Bosses outlook peculiarly rosy

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:21 AM ET

No full-scale firings at the top.

No promises of sweeping changes.

No admitting culpability.

In his first address to the media after his team missed the NHL playoffs, GM Darryl Sutter gave a don't-worry-be-happy approach to the state of the club Monday.

"On paper, we're a really good hockey club," Sutter said of the team which placed 10th in the Western Conference despite Stanley Cup championship hopes.

"If we can get three or four guys back to their numbers we have to get ... you're right back."

Right back to what, we're not sure. The team which was bounced in the first round in each of the last four playoffs?

If Sutter's words are to be taken as gospel, there will be no major changes before next season. Sounds like a recipe for more of the same-ol', same-ol'. Plenty of wishful thinking, too.

And way too many 'ifs.'

For example, Sutter trotted out: "If we are in the other conference right now, we're in seventh place."

Fact is, the Flames are in the West, so that doesn't matter. Besides, would finishing seventh in the junior varsity conference of the NHL be any better?

This is a team which was touted by Sutter as an 'elite' club and a team whose group of forwards he said matched up against any other team, but didn't come close to being a real Stanley Cup contender.

Instead, Sutter wants to sell the fans a spin it was an off-year and all will be fine next season if they stay the course.

"On Feb. 2, we had the most career 20-goal scorers in the NHL on our team," Sutter said of a list which included Jarome Iginla, Niklas Hagman, Rene Bourque, Daymond Langkow, Ales Kotalik, Craig Conroy, David Moss and Christopher Higgins.

"When you do it today, Jarome, Niklas, Bourquie are the only three guys that hit 20. It tells you there was a gap there."

It's a gap Sutter said he didn't believe required him to move a big salary to acquire a first- or second-round draft choice to find a top-flight prospect to fill.

No, Sutter said the goals will come from the players on the team, so long as all those who had sub-standard seasons or unproductive time in Flames silks bounce back.

"Jarome, I believe is still a 40-goal scorer, so he's fallen just short of that," he said.

"Daymond had a tough start and, obviously, a real tough finish. I think he played his best hockey when our team wasn't playing well in January.

"That position -- the centre position -- with (Matt) Stajan being a 35- to 40-assist guy and it looks like Mikael (Backlund) is going to be a good player, you need Daymond to bounce back."

Sure, you can expect Iginla may have another 40-goal season in him. You can hope Langkow bounces back from that horrible neck injury and is again a 25-goal man and Kotalik somehow finds 20-goal form, as is the same for Moss.

Even throw in Jay Bouwmeester to display something closer to his past offensive seasons in Florida than a three-goal campaign.

Still, that's not enough.

Instead of admitting it's a big job, though, Sutter said the problem to address isn't the lack of goals, despite finishing 29th in that category.

He said the No.-1 reason the Flames missed the playoffs was its poor home-ice record (20-17-4).

"When you're in the top 10 on the road and the bottom 10 at home, it tells you there is an area you really have to look at and find out why and solve. That's what we intend to do the next two or three weeks," Sutter said.

"We have to get to the bottom of why we lost the identity of our team at home, the energy. We've averaged 25 to 30 wins the last number of years. To fall back to 20 this year, I think we have to address that more than anything else."

It will take more than a step back to slipping into the playoffs to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. Flames fans have to wonder whether the powers that be are willing to make bold moves.


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