Darryl Sutter has hitched his future as an NHL GM to the wrong horse.
But this time Sutter’s penchant for giving mulligans to aging retreads will surely determine his fate as the Flames GM.
As if the damage done by the failed Olli Jokinen experiment wasn’t extensive enough the first time around, the stubborn cowboy opened old wounds Thursday by re-acquiring the underachieving centre via free agency.
Mere hours after getting it right with the low-risk, highly-intelligent signing of Alex Tanguay for $1.7 million U.S., the heavily-scrutinized Sutter made one of the most shocking moves in franchise lore — the kind few locals believed when first told.
Oh sure. the risk this time has been almost halved from the $5.5 million Jokinen made last year to the $3 million he’ll garner this season and next as a reclamation project.
But the fact remains Jokinen just didn’t fit in here.
He and Jarome Iginla had no chemistry whatsoever as the two shooters were hopelessly bound together on a line that never meshed.
The four-time 34-goal scorer wasn’t lazy and he wasn’t a bad influence in the room as rumours have suggested. The 31-year-old just couldn’t find any chemistry with the Flames’ top players — the same ones he’ll have to line up alongside again now.
Make no mistake, on paper Jokinen is fair value at $3 million a year given his size and stats accrued in cities where hockey has never mattered. Hey, it was two just 16 months ago the hockey world roundly applauded Sutter’s original acquisition of Jokinen, anointing the Flames the biggest trade deadline winners. But if the optics were deceiving then, they’re downright depressing now for the growing number of Calgarians who have essentially given up on the team as long as its led by Sutter.
Those looking to tap into Sutter’s mindset on this one will just have to wait until this morning when he’ll make himself available to the media. (Wasn’t there a promise from Ken King that Sutter’s horrific attitude towards lowly media-types and fans would change? Thought so.)
However, a simpleton’s look at it from the outside might suggest Sutter did well yesterday by entering a free-agent market with very little money and landing two top-six forwards. Bottom line is that Sutter is once again thumbing his nose at all those who suggest the team needs a major overhaul to make the playoffs.
He’s sticking with his contention the club is just a few minor moves away from contention. To prove it, he’ll be icing, well, essentially the same team.
Jokinen admitted yesterday he had an awful year in Calgary last season — scoring 11 goals in 56 games — but that he plans on being more selfish by shooting more. He plans to hit more too. He suggested his lower price tag may lower expectations. Maybe for him, but not for Sutter who’s future as the Flames GM will almost certainly be tied to the success or failure of Jokinen Redux.
What makes it all worse is that Jokinen’s departure will forever be tied to the heinous acquisition of Ales (The Albatross) Kotalik. Maybe they’ll be linemates.
After several months of nothing but bad news for Flames fans, give Sutter credit for once again being the talk of the NHL on a day when his spending power was limited.
Right or wrong he got his man (again): Fans be damned.
Sutter added to his long history of bringing in players he’s worked with before, clinging to the idiom “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.”
At least Tanguay came in four years ago and had instant chemistry with Iginla, using his creativity to push himself and the captain to career highs in points.
All Jokinen ever did here was prove how dramatically different a player can fit into a team on paper than he can on the ice.
Sutter is still betting things can be different by bringing back more of the same — a stubborn, yet predictable approach that will ultimately be his undoing.
Of all the moves he’s made the last six seasons as one of the league’s most active GMs, his relentless pursuit of Jokinen is what he will now be judged on the most.