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Flames' Sutter on rules, free agency, draft philosophy

by Mike G. Morreale
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Calgary Flames General Manager Darryl Sutter senses his team's hunger for a berth into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Flames beat the Red Wings, 4-2, Tuesday to move into eighth place in the Western Conference race, just two points away from seventh-seeded Nashville. The Flames, 6-3-1 over their last 10, now look to finish strong with seven home games and nine road contests remaining in the regular season.

Sutter joined and spoke about his team and shared his opinion on the big topic at the GM meetings this week -- hits to the head. What were your impressions of the GM meetings?

Sutter: Our League has done such an awesome job of doing things the right way. We're ahead of other sports and other leagues, so it's just a matter of continuing to find ways to refine it and that's what you have to do and that's what we're doing. You make decisions based on good data. Elbows to the head aren't a part of the NHL -- if it happens, you're suspended. It's not illegal for a shoulder to hit part of the body, but if it's a guy 6-foot-6, whose shoulder hits someone 5-6, is that illegal? These are the areas we're trying to clear up here. It's not black and white and it's not easy. Has the game become a lot more difficult to manage and play over the years?

Sutter: The players are bigger, faster, there are more games and there's better coaching. So, combine all that and, yes, it makes it that much more. And don't forget, the salary cap has also made everything better and enabled everyone to play on an even ground. Do you expect to be busy at the free-agency signing period?

Sutter: We dealt with free agency over the (Olympic) break. We signed two unrestricted players in (Rene) Bourque and (Matt) Stajan. We've taken care of our top two guys in free agency and now we're probably in the same position as everyone else -- waiting to see how guys to play. What is Calgary's draft-day philosophy?

When I arrived to Calgary (in December 2002 as head coach), we didn't have a farm system. So we're basically starting over and it's taken this long to where we have some depth. So we're still drafting and developing. Seldom are you putting a player you draft right into the lineup anyway. When you look at it, there's a 5-8 percent chance a player will reach his potential in a 3-4 year time table. So it's not just the draft day philosophy, it has to be development of the player and patience with the player. That's how you sustain the organization for a long time and maintain that success. That's what we're trying to do. Are you pleased with your team's performance down the stretch?

Sutter: We had a great start to the season and then had a tough January and now we're fighting for that playoff spot. At first, it seemed we were in a position for a division title and playoff berth. We have a good team and we've played well. It's all about our top guys being the top guys.

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