March 3rd, 2010 | Posted in Commentary
By: D'Arcy McGrath
I’ve never been a home team general manager sycophant, nor have I gone out of my way to be overtly critical. I do believe that the arm chair and passionate hockey fan rarely, if ever has ever known more than those inside the team.
Some days test these theories. They don’t break said theories, but the bend them like a plastic Frostie spoon from Wendy’s and make you think twice about the direction of the hockey club.
But first lets back up.
I’ve long thought that tinkering and coaching changes to a core that many felt was one of the better groups in the league was misguided, foolish and a giant waste of time. The key, expensive players had mowed through a young coach, an old coach, and now a former coach’s brother all with similar results. They have been good enough to make the playoffs and perhaps do some damage, but not good enough to make them comfortably and set themselves up for a good chance to do some damage.
Change was needed.
Once change is the plan, that is change to the core, you go through the group and get your head around who should go based on needs and no movement clauses. Jarome Iginla was the face of the franchise so you knew he was staying put. Miikka Kiprusoff the backbone, he’s here to stay. Jay Bouwmeester was just acquired and unlikely to be on the way out. So that pretty much left Robyn Regehr and Dion Phaneuf as guys that could be pitched to alter the team’s chemistry.
As we all know Phaneuf was sent packing to Toronto.
The return on that deal is fine in my books as Matt Stajan has now signed, Hagman is locked down, and Ian White as a RFA is a pretty good bet to stay. The team has more balance throughout the roster, made even more so when the unproductive Olli Jokinen was sent to the Rangers for Ales Kotalik and Chris Higgins.
Today however, Darryl Sutter struck three more times, altering the group again and bringing more change to a roster that has been sent reeling in recent weeks.
1. Curtis McElhinney to Anaheim for Vesa Toskala: This is a good deal for Calgary. It will cost them about 850K in salary for the rest of the season, but Toskala is a UFA and will leave at the end of the season. He’s a good backup goaltender for the stretch drive, should give his buddy Kiprusoff a break and if said break means even one more home playoff game the team breaks even on the investment. The other perk is the fact that the McElhinney experiment is finally over meaning a new and fresh look in the backup position next fall (and no more Calgarypuck radio conversations on the much maligned stopper). Check mark.
2. Dustin Boyd deal to Nashville for a 4th round pick: A forward going for a pick was a given, so this isn’t a surprise. Boyd has fallen out of favour in both Mike Keenan and Brent Sutter’s books and has always been a guy that should couldn’t find a home in the Flames roster. Many a fan point to coaching and almost never the player in Boyd’s case which I’ve always found somewhat misguided, especially when you see the room being made for Mikael Backlund on the club. A clear cut sign that the braintrust isn’t anti-youth in any way shape or form. They are anti guys that don’t seem to have a fit, which is fine. The curious part of the move for me wasn’t that it was Boyd, but that it was only a 2nd round pick. You’d think he’d move a different player if that was all Boyd could fetch and take his chances with the player next fall. Either way a “meh” trade in my books. They needed picks though you hate to give up young players for as little as a fourth round pick.
The odd one …
3. Aaron Johnson and a third round pick for Steve “lifetime Oiler” Staios: This is the curious one. Why? First off the first inter-Alberta deal in franchise histories; wouldn’t want my name on that one. Second, the Flames actually downgrade their draft packet on the day getting a fourth for a Boyd and losing a third in this deal; not the way I saw the day unfolding. Staios has lost a step or two, but is still a wily veteran that will be good in the room, and an upgrade to the top six in Calgary (though probably 6th on the depth chart). If he was a UFA like Toskala I could almost get my head around it, but he’s on the hook for another year at a 2.7M cap hit. How can a team have both Staios and Cory Sarich going into a season as the Flames look to be this summer? So odd, especially for a team that may not make the playoffs, and even if they do will be lucky to rise about the tough opponents in the West. Maybe Sutter will prove us all wrong and make a Primeau like deal this summer and clean it all up.
I’m a part time hockey guy. I know the game and can break things down pretty easily most of the time. I never assume I know more than hockey general managers, especially since Kevin Lowe moved into the President role and out of the GM chair.
But I just don’t get it.
Have we misplaced that binder with that five year plan Darryl?