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Sutter: 'Keenan an elite coach'

by Mike Board / Calgary Flames

Notes, quotes and anecdotes as the Calgary Flames gathered for the final time this season at the Pengrowth Saddledome. The Flames cleaned out their lockers, met with coaches and underwent fitness testing Friday, three days after being eliminated from the playoffs in a 5-3 Game 7 loss to the San Jose Sharks.


Mike Keenan

Since pulling Miikka Kiprusoff from Game 7 in San Jose Tuesday, there has been great public and media debate abut whether head coach Mike Keenan and the Flames No. 1 goalie will be able to work together in the future. General manager Darryl Sutter said there is no question that the two will work together because neither is going anywhere.

"He is our coach. He is like an elite player. He is an elite coach and there are not many of those guys," Sutter said of Keenan, who has two years left on his contract after finishing his first year behind the Flames bench.

Kiprusoff, who signed a long-term deal that kicks in next season, remains one of the key core players on the team.

"We've made a huge commitment as an ownership group to Miikka Kiprusoff," said Sutter, pointing to a six-year, $36 million contract.

Sutter said he doesn't blame Keenan for making the Game 7 move and he doesn't blame Kiprusoff is he upset for being removed the Flames most important game of the season.

 FlamesCast: Kristian Huselius 04.25.08  
 FlamesCast: Alex Tanguay 04.25.08  

"Mike's decision is based on the fact that Curtis came in and won a game for us," said Sutter of back-up Curtis Joseph. "It's not that big of a deal."

Sutter said going forward that Kiprusoff, who played 76 regular season games and won 39 games, will expected to be a workhorse again.

"He had a tough start. He needs to be part of the deal and commit to the training and not take September and October to get ready," said Sutter, who wants his goalie to be in game shape when training camp begins in the fall.


As usual there were a number of players who played through injuries in the playoffs. It is rare for teams to discuss injuries in the post season but, once eliminated the word usually gets out. General manager Darryl Sutter said Owen Nolan, Matthew Lombardi and Craig Conroy all played through injuries.

Conroy, the veteran centre, may require minor knee surgery in the off-season. Nolan played through neck burners and Lombardi played through a shoulder injury. The latter two are not likely to need surgery, just rest and some rehab.

Matthew Lombardi

Lombardi upped his defensive game this season but was disappointed with his 36 points, including 14 goals. "There were ups and downs. I was hoping form more consistency. You take the positives. We have a lot of time to think about it and start to get ready for next season. I'm excited to be here. I think we tray and get better every year. Unfortunately we are missing a little bit, obviously."


Alex Tanguay plans to get away from hockey and refresh mentally. And, with his wife due to deliver their first child any day, he'll be able to spend time with their newborn to accomplish that.

"Babysitting, I think," Tanguay smiled when asked what his off-season would entail.

"Mentally just refresh. This has certainly been one of the hardest years I have been through. I want to get my timing back and my confidence back."

The left winger was the subject of trade rumours throughout the season and he admitted that became a distraction of sorts. "Maybe I wasn't working as hard as I could have been because I was letting things bother me. That's my fault. As a player, you don't want to blame anybody else," he said.

Tanguay, 28, has one year left on his contract with the Flames. He had 58 points in 78 games, including 18 goals. In the playoffs he had four assists in seven games.

General manager Darryl Sutter said Tanguay had an off-year as far as production, at least in the goal department. "We see him as a 30-goal scorer for our team," said Sutter.

Tanguay said he thinks he can be that player with a little more ice time than the 18 minutes a game he averaged this season.

"The more you play, the better you play," said Tanguay."I'll find ways to be better. I'm not an old guy yet. I am just 28."


Adrian Aucoin, the Calgary Flames veteran defenceman, described the Flames season as up and down -- a common theme amongst players.

"At times I think we were the best in the league. I think we were at our best when everyone was jumping and everyone was skating."

And the downside?

"Sometimes we played a little too safe."




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