"What would motivate the Flames to dump the most talented guy of the four and take an overpaid player's salary for two more years, especially when they surrendered a first-round pick and two players for him last March?
Here's today's answer: There's something about Jokinen that made Sutter really want him out of the Flames dressing room and off his team."
--Stu Hackel, The Morning Skate
Perhaps Darryl Sutter isn’t entirely crazy. I know, given the moves he’s made in the last few days, it’s pretty easy to think he might be after giving up the best player in consecutive trades, moving Olli Jokinen and Dion Phaneuf.
But, as Hackel in today’s Morning Skate, Elliotte Friedman in his 30 thoughts this week (see point 1) and Steve Simmons in his piece on how the Phaneuf trade evolved all point out about Jokinen and Phaneuf, they were both questionable locker room guys that may have had a negative impact on the team as a whole.
Hackel dug up a news story from last year’s trade deadline, which called attention to comments made on TSN by Matthew Barnaby after the Flames traded for Olli Jokinen. Barnaby said he had talked to players in the Western Conference who were predicting the demise of the Flames because Jokinen was a cancer. Simmons’ piece suggested that there was a split between Robyn Regehr and Phaneuf in the Flames locker room.
So perhaps this isn’t just about a poor meshing of talent, or a lack of scoring. Perhaps this isn’t about finding a top-line player to play with Jarome Iginla. Perhaps it was just the fact that there were some people on the team that didn’t like each other and so the team went into a tailspin once the scoring dried up and it wasn’t as easy to win games anymore.
There is talk of another trade being made by the Flames with Ales Kotalik being a part of the move, but it seems unlikely that another team will take that albatross of a contract off of Sutter’s hands. What seems more likely, then, is that this was a sacrifice of future cap space to save this team now, at least in a chemistry sense.
This team, if it is going to go anywhere, will have to be more than the sum of its parts, because the main problem that existed before the Phaneuf and Jokinen trades hasn’t gone anywhere. There just aren’t enough consistent scorers. Help isn’t likely to come either, as the Flames lack many pieces that will likely be needed to complete a deadline deal. They’re down a good prospect after moving Keith Aulie and they hold neither a first or second round draft pick in this year’s draft.
So maybe, by surgically removing two locker room problems, Sutter has created a better team that likes each other. Maybe down a few egos, the team will start playing the tight, aggressive and spirited hockey it needs to win games with a lack of top-level offensive talent. Maybe Sutter knows exactly what he’s doing.