Trade Deadline: Looking Forward(s)
Sutter Builds Depth for Stretch Drive

D'Arcy McGrath
March 9th, 2004
The Calgary Flames added at the trade deadline this season.

Hardly front-page news in cities like Toronto, Philadelphia or the usual ground zero for deadline day, Denver, but huge news for that dust swept Prairie City in the West that the playoffs have long forgotten.

Trades in the first week of March around Calgary have had a look to the future, but that future was always a minimum of nine months away, and not for the next game in a playoff stretch drive.

Enjoy it Calgary.

So, what exactly has Darryl Sutter accomplished by adding three forwards in just under three weeks?

Well, for the on-the-corner-of-your-seats-looking-for-scoring-crowd, very little at first glance. None of Ville Nieminen, Chris Simon or Marcus Nilson is about to strike fear in the opposition on their own in upcoming games, or at least offensively in Simon's case.

However, every deal made seems to have added to that "sum of the parts is greater than the whole" system that has carried the Flames to the point where they do acquire assets this season.

Essentially, it's all about flow.

The Calgary Flames at their best throw four straight lines at the opposition in waves, each wave creating havoc by getting the puck deep, forechecking hard and then using huge team speed to catch up to the opposition if they get caught deep.

Injuries, however, put a serious crimp in their onslaught style because the fall off in talent started to become apparent as you moved down the roster.

Not to pick on any specific players, but Kzysztof Oliwa and Josh Green aren't exactly the types of players to maintain this type of flow. One big guy with limited hockey sense on a line can work, but two? Not a chance.

Too many times the Flames would have a good shift, then another, but then have it all unravel when the third or fourth line found themselves pinned deep in Calgary territory firmly on the ropes.

Sutter has dealt with the Flow problem by adding three additional forwards that can play on the club's top three lines, essentially building in some depth to the system that they so entrust.

The fact that all three players are deep in a hockey term deemed "sand paper", or the ability to completely piss the opposition off, adds a new wrinkle that fits very well with the overall scheme.

Skate fast, hit to hurt, and perhaps toss a gloved hand in the odd mush once and a while for good measure.

Simply put, by trading a third string goalie (soon to be a UFA), a broken down center out for the season, a prospect taken in the fifth round, a waiver claimee and a second round draft pick, Sutter has added three very dependable NHL caliber forwards that are very difficult to play against.

Not bad for a few weeks work.

By not moving any significant roster players to get it done, he's managed to put a cork on the bottle that holds team chemistry, and supply himself with roster flexibility and depth to withstand a long run if - be still Calgary's collective heart - need be.

How they look on Paper

The Calgary Flames are certainly not newly created world-beaters; they'll have to scrap for every ounce of success they find.

But they are a team that the Western elite are in no hurry to face in a best of seven preliminary series.

In goal you'll find a true game stealer, a guy that could Giguere himself a series on his own, leaving a Western giant in his wake.

On defence, you see a young core that seems to have found some pairing chemistry and has, knock on any wood you can find, remained healthy for most of the season. They don't have that true powerplay quarterback, but seem to have a good mix of bone crushers and puck head-manners to get the job done.

Up front there's a virtual stable of top nine forwards that can all chip in offensively, but only one real star that can be counted on. The Flames don't have the warhead count to stare down a superpower, but they are hoping that having nine arrows in their backpack, and not the usual three or four from last seasons will at give them a chance. Will it be enough, time will tell, their best bet is a rotating hot streak through the roster (a la Shean Donovan in December) to keep things rolling between Jarome Iginla's white hot streaks.

The trade deadline has come and gone. With the addition of Marcus Nilson late last night the Flames have a set roster and are somewhat healthy as they head into their final 14 games of the regular season.

From all accounts the season has already been a huge success for Darryl Sutter as a rookie general manager in the National Hockey League.

Perhaps, they're just getting started.

That wind swept Prairie City that the playoffs have forgotten is certainly ready if that's the case.


  Back to
Read other Stories
Talk About it!