Flames Should Respond In a Positive Way to Sutter’s Tough Practices

Prior to the beginning of the regular season, the expectations were at a pinnacle for the Calgary Flames. The team brought in some key pieces like a big-name goalie in Jacob Markstrom, work-horse defenseman Chris Tanev, and a few league-minimum signings to try and energize their line combinations where and when they were needed on low-risk deals

After 24 games of mediocrity, inconsistent play, and being out of a playoff spot, the organization had seen enough. They let go of their head coach Geoff Ward in his first full season as a head coach in the NHL. 

His replacement was one that caught everyone off guard, but after Darryl Sutter’s first practice with his old team yesterday, he gave his players a demonstration of what his expectations are going forward, and I believe the players will respond well to his approach.

First Of Many

Some called it a bag skate, but Sutter certainly wasn’t there to discipline anyone for their play of late. Just thirty-five minutes into Sutter’s first practice back with the Flames since 2006, he had his team run an old-school skating drill with no pucks, and it seemed to go over well with some of the players, too. “Definitely the best practice we’ve had in a while,” said Chris Tanev.

Chris Tanev Calgary Flames
Chris Tanev, Calgary Flames (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

The first practice was said to have been run primarily by assistant coach Ryan Huska, but Sutter was there to set the new standard – his practices won’t be easy from here on out. That same type of high-intensity that Sutter added shouldn’t just come out in a game, practices should also feature a level of detail and concern because right now, unfortunately for the Flames, that energy has been missing in their games at times this season.

Kill Or Be Killed

Sutter will require a little more killer instinct from the Flames, as the team has only 30 games remaining and are four points behind the Montreal Canadiens for the final playoff spot in the Scotia North Division with two more games played than the Habs. The Flames benefit from having two games in-hand over the Ottawa Senators, but the Sens have sneakily climbed six points behind the Flames. 

Darryl Sutter’s future sits on the fence in Calgary as the Flames run short on time to make the playoffs (Lee Gunderson/Flickr).

This team can’t waste any more time on their attempt at gaining traction in the Canadian division because no matter what, someone in this division is collecting valuable points and moving up in the standings. The next two games for the Flames are against the Habs are crucial, and it’s Sutter’s first test as a head coach since 2017 – a big test ahead at that. 

The Response

When the organization announced they relieved Ward of his coaching duties following a 7-3 win against the Sens on March 4t, the players wasted little time to show the hockey world they heard the message loud and clear. The team responded in their next game with one of their best first periods this season, and according to Sutter, the best of any team this season. 

Mark Giordano, Sean Monahan
Calgary Flames’ Mark Giordano and Sean Monahan look on during practice (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)

“The game in Edmonton, the first period that I watched was the best period of hockey of any team I’ve seen play this year,” said Sutter. That’s high praise from a two-time Stanley Cup-winning coach, but Sutter believes he has the right pieces to the puzzle, he just needs to find a way to make them all fit into the roles he assigns them (From “‘It’s the execution’: Sutter not planning to overhaul Flames’ system” – Calgary Sun – 03/10/21)

Sutter has another opportunity to get his players further eased into his systems on Wednesday at practice. It will be interesting to see how his current roster will play under his strict agenda, but based on how they responded to the news of his hiring in their game on Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers and the way the players praised Sutter’s tough practice in the media on Tuesday, I believe the Flames will begin to trend in a positive direction as a result. Many forget that Sutter is the only coach to bring the Flames to a Stanley Cup Final since 1989, when he did so with a team full of underdogs in 2004.

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