In this edition of Calgary Flames News & Rumors, Matthew Tkachuk is set to return to the Saddledome for the first time since being traded this summer. In other news, Dan Vladar’s exceptional play, paired with Jacob Markstrom’s struggles, has many calling for him to get more starts moving forward. Meanwhile, many have also been pleading for the team to recall forward Matthew Phillips, who is scoring in bunches in the American Hockey League (AHL). Last but not least, Tyler Toffoli was able to hit a big milestone in Saturday’s game versus the Carolina Hurricanes.
Tkachuk Back in Calgary
The Flames had one of the most tumultuous offseasons of any team in recent NHL history, and a big part of it revolved around Tkachuk. Shortly after Johnny Gaudreau made his decision to sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets, he let it be known that he wasn’t interested in signing long-term with the club, putting Brad Treliving in a tough position. Despite that, he was able to flip the agitating winger to the Florida Panthers in a blockbuster deal that saw both Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar head to Cowtown.
Like any player, particularly one of Tkachuk’s skill level, you can bet he circled the Flames games on his calendar as soon as the schedule for the 2022-23 season was released. He was already able to get one out of the way, as he faced his former team in Florida less than two weeks ago in what was a 5-4 shootout victory for the Flames. While it probably felt like a slight weight was lifted off his shoulders to get that game over with, it was far from what is to come on Tuesday.
For the first time since being dealt, Tkachuk will play in his former home arena in front of Flames faithful. It remains to be seen what the reception will be, though if one were to be placing bets, a mixture of cheers and boos is likely. Some appreciated the fact he let Treliving know his desires to play elsewhere before his contract was up, while others aren’t happy with the fact he wanted to leave their favorite team. Nevertheless, you can expect a video tribute for a player who scored an impressive 152 goals and 382 points in 431 games during his time wearing the flaming red ‘C’.
Vladar Picking Up Markstrom’s Slack
Just days into the 2022-23 season, Vladar was handed a two-year, $4.4 million extension from the Flames, and early on is more than earning it. Through six games in 2022-23, the 25-year-old owns a solid 2.82 goals against average (GAA), paired with a .908 save percentage (SV%). Even better is that he is helping to pick up the slack for his goaltending partner in Markstrom, who has been far from the Vezina caliber player he was just a season ago.
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As a result of Vladar’s solid start to the season, many are being vocal in the fact they think he should be handed more starts moving forward. It’s hard to argue, as Markstrom has appeared in plenty more games at 16, but has just a 3.03 GAA and a .889 SV% to show for it. While he will still undoubtedly remain this team’s number one, it may be wise for Darryl Sutter to use them in a tandem role until the latter is able to figure things out.
Flames’ Phillips Dominating AHL
For a number of seasons now, many Flames fans have been wanting to see Phillips get a shot with the big club. The Calgary native has been a very good player at the AHL level for some time now, but has logged just one career NHL game to this point. That may soon change, however, as his play in 2022-23 can’t be ignored by Flames management for much longer.
Through 18 games with the Calgary Wranglers this season, Phillips has scored 13 goals and 26 points, both of which lead the AHL. Boding well for the 24-year-old to perhaps soon get a call up is that the Flames are currently in need of some scoring, as they sit near the bottom of the league with a goals per game average of just 2.86. While he won’t be able to fix that issue by himself, he could certainly help, and would undoubtedly add more offense than current players in the bottom six such as Kevin Rooney and Milan Lucic.
Toffoli Hits Milestone Versus Canes
Though Sunday’s 3-2 loss didn’t go the way the Flames had hoped, one of their top wingers in Toffoli was able to hit a big milestone in the outing. The 30-year-old put home a fantastic shot past the glove of Antti Raanta on a breakaway around the midway point of the second period. It was a big goal at the time, as it tied things up at two, but what made it even bigger was that it marked the 200th tally of Toffoli’s career.
Of those 200 career goals, 18 of them have come in a Flames sweater, while the remainder are split between the L.A. Kings and Montreal Canadiens. It is an impressive feat for a player who, despite being a pretty consistent goal scorer throughout his career, has remained quite underrated throughout the NHL as a whole. In 672 career games, he has 407 points, and doesn’t appear to be done from an offensive standpoint any time soon.
Looking Ahead for the Flames
As mentioned, the Flames next game will come on Tuesday evening versus the Panthers, in what is likely the most anticipated game they have played yet this season. They will have just two games afterward to finish out their week, with the first coming on Thursday versus the Canadiens, and the second on Saturday against Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. They will both be massive games, as the Flames currently sit just one point shy of the St. Louis Blues for the second wild card position in the Western Conference.
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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.