Flames moves hardly bold

Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter. CALGARY SUN FILE PHOTO

Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter. CALGARY SUN FILE PHOTO

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:01 PM ET

Minor tinkering.

A tuneup, at best.

One Calgary Flames management hopes will refurbish the sputtering engine that stalled shy of the playoffs a few months back and add extra horsepower with hopes it can propel them into the post-season this time around.

Back into the first round, at least.

Preferably long into the spring session — territory the Flames haven’t toured since the lockout.

Things, though, aren’t much different than they were a year ago.

And despite the fact last year’s Flames lineup was being touted as a Stanley Cup contender heading into the 2009-10 season, things aren’t nearly as optimistic in the Stampede City leading into 2010-11.

Changes have come in the form of an assistant GM in Jay Feaster and a few new scouts but few fresh faces on the roster — which finished 10th in the Western Conference to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

After pulling off big deals at the draft for Jay Bouwmeester, Michael Cammalleri and Alex Tanguay in years past, GM Darryl Sutter picked up a potential backup goalie this June in Swede Henrik Karlsson.

Waiving both Ales Kotalik and Nigel Dawes before the free-agent blitz was set to begin in July, Sutter had Flames fans at a fever pitch anticipating some sort of blockbuster come opening day.

Rumours were rampant, with rumblings of a Marc Savard reunion with pal Jarome Iginla one minute, and the idea of Pittsburgh Penguins star-in-the-making Jordan Staal coming to Calgary the next.

The splash wasn’t nearly that large.

Sutter spent his summer changing sparkplugs, bidding goodbye to Dawes, Eric Nystrom and enforcer Brian McGrattan, and bringing Tanguay in for a second stint as a Flame, adding grinders Ryan Stone and Tim Jackman, and pugilist Raitis Ivanans.

He somehow convinced Olli Jokinen to return via free agency to the team that traded him midseason after picking him up at the deadline the year before.

At a discount, too.

But things have been pretty quiet since the double-gasp July 1 signings of Tanguay (at a paltry $1.7-million, one-year deal) and Jokinen (two years at $3-million apiece).

Sutter quietly brought Jackman and Ivanans aboard the next afternoon and added hometown kid Stone a few days later.

Most recently, he offered veteran centre Craig Conroy a two-way deal and a chance to win a spot on the club he loves in training camp.

None of these moves say ‘we want to win.’

They do suggest, as Sutter did at the end of his most disappointing season at the helm of the Flames, that the team believes it’s as close as ever to the Cup.

A few tweaks here and there.

The major overhaul came midseason when Sutter dealt Dion Phaneuf in a package to the Toronto Maple Leafs to bring Matt Stajan, Nicklas Hagman, Ian White and Jamal Mayers into the fold.

And then he sent Jokinen and Brandon Prust to the New York Rangers for Kotalik and Christopher Higgins.

Mayers and Higgins are gone, and Kotalik’s future with the Flames is in question.

As for the Flames’ future, we’ll find out in a few short months whether or not the silent summer will mean another quiet spring.


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