Tuesday marked Darryl Sutter's first practice with the club and after a heartbreaker against Ottawa on Sunday, the boys definitely need a kick and Sutter's patented bag skate was in full flux.
With only 30 games remaining for the Flames it is really do or die time for the team. However, Sutter signed on for three years for a reason. This team is going for it under his tenure, and a full on re-build won't be coming.
A few tidbits I saw on Twitter regarding Darryl Sutter really appraise his competency as a coach. Sutter came into the Flames organization the year before the cup run. While the team was absolute garbage finishing the worst in the division, Sutter flipped them into a team that made the Stanley cup final and won the division in the next two seasons. While his GM tenure was really rough, he took over the Kings franchise and took an 8 seed to the cup final, winning it this time around. He followed that up with another cup in LA, and while the team struggled near the end of his time their they actually were still strong analytically.
He got the best out of the Kings star players in Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick. While people may say he's old school, he referenced in his introduction via zoom that he does heavily value analytics. To no surprise in his last three years in LA the team finished 1st in CF, 1st in SF%, 2nd in SCF%, 4th in HDCF% as well as 2nd in xGF%.
All this is good news for a struggling Flames team. On another note this is certainly Treliving's last coaching hire. It is by no surprise that Sutters contract outlasts Treliving and Sutter definitely didn't come cheap. The ownership went out and got the most experienced and big name coach that was out there. While some wanted Gerard Gallant or Bruce Boudreau, Sutter by and far has more success to his name than either of the other guys.
Among active coaches only Joel Quennville has more Stanley cups. Sutter is tied for second with Mike Sullivan. He has the 7th most games coached amongst active coaches.
With all this being said, we still have a roundtable to get to so here are two questions for our COFRU team:
What are your reasonable expectations for this season under Sutter? Playoffs or bust? Regroup for next year?
Reasonable expectation: The Flames finish 5th in the division but have a better record post Sutter than with Ward. In order to make the playoffs we will probably need about 40-45 points in our remaining 30 games. That works out to around 20 wins so not unattainable but highly unlikely.
Optimistic Explanation: If they do by chance make a playoff push and one of WIN/EDM/MTL falters, I could see the Flames entering the playoffs really hot, akin to Colorado in 2018-2019.
At this point into the season I’ve been optimistic for awhile saying this group can change under a new coach and obviously I’m still waiting to see how that turns out. Through 25 games played we haven’t seen a consistent stretch of games from this team, putting the Flames in a position where almost every game now until the end of the season is must win in most situations. I’m very excited to see what Mr. Unfinished Business does with this team going forward. I think bringing in Darryl will be a fresh start for a bunch of the players on this team, specifically Sam Bennett. Darryl has a proven track record of helping players in reviving their careers.
All in all I think the hiring of Darryl provides a sense of safety and urgency for the players. I think this team can make the playoffs if the players buy in to what the bench boss is preaching. But with the way things look at the moment I’m skeptical. We shall see what this team does going forward.
Reasonably I don’t foresee the playoffs this year for the Flames. They waited too long into a shortened year to make a necessary switch. If the Flames were to make the playoffs (and right now thats a big if) it will be because they got hot, went on a long winning streak and one of Edmonton or Montreal falter down the stretch. The odds of that happening don’t line up in their favour for this year. I think the best course of action is to play this year out, let Sutter try some things out in terms of style of play and line combinations and see which players he sees as integral parts of this team moving forward and try to regroup for next year with the potential of a top 10 pick thrown into the equation as well.
Reasonable expectation: I think this team will finish in a playoff spot but just barely so lets say that is 4th place. With this division format it shouldn't be hard to tally up some points quickly, especially considering every game is a four point contest. The Sutter era starts with two games against Montreal, who Calgary currently trails in the standings by four points, although the Habs have two games in hand. If Calgary can start the Sutter tenure with back to back wins they will be tied for 4th and have a much better shot at grabbing a playoff spot. I think the top three playoff spots will be locked in with Toronto, Edmonton and Winnipeg. Which means the Flames will be battling with Montreal and Vancouver for the final spot and I think they have a solid chance in that fight.
If the Flames miss the playoffs this year, what move would you like to see them make? Which domino would be the next to fall?
The obvious choice here for me is Brad Treliving. This is his roster, he built this team. Especially with Darryl seeming like an ownership hire to me so I wouldn't be surprised to see Craig Conroy take over. However, I don't know if I like a Conroy-Sutter combination. Feels like it could lead to Sutter having to much sway with the front office due to his prior relationship with Craig. As far as players go I don't expect us to see Sam Bennett in a Flames uniform after this season and if Gaudreau or Monahan struggle under Sutter I could see the team using them + our lottery pick to bring in a bonafide #1 centre.
Very interested to see what would happen to this core if the team misses the playoffs. That being said if they do miss the playoffs, I think GM Brad Treliving’s job will be in jeopardy and he might be the guy that gets the short end of the stick. Also if that doesn’t happen I think it’s time to blow up the core. The age old argument (since 2017) about blowing up the core doesn’t seem so bad right now with the way this team has been playing. Moving forward this team has the young studs to get the job done. Guys like Mangiapane, Dube, Tkachuk, Andersson, Valimaki etc.
If the team were to blow it up I think guys like Johnny or Mony will be made available for trade and one of the two will pack their bags and leave Cowtown. Out of those two I think the domino that would fall would be Sean Monahan (as much as that pains me to say because I’m a Monahan super fan). But the trade that will bring the most back is one involving Johnny Hockey. I’m not saying he should be traded but if we wanted a good return Johnny would bring that, and plus his contract is up after next season so it may be beneficial for the team if they feel they can’t re-sign him come 2022 Free Agency.
All in all I think this team will have some big questions to answer in the Offseason if this team fails to make the playoffs for the 6th time in the last 10 years.
If the Flames do miss the playoffs like I think they will, there are some areas I would like addressed. I know they don’t grow on trees and this might be a very unrealistic goal for me to set out, but when a top five center like Jack Eichel potentially becomes available, you need to do absolutely everything you can to acquire him. I don’t care if that means giving up Monahan, Bennett, Valimaki, Zary, Pelletier and three firsts. You have to make it happen. At the VERY LEAST if the Flames want to give this core one more shot, they have to acquire a top six right winger. You can’t keep rolling out bottom six options on a line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. It is unfair to see them have to try and drag along a Dominik Simon, Brett Ritchie or any of the other players not named Elias Lindholm that have been put on a line with them. I think he bought himself a bit more time with the hiring of Darryl Sutter but if Brad Treliving doesn’t make these necessary adjustments, I think his job will be on the line.
If any changes come to this team they will only be on the ice I think. Either one of Sean Monahan or Johnny Gaudreau would be the most likely candidates to sport a new jersey next season. I would prefer to see Monahan leave the team and maybe you could package him with some picks/prospects to get a better centre or even right wing. While those would be my top two choices to get rid of and they are likely at the top of the list for many, one player I would really like to see the Flames target is Filip Forsberg. There have already been rumours that Brad Treliving has been kicking tires on the 26-year-old and I think he is someone who would bring some solid skill to this lineup. He is fast, has skill and is a proven scorer. It would be possible to play him on the right wing and he would round out any line he plays on. Plus I think he would rock a Blasty jersey quite well.
Thanks for reading and Go Flames Go!