After a lengthy stretch with virtually nothing to report in terms of Flames news following the conclusion of their season, team president and CEO Ken King confirmed yesterday what most of us had already been speculating for weeks: Darryl Sutter's job as general manager of the Calgary Flames is safe, and was never really in jeopardy to begin with.
"We weren’t vascillating on whether or not to keep Darryl. It wasn’t a question of, ‘If this happens, he’ll stay,’ or ‘If this happens, he won’t.’ We’ve gone through our evalutions. We’ve made decisions. What we want to do here is put an end to the death watch; to other people’s speculation. We move forward.’’
"The minimum standard here is making the playoffs. We didn’t achieve that. That is, in our minds, a partial setback. We have to do better.’’
(If the team you ultimately preside over fails to meet your minimum standard by not securing a berth in hockey's second season, a standard that twenty-nine other NHL teams aim to achieve annually, than I would certainly consider missing the playoffs more than a "partial setback," but that's besides the point.)
King also confirmed that the organization is looking to provide Darryl with assistance in the hockey operations department, and that Flames fans should expect one or two hirings shortly to fill the position of assistant general manager which has been open since 2005-06, with Hitmen GM Kelly Kisio still believed to be a leading candidate for the job. This appears to be the only semblance of acknowledgement that the current set-up isn't working that we will receive, however.
While King makes no specific reference to Iginla in his dialogue with the Herald, Johnson claims that the Flames have "let him know, in no uncertain terms, that he is once again a major part of their plans in 2010-11." King also stressed that a "more open line of communication" be present between the team and the local media from this point on, as Sutter's attitude towards the press in recent years has reflected poorly not only upon himself, but the entire organization at times.
Once again, Darryl Sutter has been given a chance to clean up his own mess. Past results have been varied, and one would have to guess that his margin for error is razor-thin. The obstacles he faces are entirely of his own creation--no picks in the first two rounds of this year's draft, an aging core accompanied by hefty contracts, an overwhelming need for an offensive "difference-maker" with limited funds available, and a lack of NHL-ready prospects prepared to step into the lineup--and once again, his abilities to overcome them will be put to the test.
Of course, we can predict and speculate to our collective heart's content, but whether Darryl will stay true to the Sutter Equilibrium, sink below it, or rise above it remains to be seen. For the sake of my sanity and that of those around me, I hope against all hope for the latter.