Yzerman to Calgary hopes crushed

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:11 PM ET

The Calgary Flames are Darryl Sutter’s mess.

Looks like it will be his job to clean it up.

All those rumours Steve Yzerman would be parachuted into the general manager’s office at the Saddledome — at the expense of the aforementioned Sutter — are officially dead now that the Tampa Bay Lightning have scooped up the former Detroit Red Wings star and architect of Canada’s gold-medal winning 2010 Olympic Winter Games squad.

The silence from the Dome since the Flames saw their disappointing season come to a close has made it more and more obvious the GM post would remain status quo, with Sutter staying put.

Whispers are Flames owners were split on firing Sutter, but a majority ruled in his favour. Whether it’s a case of using the last bit of cache built up from the 2004 run, or Sutter able to sell his vision after the major mid-season makeover is anybody’s guess. But with the draft less than a month away, a major shake-up doesn’t appear in the works.

Time will tell whether it’s a case of the bosses being loyal to a fault.

As for Yzerman, his decision to join the Lightning Tuesday has turned the page on the idea of him coming to Calgary.

Fact is, Yzerman made a wiser choice taking the Lightning gig over a Flames post — which doesn’t appear to have been even offered to him.

Look at the opportunity he gets in Florida.

He has a surefire rising star in 20-year-old, 51-goal scorer Steven Stamkos, a potential stud defenceman in 19-year-old Victor Hedmen, a few other young, solid players, and he owns the sixth-overall pick at this year’s draft.

That’s on top of having veterans Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis in the fold.

Tampa Bay is a legitimate playoff contender next season in the weaker Eastern Conference.

A Stanley Cup team? Not likely, but based on what we’ve seen in the Eastern Conference this season, sneaking into the playoffs can be stretched a round or two. (That said, expect to see more determined and improved squads in Pittsburgh and Washington next spring.)

Down the road, and with some astute moves, the Lightning could very well be the next Penguins or Chicago Blackhawks.

Calgary has just as good a chance to make the playoffs next season but, beyond that, things become dicey.

Jarome Iginla will blow out 33 candles on his birthday cake on Canada Day. Daymond Langkow will be 34 in September, a month before Miikka Kiprusoff also hits 34. Robyn Regehr turned 30 in April.

The next wave of Calgary’s core will be led by Rene Bourque, Matt Stajan and Jay Bouwmeester.

The Flames have one farm player destined to be a top-six forward in Mikael Backlund, on top of a few strong candidates to be top-four defencemen — especially Matt Pelech and John Negrin. However, the rest of the highly touted prospects spent the year in junior.

As for draft choices, unless the Flames swing a significant trade, they don’t stroll to the podium in Los Angeles until the third round.

Now which scenario — Calgary or Tampa Bay — sounds like a better opportunity for a first-time NHL general manager to be succesful?

Remember, some don’t get that second chance if they fail in their opening attempt. Given his stature in the hockey world, Yzerman likely would, but everybody wants to make a great first impression.

Sure, you can argue the challenge in a true hockey market would make Calgary an enticing job. Especially if it goes well. But that’s a big ‘if.’

So, it appears Sutter has been given another chance to pull the Flames out of the ashes a second time.

Let’s see what he makes of it.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca


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