Darryl Sutter is moving forward, looking ahead to the 2010-11 NHL season. And, while the bitter taste of missing the playoffs this season remains, Sutter is busy examinign ways to improve the team.
“We didn’t make the playoffs, so we’re going to look at different areas where we think we can upgrade or how we can upgrade, whether it’s through the free agent market or our own unrestricted guys,” Sutter told the Calgary Herald this week prior to heading to the general manager meetings.
Overall, Sutter feels the team is solid and that a few changes may make a big difference.
“We’ve got a good team,” he said. “We just have to fill in some blanks and move forward again. We just need to reload.”
When the season ended without a post-season for the Flames, the speculation about changes in the organization, which included Sutter losing his job, became rampant.
But, last week, the Flames quelled the rumours when Flames president and CEO Ken King told reporters that Sutter would remain with the team.
“Ken came out and said that, but it wasn’t important for me to have that publicly,” Sutter said. “It’s more important what happens internally.”
To that end the Flames have been working towards the NHL Entry Draft later this month as well as examining the free agent market, which includes some Flames players and players from other teams.
The goal, of course, is to make the playoffs. Sutter believes once the playoffs begin, anyone can win.
“If you make the playoffs, it’s anybody’s game,” Sutter said. “That’s what the cap is about. There’s a fine line between being a playoff team and not being one.
“We were all disappointed that we didn’t make the playoffs. We had a better record than Philadelphia or Montreal. We could just as easily be sitting here talking and be in the same situation as Philadelphia.”
Philadelphia is playing for a Stanley Cup against the Chicago Blackhawks.
“For us being a playoff team every year, everybody started taking it for granted a little bit,” Sutter said. “It’s not that simple.”
Sutter heard, and read, the complaints about the Flames and abut him personally.
“It’s pretty typical in pro sport that that happens,” Sutter said. ”Expectations are real high if you have a good team and star players.
“Because of the star players we have, I don’t have a problem with the opinions.”
As part of a review following the season, King said there are plans to hire one or two assistants to help Sutter in hockey operations.
“Clearly, it’s something we’ve talked about the last couple of years,” Sutter said. “Now it becomes more magnified because we weren’t a playoff team.
“It’s really difficult to do all the contract work and all the hockey work primarily on your own . . . If it takes adding more manpower, then that’s what you do.
“We talked about it last summer, and there ended up being a coaching change. We probably should have dealt with it then. We’ll deal with it now.”
However, Sutter said the team is not going to jump at the first application.
“It’s going to take time,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who are perceived as qualified, but they have to be the right fit, they have to be qualified and they have to want to do it.
“It has to be the right fit.”
Sutter also said he expects captain Jarome Iginla
to have a better season in 2010-11.
“He’s had two years when you can say the numbers are down,” Sutter said. “He would be the first one to tell you he was disappointed in his level of offence last year. I’m sure he will regain it next year.”