In this Calgary Flames news & rumors update, former Flame Sam Bennett, who was traded at the deadline, may finally be turning into the player many had envisioned. Meanwhile, Darryl Sutter is not happy with some of his younger defencemen and let the media know it. Despite being eligible to be activated today, Josh Leivo remains on the COVID-19 protocol list, while his teams’ chances at a playoff berth are nearing zero.
It had come abundantly clear that Bennett needed a change of scenery. Outside of an impressive 18 goal rookie campaign, he was never able to have success offensively, aside from some great play in brief playoff stints. Heading into this year’s trade deadline, he had just four goals and 12 points in 38 games, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when it was announced that he was being traded to the Florida Panthers.
While it is early, the trade is doing wonders for the 24-year-old so far. In just nine games, he has five goals and 13 points. He has fit in terrifically with a Panthers team who could go on run in this year’s playoffs and is playing at a level that many expected him to do after being taken fourth overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
Sutter Calls Out Young Defencemen
Early this past week, head coach Darryl Sutter made it clear he is not happy with the play of some of his young defensemen.
“I think one of the reasons that we are not in a playoff spot is there’s three or four young defencemen that have not lived up to expectations this year,” Sutter said.
Many thought that one of the players he was discussing with that statement was Rasmus Andersson, who has taken a step back this season after an impressive 2019-20 campaign. However, Sutter cleared things up a few days later, saying that his comments didn’t apply to Andersson. Instead, he was mentioning Juuso Valimaki, Nikita Nesterov, Oliver Kylington, and Conner Mackey.
“This summer, when you guys sat in on team meetings, I’m sure you envisioned (Valimaki) pushing to play in the top four,” Sutter said. “I’m sure (Nesterov), when he signed, was expected to make a contribution in the top six. I’m sure the player you just talked about, Kylington, was going to get every opportunity if he grabbed it to play in a top six role. I know the team really wanted to look at Conner Mackey, so I’d say those are the young players that are still pushing to see if they’re NHL players.”
Leivo Still Not Ready
On April 23, the Flames were forced to cancel their morning skate due to a player testing positive for COVID-19. As we now know, that player was Leivo. He has missed five games as a result of the virus.
He is still on the protocol list despite being eligible to be taken off for the first time today, meaning he could miss some additional time. It has been a frustrating season for the 27-year-old as he has just five goals and seven points in 36 games, and now, of course, this. Hopefully, he is able to return to the lineup and build on his totals before the 2020-21 season comes to an end.
Last week, the Flames playoff hopes took a huge blow after a 2-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. Had they walked away with a win, they would have trailed the Habs by just two points for the final playoff spot in the North Division. Instead, they fell six points back, which resulted in the majority of fans believing their shot at a playoff spot was finished.
Though they haven’t been mathematically eliminated yet, they trail the Habs by eight points for the final spot and have just six games remaining. According to hockeyreference.com, they have just a 1.4 percent chance of getting in. This entire season has been an extremely frustrating one for the Flames, so the fact they will miss out on the playoffs shouldn’t surprise anybody.
Former Jr. A player turned writer. Cover both the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers, and am part of both the Flames Faceoff and Oilers Overtime podcasts.