Thursday night will feature Darryl Sutter behind the bench of the Calgary Flames for the first time since May 3, 2006. Now, nearly 15 years later, Sutter’s back and trying to turn the Flames around.
To commemorate Sutter’s return to the Flames, we’ve convened our staff for a roundtable chat.

What’s your reaction to the Flames hiring Darryl Sutter? (Good move? Bad move?)

Craig: A little hesitant. It’s clear the Flames needed to make one (hopefully final) substantial stir to inject some stability in this group and how they play, and Sutter is certainly a man proven capable for that job, but it’s impossible to completely ignore the abuse allegations against him, too.
Mike G: It is simultaneously both the most and least Flames-like move possible. Considering Brad Treliving’s previous decisions on the job as the Flames’ general manager, I totally expected him to stay the course for the entire season and wait until the summer to do anything to address this team’s faults. I’m glad the team decided to make some sort of move to change things, although I’m doubtful it will make the team do a complete 180. I think it might still be necessary for the team to pull the trigger on a trade for another right-handed forward; that said, Treliving almost never adds players of better-than-replacement-level quality during the season. His most major in-season forward acquisition has been Curtis Lazar.
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Either way, I think Sutter’s presence will do a lot to dictate how this team moves forward. He has a track record of getting the most out of his players, although some—like Daniel Carcillo—say that he has gone too far in certain respects, including alleged physical abuse. [Editor’s note: Sutter was asked about the allegations during his introductory press conference and denied them.] This is probably a good move from a hockey strategy standpoint and Sutter should be an upgrade over Ward as an in-game presence on the bench, but there should also be real attention paid—both from an external and internal point-of-view—to how the new coach treats his players. With all this having been said, the organization has made a big commitment to Sutter and it would not be surprising to see them hand him the managerial reins (for better or for worse) if things continue to go poorly with the team in the coming years.
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A lot of fans see Sutter returning and feel hopeful about the future of the team. To many, he represents good memories from the 2003-04 season and a period where the Flames ranked among the class of the NHL. This team’s previous four coaches all lacked puck-possession systems, experience, or motivational staying power. Sutter should have no issue fulfilling all of those criteria.
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Prajeya: Like most, the first reaction that I expressed was shock. Admittedly, as a younger Flames fan I can’t exactly relate and express my opinions on his former stint with the Calgary Flames. With that being said, I am well aware of Daryl Sutter’s tenure with the Los Angeles Kings, and his overall record as a coach at the NHL level. I think, or at least I hope, the players have enough shame to know that they were a part of the reason why Geoff Ward lost his job. Thus, I do believe that we’ll be seeing more urgency from the group over these upcoming weeks, much like when Ward took over last year (Although of course, that was under an entirely different premise). On a 31 Thoughts podcast earlier this week, Elliott Friedman suggested that he felt that Flames management believed that the players took advantage of the easier going coaches, Glen Gulutzan and Geoff Ward in other words. This is clearly something that’ll change moving forward under Sutter, which is why I am excited by this hire. I’m a little wary of how some of the younger guys will be treated with regards to ice-time, particularly prospects who are looking to make the jump next season, but overall I’m quite satisfied that Brad Treliving hired a coach who’s a disciplinarian, but has also been said to help his players get through difficult times.
Ryan: I’m of two minds. I don’t think Geoff Ward was the problem necessarily, but in lieu of being able to do anything else to really shake up the team the move makes sense. And if you’re going to switch coaches, you need to get someone who’s markedly different than Ward and has a track record of success – Sutter ticks those boxes, especially with a pair of Stanley Cup wins to his credit. I’m not sure if his tough love style will necessarily resonate with a core group that’s seemingly tuned out four coaches since 2014, but it seems like a gamble worth taking.
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What’s one thing you hope Sutter fixes as head coach?

Craig: Hopefully his bag-skate threats spook the Flames into shedding their infamous first period grogginess, playing sharper and consistently contending in those crucial first ten minutes of a game. This season has been a testament to how costly two-shot periods can prove, no matter how spectacular any later resurgence.
Mike G: Under Ward, the Flames played very safe hockey with conservative breakout strategies and relatively static offensive zone entries. They stifled a lot of the creativity of star players like Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk while playing at a painfully slow pace.
It would be refreshing to see the Flames play with more confidence and speed. Sutter’s job will be to make in-game player deployment and system adjustments to counteract opposing attacks. He is a veteran tactician with more head coaching experience than the Flames’ last three bench bosses, combined. If anyone can make those calls, it’ll be Darryl.
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Prajeya: The team needs to be more consistent. Not just from game to game, but even from period to period. If Sutter can implement an atmosphere and system that results in a more committed Flames team, I’ll consider this season a success. Hopefully this would carry over into next season, in which the team performances at the high level that they are capable of all season long.
Ryan: For the love of all that is holy, let him fix their transition game. The Flames are a team that can be supremely fun to watch, but their ability to play fast, entertaining hockey is completely hamstrung by their inability to exit their own zone with any consistency.

Call your shot: will the Flames make the playoffs this season? (And why/why not?)

Craig: Barring a major change in game management, the Flames won’t make the playoffs this year. This team seems to exclusively win the games they outright dominate—conceding every tight, competitive match-up (see the past week’s losses against the Ottawa and Edmonton and multiple games against Toronto this year for examples) digs deep, deep holes in the standings.
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Mike G: Probably. The Maple Leafs and Jets both seem like very safe bets to make it, at this point. The Senators are basically done. The Canucks need a lot of work. Then, there are the Flames, Canadiens, and Oilers, with the Flames currently lagging behind by a decent amount. Calgary basically needs a solid four- or five-game winning streak at some point to get back into the hunt.
Maybe Sutter will be the guy to make that happen. It feels equally as likely that the Oilers will suddenly rattle off a string of eight losses and sink into the cellar. Who knows, at this point? If a bookie offered me +150 on the Flames making the playoffs, I would likely put $10 on it. With this coach, if they make it… all further bets are off.
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Prajeya: I think the team goes on a run after this coaching change. Given the shortened season, this really works in their favour with regards to the standings. Thus, I do believe that Calgary will make the playoffs, even if it’s just as a fringe team.
Ryan: Nope. I think they’re too far out and there’s just not enough runway remaining for them to reel in one of the four teams ahead of them.