FlamesNation mailbag: a Sutter springtime

Ryan Pike
2 years ago
It’s mid-March! Spring is just around the corner! Darryl Sutter is once again Calgary Flames head coach and so far the team looks better.
With optimism in the air, we head to ye olde mailbag!
Let’s look at options on the teams that are likely out of the playoff picture league-wide, as they would be more likely to give up a player to the Flames early enough that it would make a difference for Calgary’s line. (So that’s Detroit, Nashville, Columbus, Anaheim, San Jose, Arizona, Buffalo, New Jersey, the NY Rangers, Ottawa and Vancouver.)
Names that pop up as interesting, to me, include:
  • New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri ($4.65 million, pending UFA)
  • The Rangers’ Ryan Strome ($4.5 million, one year left)
  • Nashville’s Victor Arvidsson ($4.25 million, three years left)
  • Nashville’s Calle Jarnkrok ($2 million, one year left)
  • Anaheim’s Rickard Rakell ($3.789 million, one year left)
Now, reportedly the price tag for Rakell included Sam Bennett and a second round pick. So that’s probably a reasonable price tag expectation for everyone else, except perhaps Jarnkrok. And with a flat salary cap. there’s also the question of how the Flames would afford the remaining year(s) of everyone but Palmieri.
Of these options, Arvidsson is arguably the most exciting and the most likely to become a core piece. As Pat and I discussed on Friday on FlamesNation Live on Facebook Live, he’s quite good and played with Mikael Backlund on the Swedish national team so he’d fit in nicely.
In a word? Yes.
Phillips is quite good. He can move well, protect the puck well, and he’s arguably the best player on the Stockton roster at finding teammates in all three zones with smart, accurate passes. There’s nothing overly fancy about Phillips’ game, but that’s probably why it worked so well in the WHL and why it’s worked so well in the AHL thus far: he does simple things with a lot of speed and efficiency and that’s what coaches and scouts love about him.
We already discussed Phillips, so let’s check out Ruzicka.
Ruzicka’s probably a victim of timing right now. With his size and skillset, he projects as a centre at the NHL level and right now the Flames have four centres that their coach really likes at the NHL level with Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund and Derek Ryan. Ruzicka’s not a fully-formed enough pro player yet for there to be much upside in putting him in the NHL, even for a cup of coffee. (Put differently: he’s a rookie, and with how precarious the Flames’ season is right now it wouldn’t be fair to him to either call him up and not use him, or call him up, use him, and have him in a position where a mistake could sink Calgary’s season.)
He’ll probably get a real chance to play games next season, though.
So far?
The team is playing with a ton of pace. Beforehand, the Flames were a collection of fairly fast guys that were playing slow, meandering, predictable hockey. But Sutter’s changed that in a couple key ways.
  1. Faster transitions.
  2. A faster, structured forecheck.
The transitions come from the forwards remaining connected to the defensemen in the defensive zone, so that they can avoid longer, higher-risk outlet passes and needless turnovers in the neutral zone. You’ll notice that fewer Flames plays die in the neutral zone, and the forwards staying back and allowing those quicker, shorter passes is a big part of that. This allows the team to build speed in the neutral zone and not have to abandon rushes.
The other part is a structured forecheck. The club is targeting their dump-and-chase rather than having it be a consequence of them struggling in the neutral zone. As a result, they gain speed in the neutral zone, chuck the puck into a corner, and then the F1 and F2 forwards stagger their approaches to the puck-carrier in an effort to flush them towards a particular part of the ice and pressure them into turning the puck over.
(Monahan pressures, then Ritchie pressures to cause the turnover, which leads to the goal.)
It’s a way of playing that demands speed and attention to detail, but so far it’s been working.

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