When Darryl Sutter agreed to return to coach the Calgary Flames during the 2020-21 season, his sole reason was to win the Stanley Cup. The 63-year-old made it known he had ‘unfinished business’ and made it clear he wanted to turn the club into a winner.
While the 2020-21 campaign didn’t turn out how Sutter or any other member of the Flames’ organization had hoped, the following season was more positive. Not only did they finish with a Pacific Division-leading 111 points in 2021-22, but they were also considered legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. With Johnny Gaudreau’s 115 points ranked second in league scoring and Matthew Tkachuk’s 104, which ranked eighth, the organization was running as well as they possibly could have in Calgary. As for Sutter, he impressed so many with how he turned the team around that he was rewarded with his first-ever Jack Adams Award for NHL coach of the year. That is what makes it so hard to comprehend the situation the Flames now find themselves in.
Major Flames Roster Changes Ahead
Just over two months ago, the Flames were advancing to the second round of the playoffs after a thrilling Game 7 overtime win versus the Dallas Stars. Unfortunately, that was the last high for this group and their fanbase during the playoffs and could be the last for some time.
As we now know, Gaudreau shocked the hockey world by leaving the Flames via free agency and signing a long-term deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets. After that, all eyes quickly turned to Tkachuk, as fans held their collective breath, praying to hear that he had signed a long-term deal with Calgary. As we now know, that won’t happen.
Several reports that surfaced on Wednesday noted that Tkachuk let it be known that he is not interested in signing long-term with the Flames. A trade is now expected to happen in the coming weeks. While a return for the 24-year-old star will likely be significant, there is no denying that the team will regress big time in 2022-23, which leads us to Sutter.
Sutter’s Style Best for a Win-Now Roster
Throughout his coaching career, Sutter has been known to get the best out of his players, though he demands a lot. His old-school approach has a shelf life, however, and many tend to get tired of him after just a few seasons. According to Gaudreau, who recently appeared on the Spittin Chiclets Podcast, Sutter still relies on his hard-nosed approach to the game.
“He got mad every single day,” Gaudreau said. “It didn’t matter who you were. If you were a first-liner, fourth-liner, scratch player, if you did something wrong, you’re getting yelled at. He didn’t care who you were. That’s why I really liked playing for him. He expected the same out of everyone.”
While Gaudreau was quick to mention that he enjoyed playing for Sutter, it’s also clear that Sutter hasn’t changed the way he handles his players. The 28-year-old also said that after tangents in the dressing room, he and his teammates would hear their bench boss throwing stuff around out of anger, proof he’s as fiery as ever.
It’s not bad that Sutter approaches the game this way. After all, he led the Los Angeles Kings to Stanley Cup Championships in 2012 and 2014, so he knows what it takes to win. That being said, without Gaudreau and Tkachuk, the Flames will not be in a position to win anytime soon. If anything, they could be headed for a rebuild, or at the very least an on-the-fly retool.
Sutter Not a Fit Nor Interested in a Rebuild
As mentioned, Sutter made it clear when he chose to return to the Flames that his goal was to win the Cup. Without such a talented roster, he likely would have been plenty content staying at his ranch in Viking, Alberta. Given his age and his already accomplished career, he likely has no interest in a rebuild if Treliving decides to head in that direction.
On top of that, while a Sutter-type coach is great for many things, a rebuild isn’t one of them. When a team is struggling as the Flames may over the next few seasons, the most important thing they can have is a player’s coach who keeps things light and positive. Sutter has never been that guy and never will be. He just isn’t the proper fit for a rebuilding team.
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: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, 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.