With much news in hockey land of late, here is a smorgasbord of the most important doings the past few days, and my quick take on each.
Daryl Sutter Resigns as GM of the Flames
This was not a shock, and probably could have/should have happened this past summer. The Flames are a midling team at present---one stuck with 11 no-trade/no-movement contracts---with a weak farm system after one poor draft after another.
That falls on the general manager. And as such, with the Flames sitting in 14th place in the Western Conference, it was no suprise that team president Ken King asked for--and received---Sutter's resignation.
But all that said, I don't understand the level of vitriol that has been sent Sutter's way, in general, by the hockey media, not to mention the glee with which Sutter's resignation has been reported.
Sutter is no bouyant personality, never looking to be quick with a joke or to banter with media folk. I get that. But I also understand that he made a series of bold moves earlier in the decade to turn Calgary back into a relevant franchise again, one that was within a controversial call of winning the Stanley Cup.
Under his stewardship---both as general manager and head coach---the Flames became a profitable organization once again, not to mention a contender on a regular basis. That needs to be recognized as part of Daryl Sutter's record as much as his recent head-scratching moves and lack of on-ice success the past couple of years.
As for the bottom line, the Flames are in good hands with interim GM Jay Feaster, a solid hockey man, in charge for now. But it will take time to clean up this mess, what with untradeable veterans and less-than high-end prospects in the organization.
Devil of a Time in New Jersey
John Maclean finally got the boot as coach of the Devils, with Lou Lamoriello dropping the axe right before Christmas on one of the organization's most popular and devoted all-time individuals. The move was as justified---the Devils are shockingly last overall in the 30-team National Hockey League---as it was disrespectfully timed.
That Jacques Lemaire was brought back in by Lamoriello to coach this mess of a team, mere months after an exhausted Lemaire retired as bench boss in Jersey following a first-round playoff pasting at the hands of the Flyers, is either a desperate move, a convenient move, or a move of a man who could think of no other move.
Nonetheless Lamoriello now has to figure out how to purge salary from his Cap-stressed roster and begin to look towards how to fix things in time for next season. He is all but begging some other team to claim Brian Rolston on re-entry waivers by noon tomorrow---a move that would save the Devils half of Rolston's $5 million salary this year and next.
That is the only beginning, though. Lamoriello has a helluva' lot more work to do than that. And while purging salary, he needs to find a way to be creative and get Zach Parise---the injured, yet soon-to-be-star-free-agent---signed this summer, and then attempt to rebuild his awful defense corps while getting Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac and the like to score like they used to.
I spoke with a Devils staffer today at the Prudential Center and he wore the blank look of someone shellshocked by what has happened this season. As that Devils employee and I said to one another, seasons like this always have seemed to happen to other teams---pretty much every other team in the NHL, actually---just not to the Devils.
Now that it has happened to the Devils, Lamoriello and the organization do not seem to know how to slow down the snowball that has swiftly descended the negative slope.
And thus they are buried in an avalanche of a mess.
Islanders Trade Wisniewski to Canadiens
On the surface the Islanders trade of defenseman James Wisniewski to the Montreal Canadiens for two draft picks, including a second rounder, seems like a win-win for both clubs.
The Islanders are not in playoff contention and they turned the servicable Wisniewski into a pair of draft picks.
The Canadiens are in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, battling for their playoff lives with a string of other teams, and could use veteran help on the blueline, especially now that the club has seemed to decide that rookie PK Subban is not quite ready for a regular role among the top six defensemen.
But what irks me about this trade is that I get a nagging feeling that the Islanders just wanted to drop more salary from their payroll. That Charles Wang is in Garth Snow's ear telling him to drop even closer to the Cap floor, though I don't know how much further down they can go before falling through that floor.
I spoke with a respected veteran NHL person "in the know" today and he said exactly what I was thinking, "At some point you have to stop selling this notion of the future, the future, and start showing something in the present. This guy (Wisniewski) is no star, but he was vital to that team. In my opinion this was all about shedding more salary and continuing to sell the idea that stockpiling draft picks and prospects is the way to go."
Couldn't agree more. It's almost like a street-card game of Three Card Monty. Keep shuffling in a fast deceiving way, keep offering hope, but never deliver the goods.
And so it goes on The Island...
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