I don't exactly endorse the bizarro-world, slapdash management style that has marked the Oren Koules-era in Tampa Bay, but there is something to admire about the urgency to DO SOMETHING when things aren't going well.
Now, considering how bad the Lightning was last season, and that he was coming off a decade-long coaching layoff, and that his team actually has no defencemen, Barry Melrose is probably getting kind of a raw deal here. But it has coincided with me legitimately considering during the past few days whether the Flames ought to be doing some firing of their own. Aside from the obvious sucking of the past six or seven games, it was the meetup with the Sharks that really brought it to mind, as that's where Darryl Sutter came from.
Sutter had a great run as coach in San Jose. His team improved in points each season until the one he was fired midseason, always made the playoffs, and you could say it was Sutter who led the Sharks from expansion-era to consistent playoff team and threat. But at the point he was fired in 2003, the Sharks decided they had topped out, and it was time for a change.
Were they right? Well, the lack of Stanley Cups is a good argument against. And the Darryl Sutter Sharks didn't have the benefit of that insane Joe Thornton acquisition. But this is a team that, I would argue, has grown since his departure. And it certainly hasn't suffered any terrible fate. Sure, the lack of a Stanley Cup final is frustrating, but there are a lot of fans who would kill for what the Sharks bring every year.
Not to mention, the Sharks HAVE done something about that latest, get-over-the-hump problem. They fired a very good coach with the idea they could get an excellent one, and get even better. It's a certain kind of confidence that requires, and Doug Wilson seems to have it. And, as Flames fans saw up close last night, Todd McLellan seems to be > Ron Wilson right now.
Here's what I mean: The bottom line is, I don't know that the expectation is high enough in Calgary right now. I think there's still a cult of Darryl, and a team that's topped out with this management style. You could argue it topped out in 2005-2006, with the 100-point season, Kiprusoff Vezina and division title. Yes, there's been change behind the bench — but little change in philosophy. Coaches usually bring along their own assistant coaches. Not here. Keenan and Playfair have rolled along with Sutter acolytes who, essentially, ensure that his influence is always behind the bench AND in the management box.
This is a bad time to write this kind of entry — when the team is in a slump, I mean — because it seems reactionary and can be easily dismissed as frustration. Do I know one one-thousandth of what Darryl Sutter or Mike Keenan about hockey? Know. But I do know that in any creative field, anyone but the absolute best suffers from a lack of change. And make no mistake, hockey is a creative field. Teams that innovate, succeed. And could anyone argue that the Flames are an innovative team?
You bet your Andre Roy signing they aren't.
Now, will change happen while Ken "Darryl Sutter is a genius" King is in charge? Probably not. So maybe it's ownership that needs to open its eyes.
Of course, it's ownership who dreamed up and approved that insanely bad Mike Vernon retirement ceremony.
So maybe we're doomed. Not to a horrific, Columbus-style future, maybe. But I don't know about the rest of you — I want to be Detroit. And while the right pieces of the core are in place to get there, I'm convinced: Darryl Sutter isn't the one to take us there.
Time to let him go.