Calgary Flames News & Rumors: Contender Status, Sutter, Wolf

In this edition of Calgary Flames News & Rumors, several outlets, including TSN, are regarding this team as a serious Stanley Cup contender entering the playoffs. A big part of their success and why many expect them to perform so well is due to their head coach Darryl Sutter, who has turned this group around in a big way. In other news, goaltending prospect Dustin Wolf has been named to the American Hockey League’s (AHL) First All-Star Team.

Flames Being Regarded as True Cup Contender

Heading into the season, many questioned whether or not this Flames roster had what it took to qualify for the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. As we now know, they went on to prove their doubters wrong in a big way, as they have not only made the playoffs but were able to clinch the Pacific Division title.

Thanks to their solid and consistent play all season long, many are now recognizing this team as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. In fact, in an article posted on Monday by TSN, they are being viewed as the NHL’s second-highest ranked team, falling behind only the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida Panthers.

THW Betting Guide Banner

As Flames fans have come to know in recent years, high playoff expectations don’t always lead to success. Back in 2018-19, they finished first in the Western Conference, only to be upset by the Colorado Avalanche in the opening round. With that said, however, this roster is deeper than the one we saw in 2018-19 and has the likely Jack Adams Award winner behind the bench in Sutter. There is plenty of reason to be optimistic about this team heading into the postseason.

Sutter Playing Big Role in Flames Turnaround

Back in early March of 2021, many were surprised to hear that general manager (GM) Brad Treliving not only chose to fire then-head coach Geoff Ward but replace him with Sutter. After all, the now 63-year-old hadn’t been in the league since the Los Angeles Kings dismissed him after the 2016-17 season. While the move came with some scrutiny at the time, it is clear now that it was a great decision by the Flames’ GM.

Darryl Sutter Calgary Flames
Darryl Sutter, head coach of the Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Though he wasn’t able to improve the team in 2020-21 as many had hoped, it has become clear that Sutter being able to start with the team from training camp has helped turn their game around. At times last season, this was a group that seemed disinterested and lacked the compete level needed to be successful. Under Sutter, their effort level is there every night, regardless of the outcome. He recently spoke about his frustrations watching the team play last season before he was hired. (from ‘Donna Spencer: Return of coach Darryl Sutter ignited Calgary Flames’, Global News, 05/02/22).

“I’m a Flames fan. I didn’t like the way they were playing,” Sutter admitted. “I didn’t think they would be a playoff team last year. I knew it was going to take some time, that’s for sure.

“As a coach, you have to get in there and figure out how can you help that player become a better player or change? Become a better team player? That is a hard job. Hard to do.”

You may also like:

While it may be difficult for most, it hasn’t appeared that way for Sutter. After finishing the shortened 2020-21 campaign with a 26-27-3 record, the Flames improved in dramatic fashion, going 50-21-11 this season. As mentioned above, the turnaround has most in the belief that Sutter will take home the Jack Adams Award this year, something he has never won to this point in his coaching career.

Wolf Named to First All-Star Team

After an outstanding four-year Western Hockey League career, Flames fans eagerly awaited to see how Wolf would perform in his first season as a professional hockey player. While there was plenty to be optimistic about, some were hesitant about the 21-year-old given his small stature for a goaltender.

Any doubts surrounding how he would adapt to the professional game are now a thing of the past, as he had an even better season than his biggest supporters could have imagined. In 47 games this season as a member of the Stockton Heat, he recorded a spectacular 2.35 goals-against average along with a .924 save percentage and a 33-9-4 record.

Dustin Wolf Calgary Flames
Dustin Wolf, Calgary Flames (Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images)

As a result of his outstanding season, Wolf was named to the AHL’s First All-Star Team this past week. In doing so, he becomes the first rookie goaltender to have that honor since Ottawa Senators goaltender and two-time Stanley Cup winner Matt Murray did so back in 2014-15 as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization. Safe to say, the future looks very bright for the 2019 seventh-round draft pick.

Up Next for the Flames

The Flames will begin their first-round series against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night at the Saddledome. They will then prepare for Game 2 on Thursday night before heading to Dallas to play Game 3 on Saturday. Assuming they are able to bring the same compete level into the playoffs that we have seen from them all season long, there is little reason to think they won’t be able to advance to the second round.

Substack Subscribe to the THW Daily and never miss the best of The Hockey Writers Banner