CALGARY — The silence is profound.
It has blanketed the Calgary Flames for a full week, speaking volumes of the crossroads the club is at.
When last we heard from the organization, it was incoming president of hockey operations, Don Maloney, who insisted he wouldn’t be bound by timelines, as his search for a general manager would be exhaustive and devoid of updates.
However, many figured his Monday afternoon address would be followed by coach Darryl Sutter’s season-ending wrap-up presser a day or two later.
Despite Maloney’s insistence the coach’s fate would be subject to review, many saw it as lip service and assumed Brad Treliving’s decision to step away meant the organization had essentially chosen its horse — the one with a two-year contract worth upwards of $8 million.
Sources say several key players made it abundantly clear in their exit interviews with Maloney and Treliving that the environment in which they are working is untenable.
Their candour can’t be ignored.
Sure, players gripe — especially after a season as frustrating as the one the Flames just endured.
But this is different.
We’re talking about an organization that saw two superstars bolt last summer, and should be bracing for a handful of core players to leave next summer, as indicated by the candid comments from team leaders Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund when asked if they’d consider signing extensions.
Predictable departures like these have plenty to do with the weather, the absence of a world-class arena, less than favourable tax rates and an aging roster.
But they also have to do with the culture created by a notoriously tough coach.
What does it say about the environment when Treliving makes the almost unheard-of decision to simply walk away from the GM job?
Thus, a review of everything.
It makes sense then, that Sutter wasn’t trotted out for a media availability last week that would have revolved entirely around his uncertain future.
Maloney has made the right move to hold off on publicly addressing Sutter’s future, ideally until he knows more about the man he’ll hire to oversee the club’s direction.
Whoever Maloney brings in deserves a chance to review the coach himself, as the monumental task ahead requires an unfettered ability to build the culture and staff he deems appropriate.
A good chunk of NHL general managers inherit coaches when they’re hired, much like Treliving did when he arrived nine years ago with Bob Hartley at the helm.
Hartley went on to win coach of the year, earning an extension before he was fired a year later.
Sutter has proven conclusively he is a brilliant coach, fully deserving of the extension he inked last summer as the reigning Jack Adams winner.
But there are clearly problems in and around the dressing room, which likely go a long way toward explaining how a team as talented and deep as the Flames fell short of the playoffs.
Unlike years past, Sutter wasn’t able to get the most out of this club, which in itself is reason enough for an organization to evaluate a coach.
No owner would be happy to pay more than $4 million a year for a coach to stay home, but it’s small potatoes in an industry where player payroll exceeds $83 million annually.
Sutter’s handling of call-ups Jakob Pelletier and Matthew Phillips clearly clashed with the desires of his GM, as did the coach’s post-game conduct following Pelletier’s NHL debut.
He was reprimanded for the latter, prompting team president John Bean to attend Sutter’s next press conference.
Sutter’s subsequent praise for Pelletier, and later Matt Coronato, was over the top, as he’d clearly understood management’s reminder: words matter.
Silence can say plenty too.
Good on the Flames for putting the GM search ahead of a Sutter endorsement.
Or, at the very least, making it look that way.