You be the boss

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

Fans of the Calgary Flames are getting used the disappointment.

Another season that looked so promising has come to an early end.

The formula is practically a trademark.

Start with a whimper. Come out of the gate slowly to frustrate a city that was so hopeful for a strong debut after an off-season of minor tweaks the GM believed would make the difference and get the Flames past the first round.

Coming into camp in what many believed was the best shape of his life, Miikka Kiprusoff still had difficulty discovering his game in early October.

Defensively, another step backward was taken.

A 6-0 loss to their most-hated rival, the Vancouver Canucks, set the tone in the season-opener.

Their team seemingly built for the playoffs, even the most fickle fans ignored the rocky beginning and waited to pass judgment.

A six-game winning streak gave them hope, but two wins in their next seven games had them scratching their heads.

With desperation setting in sometime in November -- this year at mid-month after a devastating loss to the Sharks in San Jose led to the cancellation of some off-ice fun in the Golden State and a serious state of panic back in Calgary -- the team turned things around.

Playing like one of the elite NHL teams, the Flames even had some convinced they'd become one after a spectacular run between then and the all-star break.

With the Vancouver Canucks 15 points behind, the Northwest Division was as good as claimed by the Flames. Or so they thought.

With an up-and-down month of February and a terrible March, the Flames watched their division lead dwindle.

Coming down to a head-to-head matchup in Vancouver in the final week, the Flames couldn't find a way to win the big game.

As a result, they found themselves heading on the road in the first round, facing an opponent they hadn't beat all season.

And not finding a way to win a big game has become a trend.

Losses in Games 5 and 6 against the Chicago Blackhawks are the most recent examples, but looking back over the past few years you see much of the same -- against the Ducks in 2006, the Red Wings in 2007 and the Sharks last spring.

The core has remained the same since the lockout.

Does that need to be changed?

Is the GM's stern approach creating too serious a culture that trickles down through the ranks? Would you like to see the Flames having more fun playing the game they all love?

These are the kinds of questions that have to be asked at this time of year.

Ownership has to be considering all its options. So do the fans -- although their feedback is limited to forums like these.

Let us know what you think needs to be done. Play general manager. Put yourself in Darryl Sutter's shoes.

THE PLAYERS AND BRASS

Keep him, trade him, give him a raise

(THIS season's salary)

G Miikka Kiprusoff $8,500,000

RW Jarome Iginla $7,000,000

D Dion Phaneuf $7,000,000

C Olli Jokinen $5,250,000

C Daymond Langkow $5,000,000

D Robyn Regehr $4,600,000

D Adrian Aucoin $4,000,000

LW Michael Cammalleri $3,600,000

D Cory Sarich $3,400,000

D Rhett Warrener $2,500,000

D Jim Vandermeer $2,300,000

RW Todd Bertuzzi $1,950,000

D Jordan Leopold $1,500,000

C Wayne Primeau $1,400,000

LW Rene Bourque $1,300,000

LW Curtis Glencross $1,200,000

C Craig Conroy $1,100,000

D Matt Pelech $850,000

C Dustin Boyd $675,000

D Mark Giordano $600,000

C Jamie Lundmark $600,000

LW Eric Nystrom $600,000

RW David Moss $575,000

RW Andre Roy $550,000

C Brett Sutter $510,000

G Curtis McElhinney $500,000

D Adam Pardy $500,000

LW Warren Peters $475,000

RW David Van der Gulik $475,000

FRONT OFFICE

President/CEO Ken King

GM Darryl Sutter

Head coach Mike Keenan

Associate coach Jim Playfair

Assistant coach Rob Cookson

Assistant coach Rich Preston

Goaltending coach David Marcoux

THE BURNING QUESTIONS

Yes or No

1. Should Mike Keenan be fired?

2. Should Darryl Sutter be fired?

3. Was the much-hyped Olli Jokinen acquisition a bad trade for the team?

4. Should the Flames try to trade underperforming Dion Phaneuf and his massive salary?

5. Would you trade Olli Jokinen to keep Michael Cammalleri?

6. Do the Flames need a major overhaul after another first-round exit?

Send all responses to sports editor Ty Pilson.


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