the GM will likely only ever leave the team on his own terms, when he sees fit. It seems apparent that ownership/management will never have the stones to fire him.
- Darryl doesn't want to put too much pressure on Backlund and Stajan and compromise the former's development by saddling them with the responsibility of Iginla's success.
- 97% of the Flames' season ticket holders have already renewed their subscriptions for next season as Ken King continues to preach the organization's dedication to entertainment value after the team scored only ninety-five goals on home ice this season. Business is a' booming.
Have at 'er.
Being that this is one of two days off before the playoffs begin (tomorrow will be occupied by the oh-so-compelling draft lottery), most of today's news consists of playoff previews--not especially relevant to fans of a tenth place team, unless you need advice on building your playoff fantasy team, to which I say you're asking the wrong gal, my draft is tomorrow and I need all the help I can get--so with that in mind, I present you with a selection of this Monday's news and notes.
TLP's season review is up a Flames Nation, and it's a must read
The Herald's hockey writers have compiled their Flames End-of-Season Report Card (Spoiler Alert: Darryl Sutter gets a D)
Domebeers offer their take on the season that was and more in The Week Ahead
The Sutter Brothers, or at least two of them, are apparently at odds [The Sun]
Abbotsford wrapped up the regular season last night with a 4-3 shootout victory over the Lake Erie Monsters and Mitch Wahl scored his first career AHL goal and added an assist. The Heat finished the season with a record of 38-29-5-7 and 90 points, and will kick off their first round playoff series against the Rochester Americans on Thursday. The Heat held a 3-1 edge over the Americans during regular season play. [Abbotsford Heat]
The Hitmen beat the Medicine Hat Tigers in game six of their second round playoff series, and will advance to play either the Saskatoon Blades or the Brandon Wheat Kings [Calgary Herald]
Does anyone else feel just a little bad for Olli Jokinen after the Rangers' playoff hopes died on his stick last night? I mean, the shootout is no way to decide who makes the playoffs and who doesn't, I think we're all in agreement there, and the dude has played 881 regular season games with only six playoff appearances, all with the Flames last season. Ouch. [Puck Daddy]
We've already seen the end of Keith Tkatchuk's career and possibly Mike Modano's this season, could Rod Brind'Amour be next? [The News & Observer]
Down Goes Brown offers advice for winning your playoff pool
Gabe examines the playoff goaltending and the concept of "hot goalies" in his series of posts leading up to the playoffs [Behind The Net]
Lastly, here's the video of today's press conference if you missed it or want to relive it for some incomprehensible reason. Bemoan the prospects of many more years of Darryl Sutter and the status quo and look forward to objectively watching playoff hockey in the comments.