Training camp for the 2016-17 season is underway for the Calgary Flames, as three different on-ice groups are taking part in daily sessions. With a brand new head coach in Glen Gulutzan and many new players, there’s a lot to take in.
I managed to take in all of Saturday’s on-ice sessions, and here are my main takeaways.
The on-ice sessions were structurally familiar, but quite different in their details. The first thing evident was the pace; Gulutzan keeps things active, rapidly moving from drill to drill with the coach occasionally interjecting with instructions.
The primary difference between Bob Hartley’s practices and Gulutzan’s is what drives the pace. Hartley emphasized skating, while Gulutzan’s drills revolve around puck possession, rapid puck movement and a quick transition game. The key to the practices appears to be getting the puck, keeping control of the puck, and getting the puck back in the event you turn it over.
Heck, Gulutzan twice whistled down drills early on to correct details, and both times were turnover issues:
- The forwards kept turning the puck over at the blueline during two-on-two drills, causing Gulutzan to emphasize the importance of holding onto the puck.
- Later on, a forward made a blind pass in his own zone during a transitions drill (causing a recurrence).
“It’s early. But you can’t turn it over at the blue (line),” – Gulutzan, just now. My impressions of him so far? Detail-oriented & patient.
— Kristen Odland (@Kristen_Odland) September 24, 2016
The thing that agitates the new coach is irresponsible puck management.
In terms of systems, Hartley seemed content to give the opposition attackers the very edge of the defensive zone, close down the inside lanes and attempt to let the opposition tucker themselves out and turn the puck over within the offensive zone. Gulutzan is having defenders be more active at challenging zone entries at the blueline, which will probably result in teams having to rely on dump-and-chase to get the puck into Calgary’s end and put more of an emphasis on the Flames’ puck retrieval and foot speed inside their own zone.
In terms of specific drills, there were a lot of D-to-D passes followed by transitions to the forwards for rapid breakouts. Instead of stretch passes, there were more short, rapid fire passes. I think the idea is to catch the defenders on their heels and generate chances on the rush (and presumably utilizing the defenders as a second wave of attack, too).
Generally speaking, Gulutzan seemed to keep pairs of players together (and on occasion there were recurring trios, but predominantly it was pairs).
Group A: Sam Bennett and Troy Brouwer (often with Matthew Tkachuk); rotating combinations of Andrew Mangiapane, Austin Carroll, Mark Jankowski and Morgan Klimchuk; Mark Giordano & Dennis Wideman
Group B: Lance Bouma and Emile Poirier; Alex Chiasson, Matt Stajan and Hunter Shinkaruk; Ryan Lomberg and Dillon Dube; Rasmus Andersson and Ryan Culkin; Tyler Wotherspoon and Dougie Hamilton (with Nicklas Grossmann rotating in for Wotherspoon occasionally)
Group C: Linden Vey and Micheal Ferland; Chris Higgins, Freddie Hamilton and Brandon Bollig; Oliver Kylington and Deryk Engelland; T.J. Brodie and Brett Kulak
Other than giving a few clues in terms of roles that players may be auditioning for (and perhaps a preview of which players could be grouped together for the split-squad games in Calgary and Edmonton on Monday), I wouldn’t read too much into the groupings. They’re obviously written in pencil, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see things shaken up significantly once cuts come after the first couple of preseason dates.
One detail that I did like, though: Gulutzan seems to have a preference for leftie-rightie defensive pairings, as other than Brodie nobody played their weak side (and Brodie most often plays the right side anyway despite being a left shot).
The players coming back from the World Cup (Lauri Korpikoski, Jyrki Jokipakka and Michael Frolik) should be on the ice with the practice groups on Sunday or Monday.
Gulutzan says Korpikoski will play in first two preseason games. WC returnees Frolik, Jokipakka unlikely to play Monday or Tuesday. #Flames
— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) September 24, 2016