In this edition of Calgary Flames News & Rumors, head coach Darryl Sutter had very high praise for Johnny Gaudreau lately, stating that the 28-year-old is one of the game’s best 200-foot players right now. In other news, Jacob Markstrom is dealing with a minor injury and had to miss his scheduled start against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday. Meanwhile, Matthew Tkachuk recently passed former Flame and current assistant general manager (GM), Craig Conroy, on the franchise’s all-time points leader board. Last but not least, the Flames recently assigned Byron Froese to the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League (AHL).
Sutter Loving Gaudreau’s Game
When the Flames first hired Sutter during the 2020-21 season, many questioned how Gaudreau would fare under him. After all, he was viewed as a very one-dimensional player, and at times was considered to be soft, especially come playoff time. The Sutter hiring didn’t seem to bode well for him, but fast forward to where we are now, and it’s working out great. In fact, the Flames’ bench boss has turned the offensive threat into a terrific two-way player, something he recently spoke with the media about.
“Johnny is one of the best 200-foot players in the league right now, and that says a lot about him and just the way he’s approached the season,” Sutter said. “Really consistent and really buying in in terms of the whole package in terms of how we want to play. Your top players have to emulate how you want to play.”
While Gaudreau’s defensive play has certainly improved, it hasn’t taken away from his offence at all. Through 33 games, he has 15 goals and 38 points in what is shaping up to be one of the best offensive seasons of his career. The one drawback of this, of course, is that it is certainly raising the price on his next contract, but for the time being, it’s helping the Flames in a big way in the standings.
Markstrom Injury Believed to Be Short Term
Flames fans had a bit of a scare in Friday night’s game versus the Hurricanes, as Sutter told media on game day that Markstrom was not 100 percent and that Dan Vladar would make his second start in as many days. It had the potential to be a massive blow for this team, as Markstrom has been their MVP to this point. But thankfully, it doesn’t sound as though he is dealing with anything serious and that he could be back as soon as their next game on Jan. 13.
After a disappointing 2020-21 season, Markstrom has been the goalie the Flames had hoped for this season, with a 2.15 goals-against average along with a .926 save percentage in 24 games. He is very much in the Vezina Trophy conversation right now, and assuming he gets back to full health soon, there is no reason to expect a drop-off in his play.
Tkachuk Passes Conroy on Flames Leaderboard
While the Flames struggled as a whole on Friday against the Hurricanes, Tkachuk continued his strong season with two assists on the evening. As it turns out, those two assists were enough to move him into the 22nd spot in franchise history for points, passing Conroy, who is now serving as the team’s assistant GM. Shortly afterward, Conroy had a good laugh with the media at his own expense. (from ‘Wes Gilbertson: Tkachuk bumps Conroy down a peg on Flames’ franchise scoring list: ‘I actually thought he passed me a while ago’, Calgary Sun 01/08/22).
“Someone tweeted about it a while ago ,and my daughter said, ‘Did you see this, Dad?’” said Conroy. “So I was kind of laughing about it and sent him a text. And he was like, ‘What? This is embarrassing that it took me this long!’ I said, ‘I know, I was just a checker! It’s not like this is your first year in the league.’
“We were joking around about it. I actually thought he passed me a while ago. I guess I had more points than I thought.”
Despite Conroy’s self-deprecating humour, he had a very solid career for himself, playing in over 1000 games. His best season came as a Flame in 2001-02 when he registered career highs with 27 goals and 75 points. In his 507 games with the Flames, he recorded 308 points.
Froese Reassigned to Stockton
On Saturday, the Flames announced that they reassigned Froese to the Heat. The 30-year-old, who is in his third season with the organization, was called up back on Dec. 9 but didn’t dress for a single game. It has to be disappointing for him after getting in six games with the big club last season, but given how well the Flames have played in 2021-22, it’s hard for fringe players like himself to get an opportunity.
Through Froese’s lengthy pro career, he has proven to be a very solid point producer at the AHL level, but he’s struggled to bring that same game to the NHL. In 116 career games, he has managed just six goals and 17 points. Unless the Flames run into some injury problems, it is unlikely we see him again this season.
Up Next for the Flames
As mentioned previously, the Flames’ next scheduled game will take place at the Saddledome versus the Senators this Thursday. They were originally supposed to have games against both the New York Islanders and Vegas Golden Knights this week, but both were postponed due to COVID protocols. Due to a number of postponements lately, the Flames sit eight points back of the Golden Knights for first in the division but have five games in hand.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Oil On Whyte, NHLtradetalk.com, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.