Team needs change

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

What next, Mr. Sutter?

One thing is evident on the heels of the Calgary Flames latest first-round defeat: It's time to make changes.

With the coaching staff.

With the personnel.

With the identity.

The man atop the totem pole, GM Darryl Sutter, can make all the assertions he wants this season was done in by injuries.

A betting man says he will.

But that's only part of the puzzle that's become as scrambled as the one you get from the box Christmas morning from your aunt.

Sure, injuries played a part in their stumble to end the regular season and a six-game opening-round loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Throw Robyn Regehr into the lineup and an even healthier Dion Phaneuf, Cory Sarich, Daymond Langkow, Rene Bourque and Craig Conroy, and it's probably a different series.

Maybe today we're looking forward to a second-round series against the Vancouver Canucks. But we're not, and the time has come to rethink this team.

Injuries had nothing to do with the anemic powerplay that cost a handful of games and did squat in the post-season.

Injuries weren't the cause of the horrid defensive-zone coverage.

Injuries didn't dress the one-dimensional Andre Roy in the playoff opener over Dustin Boyd or Warren Peters -- who can at least skate with the speedy Blackhawks -- or switch David Moss on the first powerplay unit for Todd Bertuzzi.

The time has come to bring in a coach with innovation that goes beyond constantly changing lines. Get a bench boss who's a departure from the same message that's been sent for the past five-plus seasons.

Still, this season's meltdown doesn't fall solely on Mike Keenan, Jim Playfair, et al.

All those skating with a Flaming C on their chest didn't deliver.

Captain Jarome Iginla's season was filled with inconsistencies, his defensive play all year was lacking and his playoff performance was spotty.

Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff struggled to make the big save -- in big part because of a team-wide lack of commitment to defence -- but also because he was played too much. Just because Kiprusoff wants to start 76 regular-season games doesn't mean he should. Find a back-up you believe in enough to put him in positions to succeed and play him.

Then when Kiprusoff is between the pipes, insist he perform.

Next, deal with Phaneuf. This team has created 'the monster' by allowing him to freelance with too little attention to detail in the defensive zone. It's better to rein in a thoroughbred than kick a donkey, but in the fourth season of his NHL career, Phaneuf has to know the when too much is a bad thing.

There are many others.

Olli Jokinen was a no-show for the majority of his first playoffs, Michael Cammalleri's production went dry, and Bertuzzi's penchant for ill-timed penalties bit them in the final two games

Then, adjust the room. Whether it's leadership from the coach or while on the ice, what transpired in the fifth and sixth games isn't acceptable.

The putrid performance in the 5-1 swing-game loss is hardly befitting a playoff team.

Last night's early deficit was too much to overcome. Had a couple of Hawks hit the mark in the opening minutes instead of shooting wide, it would have been even more.

This is not to say take a bomb to what's been created.

There are only four teams to make the playoffs the last five seasons, and the Flames are in that select list with Detroit, San Jose and New Jersey.

But the plan seems off-kilter, and the time has come to put it back on track.

Your move, Darryl.


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