Flames in a freefall, but Sutter’s biding his time

Eric Duhatschek

NHL general manager Darryl Sutter was going on and on about trade rumours the other day – dismissing all the speculation percolating around his Calgary Flames – and, on one level, what’s not to believe?

Few NHL teams are in a position to make a blockbuster move this far in advance of the March 3 deadline. With the league shutting down for 16 days in February to compete in the 2010 Winter Olympics, why would any team – tight up against the salary cap – trade for a player three weeks early, given it would be paying him during the Olympic break not to play?

Better, it would seem, to wait until the 11th hour before jumping into the trade frenzy with both feet – if such a thing is deemed necessary at the time.

Much of the speculation surrounding the Flames’ role as a major player at the deadline again has been prompted by two factors.

The first was Sutter’s recent four-game tour of the Eastern Conference, where his press-box presence in New York and Philadelphia prompted speculation the Rangers and Flyers, respectively, might be prospective trading partners. The second – and larger issue – was his team’s poor play of late; the Flames (26-19-6) were mired in a season-high six-game losing skid heading into last night’s home date with the St. Louis Blues.

Calgary’s freefall in the Western Conference has slid it out of the race for first in the Northwest Division and in need of an expedited turnaround just to stay in the top eight and qualify for the playoffs.

The team is stuck in a scoring funk that begins with captain Jarome Iginla and spreads throughout the forward ranks. Just about everyone this side of Rene Bourque that’s been counted on to score goals is in a deep slump.


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