Friends, next week is the All-Star Break. As of the All-Star Break, the Calgary Flames will have just 32 games remaining in the regular season. The sprint to the trade deadline and the end of the regular season is almost upon us.
So hey, let’s dive into the mailbag!
Yes and no.
I think they’re aligned on player development in the sense that as a former general manager, Darryl Sutter gets that teams need to have young players in their system to help back-fill the NHL roster. And you need somewhere for them to grow and make mistakes and mature.
But Sutter seems extremely hesitant to have those players grow and make mistakes in the NHL, because the margin for error for the Flames’ in the standings right now is virtually nil. When he talked about the “10 up or 10 out” criteria for using Jakob Pelletier, that was what he was alluding to: if you are completely out of it or up enough that mistakes won’t kill your playoff hopes, Sutter would be less antsy about using kids.
I don’t even think it’s a question if Brad Treliving has lost control. He controls the roster. But Sutter controls the lineup card, and there’s a Moneyball vibe going on right now with Billy Beane and Art Howe having a small tug-of-war about who plays and who doesn’t.
I’ll say this: Darryl Sutter is a demanding coach. And different players respond different ways to demanding coaches. Some players want consistency, and so if a demanding coaching is always demanding, that’s fine. Some players want more of a variable approach. Every player is wired differently and responds to different things, and every coach eventually wears out their welcome, no matter how good they are at coaching.
In short: No, I don’t think Sutter was the reason Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk went elsewhere. Gaudreau’s primary reasons were family-related, while Tkachuk’s primary reasons appear to be based on finances – Florida’s a low-tax state – and finding a good lifestyle fit for himself long-term.
When Brett Ritchie returns, I suspect we see a rotation of Walker Duehr, Trevor Lewis, Adam Ruzicka and Ritchie on the fourth line. Lewis probably ends up being the constant because of his special teams impacts. I would suspect that Jakob Pelletier goes back to the AHL once Ritchie is activated from the injury reserve.
The Flames revealed their jerseys for the 2019 Heritage Classic in early September, in advance of an October game. So I would imagine we see a similar timeline for 2023’s edition, with a jersey reveal roughly six or seven weeks ahead of the game. I would suspect sometime around the Penticton tournament.
This is a good question, and we’ll definitely dive into this in more depth later on.
Right now, as a short answer, I’ll say based on the Flames getting to the second round last season, getting back to the second round (and not going backwards in the club’s progression) seems like it would be the bar to try to meet.
Through 48 games, we’ve seen Dan Vladar start 16 times – one out of every three. Based on that I would guess we see him at around 27 starts when the season’s done.
This is a really good draft class and the Flames didn’t have a first-rounder last year (due to the Tyler Toffoli trade) and can’t trade their 2024, 2025 or 2026 first-rounders until the conditions from the Sean Monahan trade are met. I think there’s at most a 10% chance that they trade this year’s first.
Most models give the Flames a slim chance at winning the Cup this season. The Athletic has the Flames at about a 4% chance, which feels about right given their season so far and how the rest of the conference (and league) looks. So it doesn’t look likely, but the fun part of sports is weird stuff happens a lot so who knows what happens.
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