Sutter makes a big splash at draft

ERIC FRANCIS -- Caalgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

Turns out Darryl Sutter isn't as stubborn as he'd like us to believe. After steadfastly refusing to acknowledge the fact his team needed to acquire scoring, the Flames GM went out and grabbed a winger who has been one of the league's most consistent scorers the last five years.

Dispensing of a frustratingly-talented spare part in Jordan Leopold, Sutter dealt from a position of extreme strength to acquire former top-10 scorer Alex Tanguay.

Demonstrating once again why he's one of the league's savviest GMs, Sutter used the opening minutes of the draft as the stage for his latest magic trick, pulling rabbit-fast sniper out of Colorado for a pair of second-round picks and his most disappointing blueliner.

By making the deal, the Flames stand to jump dramatically in the offensive stats that landed them 28th in scoring last season.

Not surprisingly, Sutter refused to admit on TSN yesterday his club lacked scoring punch, pointing out instead that the team has four 20-goal scorers.

Earlier in the week he insisted there would be no quick fixes for the club at the draft and suggested the team simply needed Leopold, Matt Lombardi and Marcus Nilson to step up their productivity for the defensive-minded club to become an average scoring team.

The irony of the deal is that Leopold will take his two goals to Colorado this year and Nilson will be bumped further down the depth chart of left wingers with Tanguay's arrival.

Sutter said yesterday the goal was to bolster a left side that has been embarrassingly weak for the club ever since he got there.

Sutter made some strides in improving his west-side wingers mid-season by acquiring Kristian Huselius, who seemed to fit in nicely on Jarome Iginla's top line at times.

A 25-goal scorer four of the last five years, Tanguay has long benefited from playing alongside Joe Sakic, making the 12th pick overall in 1998 an ideal fit to play with a superstar like Iginla. In that regard, the deal addresses the team's biggest need, which is to help Iginla jump back amongst league scoring leaders. Such a task proved tough to do with the likes of Tony Amonte, Chris Simon or even Steve Reinprecht beside No. 12.

In a league in which Luc Robitaille somehow became the all-time leading scorer at left wing, Tanguay is a rare commodity every team in the league would cherish.

With a Stanley Cup ring and 83 playoff games to his credit at age 26 there's good reason for Flames fans to be reinvigorated by what Sutter is doing to tweak the northwest division champs.

Those asking why Avs rookie GM Francois Giguere would part with Tanguay need to look at Colorado's payroll, the fact Rob Blake needs to be re-signed and that their blueline needs bolstering.

They simply couldn't afford to pay Tanguay, a restricted free agent, the $3.23 million US qualifying offer he's due by tomorrow. The Flames will happily oblige, especially now that the cap has been upped $5 million to $44 million.

Leopold, who has one year left on a deal that will pay him $1.25 million US, simply fell out of favour with Sutter and many Flames fans after the former Hobey Baker winner as top collegiate player failed to live up to expectations on a deep blueline.

Still, don't look for Sutter to admit his club needs more scoring.

In his own way, he just did.


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