“We went from first in the League (in goals-against during the 2005-06 season) to 23rd (in 2008-09),” Darryl Sutter said, “and were, quite honestly, fortunate to be a playoff team.”
The GM has been at it with a vengeance this summer in an effort to restore the Flames’ reputation as defenders of the faith. And landing the cream of the free-agency crop, blue-chip blueliner Jay Bouwmeester, was the biggest piece of the puzzle.
“We want to get better defensively. It’s obviously something Darryl and I stress, and something that I believe in as a coach,” Brent Sutter told NHL.com. “You need to play well defensively, and that involves more than how you play in your own zone. It’s also puck-possession time. It’s about how you forecheck. It’s about the things you do as a group. It’s about getting the puck back as quickly as you can.
“Yeah, defense is how you play without the puck, but good defense also means having the puck a lot, too, because that means less time chasing the other team.”
Up front, the Flames — who have made four consecutive first-round playoff exits — were unable to make major changes, partially due to salary-cap constraints.
Brian McGrattan was signed as the club’s enforcer and Nigel Dawes was plucked off waivers from Phoenix, but there was no replacement for Michael Cammalleri, last season’s 39-goal scorer who left for Montreal.
Sutter isn’t concerned with filling that hole, pointing to forwards Rene Bourque, Curtis Glencross and David Moss, who all blossomed in the scoring department last winter.
“(Scoring) will take care of itself,” he said. “You’ll always score enough goals … you’ve just got to make sure you don’t give up as many.”
Memo to NHL writers: You’re not going to be able to quote both Darryl and Brent in a story this winter and then refer to “Sutter” saying something, particularly if Brett Sutter has a big night or something. Two fun points in an otherwise dreary summer for Oilers fans from this.
1. Calgary was already quite good at having the puck. Second best Corsi in the NHL and all that. In the Flames’ case, improvement will come from driving the save percentage upwards, which will either take the form of Kipper getting better or, if you believe in such hocus pocus, Calgary limiting the quality of shots against.
2. Yeah, I quite like the plan to have Rene Bourque (6.9% post-lockout ES S% before last year; 14.8% last year), Curtis Glencross (no such issues) and David Moss (ditto) make up the scoring that’s lost from Cammalleri. Plus, hearing a Flames coach talk about the goals taking care of themselves, well, that takes me back to 2005-06, a much happier time.
I greatly prefer Calgary’s summer to Edmonton’s but I do find it a little curious that they seem to have spent a great deal of time bolstering their strengths (their group of defencemen, which was amongst the best in the NHL is now probably the best and I don’t think Keenan was such a bad coach) while ignoring what seems to me to be an obvious problem (Kiprusoff has had two years that were well off the level of play he’s being paid for) and (apparently) banking on some stuff that seems unlikely to repeat (Bourque’s goal scoring).
speeds made a good point last summer about peering into the future in a thread at Battle of Alberta, writing:
The main problem I have with most of the hockey predictions is that, generally, people focus on the players moving in and out, but IMO mostly assume that the players remaining will perform more or less the same as the year previous.
ie. For the Oilers, people will look at the roster and say “Cole, Visnovsky, Strudwick in, Stoll, Torres and Greene out” and base their opinion on how the team will do going forward on those changes, while (if not outright ignoring) minimizing the impact of change within the far more important performance of the remaining 18 players still on the roster for last year.
In Calgary’s case, there’s probably some regression towards established norms to be had from Iginla and Kiprusoff. Maybe that covers up some of the other stuff, we’ll see, but it still strikes me as curious to head into the season without having done something to try and give themselves some insurance in goal and counting on the goals to just magically take care of themselves.