SUN Hockey Pool

Flames conserving Oil

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

While more than 17,000 Flames fans appeared to enjoy last night's home game against Edmonton, one man is largely unimpressed:

Darryl Sutter.

Unimpressed by a preseason schedule that matched the Flames and Oilers together four times in 13 nights, Sutter said he'll do whatever he can to ensure the rivalry isn't played out as many times next year.

"I don't like playing Edmonton four times in the preseason because technically you could be playing them 19 times this year," said Sutter, whose club dictates their preseason schedule and opponents.

"If it all came to pass and both teams got breaks we could meet them in the playoffs another seven times for a total of 19. Why would you do that? I'm not going to do that any more, I know that for sure."

Ownership will cringe at his suggestion as games against Edmonton cost little in travel and are as big a draw as the club could hope for at a time when ticket sales for meaningless games are typically slow. Plus, all preseason revenue is largely gravy.

Teams make their pre-season schedules without the league's help, giving teams carte blanche to play whomever and whenever they chose. Next year, Sutter figures the number of warmup games will be reduced due to time constraints anyways.

"Camp used to be 30 days, this year it was 24," said the Flames coach/GM, also unimpressed with a condensed schedule that has his club in the midst of four games in five nights.

"Next year, its 20 days and then no longer can we play eight games."

So, first off Sutter's wish list will be the team everyone in Calgary wants to see the most. Everyone except Darryl, that is.

Then again, when a club sends its skeleton squads as every road team has done in the preseason thus far, are fans really seeing what they want?

While both Alberta clubs have long used one another as measuring sticks, some figure the four-game pre-season series in addition to the league's augmented divisional play could spoil a rivalry many consider the best in hockey. Most others, including league brass who are hoping to increase the intensity of all eight divisional games with the new schedule, disagree.

"The traditionalists in the game have always wanted more inter-divisional play and I think that's the best thing to do going forward," admitted Sutter of the eight regular season games against Colorado, Minnesota, Vancouver and Edmonton.

"But meeting like this in the preseason four times is, well, too much."

The hope, of course, is that familiarity will breed even more contempt, heating up a rivalry that had essentially died down the last decade. And especially now that Oilers have added Chris Pronger and Mike Peca to become legitimate playoff contenders, no one questions how spicy things will get once the provincial battle means something starting Oct. 15 when they hook up for their first of five meetings before the new year.

"Those guys are a huge upgrade -- they're both bona fide big game players and that makes them a hell of a lot better," said Sutter, who can be forgiven for not wanting to see them until absolutely necessary.


Videos

Photos