|Flames GM Darryl Sutter says his club hasn't played up to expectations, but he has no intention of trading his core stars away just yet. (DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Calgary Sun file photo)
Darryl Sutter has bad news for all those calling for an overhaul of his club following six straight losses.
"We have no intention of breaking any of it up," said the Flames GM after returning from a four-night scouting trip out east.
"You don't have to shake it up. I don't know how or why you'd do that. We have the intention of getting the most out of what we've got. You know those guys can be better."
It's a familiar refrain from Sutter, who still believes this team can challenge for a division title. That doesn't mean he hasn't been fielding plenty of phone calls from GMs around the league wondering if all the Dion Phaneuf rumours are true.
"When you lose three or four in a row, there are teams that call about your best players," said Sutter in his first interview since the club's nasty skid began.
"Will we be active before the trade deadline? Depends where we are."
Right now, they are not amongst the conference's top eight, having slipped out of a playoff spot Thursday, when a chorus of boos punctuated the Flames' 3-1 loss to Chicago. With just 15 goals in their last nine games, the Flames offence has come under fire, with captain Jarome Iginla the target of most fans' scorn.
As expected, Sutter said Iginla obviously needs to be much better, as does the rest of a team that was challenging for the division lead just two weeks earlier.
Sutter singled out his three veteran centres -- Olli Jokinen, Daymond Langkow and Craig Conroy -- for being amongst the biggest disappointments up front offensively. They've combined for just 23 goals.
Other than Nigel Dawes and Curtis Glencross, he says none of the forwards are on pace to give the club the sort of offence he'd expected from them.
"I'm concerned because of the production out of the group," said Sutter, whose scouting trip included games in Philadelphia, Long Island, New York and New Jersey.
"None of our guys up front (aside from 38-year-old Conroy) are over the hill. They still have enormous skill-sets, so they should be hitting their career (goal) averages. If they're struggling, they need to get it back."
If things don't improve quickly and the Flames aren't able to get more out of the current roster, Sutter said he'll summon several youngsters from the farm to see if they can have an impact before the last resort -- going outside the organization via trades. It's a notion that likely terrifies most fans, who believe is there's absolutely no offensive depth on the team's AHL affiliate in Abbotsford.
Defensively, Sutter is happy his brother, head coach Brent, managed to get the club back into a mindset in which they are to take care of their own end first. His goaltending has been stellar, too. However, he is still waiting for Robyn Regehr and Dion Phaneuf to round into form.
"Gio (Mark Giordano) and Bouw (Jay Bouwmeester) have clearly been our best defenceman," said Sutter, who still refers to his top three minute-munching defencemen as elite.
"Robyn and Dion struggled in October, were better in November, but they've been like the group since then."
Other than the 9-1 thrashing at the hands of the Sharks in San Jose, Sutter points out that every game of the six-game slide was tied or up for grabs in the third period.
"You need one of your big guys then. You always need a hero, but other than Jarome and Olli in November, nobody's been hot for any length of time," he said.
"I'm not happy we're one point out of a playoff spot.
"There are two top teams in the conference, and after that, I don't think there's much difference in all the teams. At the end of the day in this league, when you have a good team, it's because the top guys are carrying your team. I think they all can provide more."
And outside of being patient or calling up minor-leaguers, Sutter has no plans to do anything radical to change that before the Olympic break.