Friday, November 14, 2008

Melrose fired ... is there a lesson here?

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.


Kent W. said...

Well, Im there with you, although I sorta reached that point this summer. Course, I was willing to see if the team was going to be better than I expected.

It isn't. Or hasn't been. There are blatant mistakes stretching back years now and they are really starting to out-number the success.

I'm willing to see how the rest of the season goes, but...

Do I know one one-thousandth of what Darryl Sutter or Mike Keenan about hockey? Know.

Typo or clever word play?

walkinvisible said...

so do you fire darryl only ? or do you have to get rid of ron, duane, and and brett as well ?

duncan said...

Kent: Gotta start reading this stuff before I post. Or, be willing to lie and say that it IS, in fact, clever wordplay. One or the other ...

Also, I haven't decided whether it's better to pull the trigger now, when you have less choice and a harder time making fundamental change, or after the season, when you have a bit more flexibility. But I'm leaning towards now, even though I'm also essentially suggesting a complete housecleaning.

WI: So, to answer your question, Yes. All the Sutter acolytes go — scouts, coaching staff, everything. I'd keep David Marcoux and Ryan McGill.

Anonymous said...

I do hear you however I dont think Sutter is the issue here. I've been trying to determine changes that the flames should make in order to gain greater consistency.

I think its time for Keenan to go the way of ol' yeller. He is past his time and perhaps its time for a bruce budreau to take over this team.

A trade idea I thought could really be helpful is something along the lines of vermette (or fisher) and chris phillips for Langkow and Sarich. Vermette (or fisher) are less than langkow however Phillips can really help out Regher on the second line leaving lines of Phenuf Gio and Pardy Vandermeer (hoping they finally stop dressing Aucoin.

They prolly can make no changes and just stop dressing him and htey will be better. Maybe make a thrid pairing of Pelech (while vandermeer is out) and Pardy. They are young and will make mistakes but this is no different than Aucoin and at least at the end of the day they will grow from their mistakes not just become worse each successive game. Its a growth project more than anything else.

duncan said...

@brent g.

Problem is, all those issues you describe are Sutter's decisions — Keenan, Aucoin, Sarich ... Also, I love Phillips, but the Flames would get much worse without Langkow at this point. He's the only guy who's consistently productive both ways.

I've also long argued for developing your best prospects on the big club earlier, but that's against Sutter philosophy as well.

Darryl gets way too much leeway because of bad memories of Risebrough and Coates and Button. Thing is, you can't be shy. Flames should be trying to be good, not trying to not be bad.

Anonymous said...

The hilarity of this post if what makes me wonder if the person who actually wrote it is an ape--smart, but not quite capable of human thoughts.

1.)Yes this does sound reactionary because it is. In a month when the Flames have improved their record you will be singing Sutter's praises...again.
2.)The issuse in San Jose was a mistake--of poor management. Dean Lombardi was a childish vindictive fool and that was properly recognized when he himself was fired not long after his poor move of firing Sutter. Some of the most intelligent hockey minds have aggreed upon that, if you read anything besides Sports Skeptics Magazine. (Hockey News, Hockey Night in Canada, Chicago Tribune, Calgary Herald, etc, etc, etc all had quotes of respected peopel agreeing that it was a mistake and not because Sutter played voodoo with their minds).
3.)You cannot call up kids like Pelech when they can barely hold their own in the Farm System...that is the point of a farm team--to develope talent. It would be like putting your young soldiers in front of a firing may take the heat of the veterans, but your team still gets shot in the ass.
3.)EVERYONE MAKES MISTAKES. You cannot be in hockey that long without making mistakes sometimes--and most of Sutter's were not his own mistakes but the mistakes of players who had lack of heart or suffered injuries. Are you going to ignore the good things that have been done for the franchise, that are STILL be done for the franchise because of a poor, not horrible, start.
4.)David Marcoux and Ryan McGill?!?! Are you stupid? Why dont you just throw the team away--send it to another city...bah! "Sutter Accolytes" is almost the most "insanely" stupid thing I have ever heard. Grow a brain where instead it seems you have a steaming pile of dog shit.
5.)I dont think there is a team in the league that trys to be bad.
And lastly--

I cannot believe that this is coming out of people "mouths". Of all the ungrateful things to Sutter?!?! Have you ever heard him speak of the fans in Calgary--he calls you people, who are calling him things like "insane", the best fans in the league.

Take a page out of his book and get some class.