Sutter Makes His Mark

Drury and Begin dealt to Buffalo

July 3rd, 2003

Rick Charlton

One of the truisms in hockey is that regime change inevitably leads to a different vision of what the on ice product should look like.

Calgary GM Darryl Sutter began the process of remaking the Flames in his own image today, sending the dynamic but inconsistent Chris Drury along with spare part Steve Begin to Buffalo in exchange for the less dynamic but still inconsistent Steve Reinprecht, a centre, as well as tough defenceman Rhett Warrener.

It's our suspicion that this deal might have come together only this afternoon after the Colorado Avalanche announced their coup in signing Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne.

That unexpected development might have breathed new life into month long talks between the Flames and Sabres, allowing Colorado to make Reinprecht available to Buffalo, which in turn allowed them to satisfy the demands of the Flames.

Sutter entered the summer with some clear objectives; many of which would look familiar to fans of the Chicago and San Jose teams he had helped build in past years.

This move has all the hallmarks of trying to make the Flames a better team in their own end of the ice while building a physical accountability without losing much of the skill they'll be surrendering with Drury's departure.

Calgary has consistently been in the bottom third of the NHL defensively for the better part of seven seasons and not coincidentally, has missed the playoffs all seven years. On the flip side, Sutter has also very consistently, in the two other coaching stops he's had in his post-playing career; tried to impose a defensive regimen that gives him a chance to win every night.

That the Flames might emerge from this trade better able to execute that defensive ideal is undoubtedly the objective of the exercise.

In addition, a Sutter team is typically larger than average so it should be no surprise that the smurfs of the Flames have been all but obliterated in recent days, 5'10" Blake Sloan and 5' 7" Scott Nichol tossed over the side first and now 5'10" Begin as well as 5'10" Drury.

Stepping into Drury's place will be the swift and skilled 6' Reinprecht while Warrener, 6' 1", 209 lbs, adds weight and not a little unbridled ferocity to the backline, perhaps helping to rescue a defence core that has been accused of being soft at times.

The other aspect of the deal is that Drury might have become a contract distraction before the summer was done, rumours of him demanding $4 million per season perhaps confirmed by this trade.

Reinprecht is also a restricted free agent but his own monetary desires are likely to be considerably less than Drury's.

It would seem the addition of Warrener would also free up for immediate disposal the contract of assistant captain Bob Boughner, a defenceman one would think would be in ample demand with a contender once the dust settles on the free agency frenzy in the next month or so.

But Boughner's $2 million contract plus advancing age may put Denis Gauthier's name in the headlights instead.

Either way, one of them is probably done as a Flame while we would assume Calgary would be looking to exchange either for some thumping size and skill on wing.

While Drury was brought into Calgary on a wave of optimism by former GM Craig Button, and most nights was the most exciting thing about a moribund Flames team, the bottom line fact was that he went lengthy periods last year with little in the way of results.

Given his skill level, it seemed a surprise, now at age 27, that he still is only producing modest point totals and has never cracked the 25-goal barrier. For that, $4 million is too much.

Yet we can't help but feel this trade might not be a popular one with the local faithful who were energized on many a night last year with Drury's dramatic dashes up the ice or clever stickwork.

As we have been painfully reminded in many a debate in recent months, there is some merit in suggesting the on ice product needs to be entertaining as well as delivering victories.

So there is some element of risk in this move given the Flames are right in the middle of their peak selling of season tickets.



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