Sutter's going farming

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

Upon losing the Stanley Cup final in 2004, Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter -- then head coach as well -- said he expected to build a younger and faster team.

Curiously, the Flames have gone the opposite direction, in big part because a veteran-loaded squad seemed capable of another playoff run.

Having been bounced in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight season, it stands to reason the Flames will finally opt for players who need acne cream more than shaving cream.

As for how many players Sutter expects to pluck from the AHL affiliate in Omaha to suit up for the Flames next season, he wouldn't say.

"How many earn the right to play here," Sutter answered yesterday in his first media appearance since the team lost in six games to the Detroit Red Wings.

"You make a team out of training camp and that's how many you'd like to play here. It's not like any other year, you don't give players jobs or spots on the team."

The Flames, as an organiziation, have more than one or two youngsters ready who could make the jump.

No doubt, there will be more turnover this summer compared to the past couple of off-seasons, with the likes of centre Andrei Taratukhin, left-winger Eric Nystrom, centre Dustin Boyd and pesky forward Brandon Prust all having solid seasoning with the AHL Omaha Knights and chance to make the big club.

Plus, with back-up goaltender Jamie McLennan all but moving on, one of the youngsters between the pipes -- most likely Curtis McElhinney -- could join the big club to spell off star goalie Miikka Kiprusoff.

"That's a good question," Sutter said. "Because of the age group and how well they've done, it's important to develop that player.

"Kipper looks like he's fine with 65 to 70 games and we're so good in that position going forward, you don't want to slow it up or speed it up.

"Am I'm comfortable (with a goalie graduating)? Yes."

As it stands now, the Flames are looking at a top-loaded squad in the fall. Essentially, the top two forward lines are all signed through next season, as well as centres Stephane Yelle and Matthew Lombardi.

Defensively, Kiprusoff has one more year remaining on his deal, as do rearguards Robyn Regehr, Dion Phaneuf, Rhett Warrener and Andrei Zyuzin.

Defencemen Mark Giordano and David Hale and right-winger David Moss are all restricted free agents.

A few of the UFAs may be back -- although it's hard to imagine more than two or three -- while Sutter will undoubtedly bring in a few UFAs from elsewhere.

Sutter wouldn't even discuss that issue yesterday to prevent the potential for tampering allegations.

All of this gives Omaha players currently in the AHL playoffs an opportunity next year, players such as Giordano and Moss, who had solid rookie seasons.

Moss, who scored 10 goals in 41 regular season games, was actually tagged by Knights coach Ryan McGill as a player who'd make the jump last fall.

"David didn't have a good training camp and didn't make our team. Within a couple of months he was back here and earned the right to be here," Sutter said.

"I think they both did well and they both understand better what it takes, not just to play in the NHL but to be successful in the NHL and to play on a good team"

Plus, there is also Phaneuf, the sophomore defenceman who put together a 50-point campaign.

"He had an outstanding rookie season and I think he had an outstanding second year but there's tremendous room for growth there," Sutter said. "Dion's played in two playoff rounds, now, seven games last year and six this year ... and if you look at it, in those two series there's three Norris Trophy winners and they're all different-type players.

"The key for me is to make sure I understand the players' standpoint now this week and then go through the coaches, scouts, Omaha and go from there."

ICE CHIPS

Centre Matthew Lombardi was one six players who joined the Canadian entry for the world championships yesterday. The tournament runs April 27 to May 13 in Moscow.


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