FlamesNation mailbag: Darryl Sutter rides into town

Ryan Pike
2 years ago
The Calgary Flames have a brand-new coach! They’ve won some games and lost some games in the last week. Readers have questions about all of these things!
Let’s check out the mailbag, folks!
If the Flames don’t gain much ground in the next few weeks, I could see the club look more at pure hockey trades – moves that would see more structural changes to the core and be aimed at impacts beyond just this year – but most likely the first few weeks of Darryl Sutter’s regime will be about establishing habits and probably won’t result in any players being sent outta town… even if the Flames maintain their standings slide.
Via Dobber’s Frozen Tools, here are the Flames’ most-used forward lines over their last 10 games (Sunday excluded) that have a Corsi For percentage north of 50%:
  • Tkachuk – Backlund – Mangiapane (60.5%)
  • Lucic – Bennett – Dube (55.4%)
  • Gaudreau – Monahan – Lindholm (52.9%)
Absent from this list? The entire fourth line mix, for one. And you’ll also notice that (a) the Gaudreau/Monahan line is on the weakest “good” line, and it takes away Elias Lindholm from being a centre. So if the broader question is “Hey, which regular line has the toughest time?” and we ignore the fourth line jumble, the answer is whatever line Gaudreau and Monahan are playing on (at least from a possession standpoint).
Ruzicka probably doesn’t get brought up unless a centre gets hurt and management doesn’t want additional looks at Byron Froese or Glenn Gawdin for fourth line duty. He’s been excellent in the AHL, but he’s in just his second year pro and it’s more important for him to play big minutes in Stockton right now than it is for him to get a cup of coffee in Calgary.
Quite simply, yes. If they’re .500 (still) after, say, 30 games, then they’d need to earn another 32 to 35 points over the last 26 games. That’s between a .615 and a .673 clip from a team that’s been .500 all season. The Flames need to go on a run of wins, and the longer it takes before we see that run, the slimmer their playoff hopes will get.
Based on how he managed Los Angeles back in the day, Sutter favours two-way players who can play a smart, structured game in all three zones. So guys like Mikael Backlund, Elias Lindholm, Derek Ryan and Andrew Mangiapane will be in good shape.
Players who occasionally make puck management gaffes in one of the three zones – especially the defensive zone – might draw Darryl’s ire. So keep an eye on guys like Oliver Kylington and Nikita Nesterov, who are on the fringes of the lineup and could get bumped out.
If you’re great in one area of the ice, though, Darryl might just want to help round out your game. So Rasmus Andersson, Johnny Gaudreau and Noah Hanifin will probably get a lot of the new coach’s attention. And considering Darryl tends to really lean on his core guys, he’s going to want to be able to do that without worrying about their two-way play.
And on a team that seems to lack a defined identity, a guy like Matthew Tkachuk who definitely has one could be extremely valuable for Sutter as he tries to get this show back on the road.
The most important change will likely be an emphasis on defensive structure, especially in the defensive zone. In his introductory press conference Sutter repeatedly mentioned the importance of playing as a team and such an emphasis will do a lot for reducing turnovers on failed zone exits and hopefully cut down on the number of high danger scoring chances Jacob Markstrom sees.
We’ll be blunt here: the Flames current ownership is spending a lot of money on (a) an arena and (b) a hockey team they’ve frequently spent to the cap on. They want to win. While I have no specific insight, I suspect ownership and Brad Treliving had frequent conversations regarding their frustration with the results from the current incarnation of the club. When Treliving made it clear that major trades were pretty tough to pull off in the current climate, with tight cap space and cross-border quarantine regulations, they probably allowed him to pull a the trigger on spending big on an established coach in Sutter.
Ownership was undoubtedly involved in the discussions, but it seems really unlikely that it was imposed upon Treliving.
Drafting and development has been one of the strengths of the club under Treliving, and it seems unlikely that Sutter will be given extensive involvement in hockey operations decisions. He’ll be one of many voices, but where things went off the rails last time Darryl was here was when he got too caught up in off-ice stuff. His strength is as a coach and that’s where his attention will be focused.

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