This coming May is the 40th anniversary of the Atlanta Flames moving to Calgary. To commemorate this occasion, we’re counting down the Top 40 Calgary Flames in history.
Our next non-player honourable mention is Darryl Sutter.
In the early 2000s, the Flames were not a relevant team. They sucked. They weren’t exciting. And it seemed liked the team was doomed to mediocrity and eventually a relocation to some depressing American market. In the middle of a very blah 2002-03 season, the Flames parted ways with Greg Gilbert just weeks after trading away Marc Savard due to a feud between the duo. But luckily for the Flames, Sutter was axed by the San Jose Sharks just as then-general manager Craig Button was looking for a coach.
The remainder of 2002-03 was fine, as the Flames were a game over .500 under Sutter. That spring Sutter inherited GM duties from Button, setting the stage for a wild 2003-04 season. Sutter made some tweaks to the team as he went along, informed by his half-season behind the bench. He added some beef in the form of Rhett Warrener and Chris Simon, some two-way savvy in Steven Reinprecht, and some speed in Marcus Nilson and Ville Nieminen. Oh, and he traded a pick to land San Jose third-stringer Miikka Kiprusoff, who proceeded to set the modern single season goals against average upon arriving in Calgary. The Flames nearly won the Stanley Cup.
Now, Sutter wasn’t perfect. The game changed dramatically after the 2004-05 lockout, emphasizing speed and penalizing teams that played a physical, grinding style with many, many obstruction penalties. Sutter slowly turned into Don Quixote, throwing picks and cap dollars out the door to shore up the Flames with the likes of Tony Amonte, Jeff Friesen, Darren McCarty and others. They weren’t worse, but they also weren’t appreciably better. Also, he could never find a goalie that was as good at being Kiprusoff’s backup than Roman Turek was.
Sutter coached the Flames for two and a half seasons. In the two full seasons he coached, they went to the Stanley Cup Final and won their division, respectively. He was GM for seven and a half years. While he didn’t capture a Stanley Cup with the club, his efforts helped transform the franchise from a perennial also-ran into a growing concern for the rest of the league. He surrounded a hockey unicorn named Jarome Iginla with a supporting cast that, for a few seasons at least, got the Flames into the playoffs with regularity and gave them a fighting chance.
Few individuals, on or off the ice, were more key to the club’s long-term success (and even survival) than Sutter.
Top 40 Calgary Flames: HM Martin Gelinas | HM Al Coates | HM Bob Johnson | #40 Brad Marsh | #39 Matt Stajan | #38 Jiri Hudler | #37 Dion Phaneuf | #36 Guy Chouinard | #35 Phil Housley | #34 Matthew Tkachuk | #33 Cory Stillman | #32 Curtis Glencross | #31 Jamie Macoun | #30 Carey Wilson | #29 Reggie Lemelin | #28 TJ Brodie | #27 Alex Tanguay | #26 Daymond Langkow | #25 Sergei Makarov | #24 Craig Conroy | #23 Robert Reichel | #22 Paul Reinhart | #21 Doug Gilmour | #20 Mikael Backlund | #19 Jim Peplinski | #18 Joel Otto | #17 Tim Hunter | #16 Joe Mullen | #15 Sean Monahan | #14 Robyn Regehr | #13 Mike Vernon | #12 Kent Nilsson | #11 Hakan Loob | #10 Lanny McDonald