Flames’ Sutter Believes Injuries Played Part in Series Loss to Oilers

When analyzing this spring’s Battle of Alberta playoff series, most would agree that the Edmonton Oilers were the superior team. Aside from a Game 1 thumping, they took it to the Calgary Flames, outplaying them in virtually every area of the ice. Some have suggested the Oilers’ victory was due to the sheer brilliance of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, while others believe Jacob Markstrom let his squad down. The Flames’ bench boss Darryl Sutter, however, sees things a different way.

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Having plenty of time to reflect on the frustrating ending to an overall successful season, Sutter is back in Calgary as his team prepares for training camp. He has expressed optimism in regard to the work general manager Brad Treliving has done and believes his team has what it takes to do something special in 2022-23. In order to do that, however, health must remain on their side.

Sutter Gives Thoughts on Oilers Series

Since arriving in Calgary, Sutter has spoken with the media on several occasions on a variety of topics. As mentioned, plenty has been about the new additions to the Flames roster, while others have touched on the team’s vacant captain position, as well as the departures of both Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk. Perhaps the most interesting of all, however, are the quotes he has given in regard to what went wrong for his team against the Oilers in the playoffs.

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

Sutter is, and always has been, a no-excuses type of guy. Despite many involved in the game of hockey changing their philosophies, he remains as old school as they come in terms of his approach. That said, he does believe certain unavoidable circumstances played a large part in his team’s struggles versus their provincial rival.

“We didn’t match up well,” Sutter began. “Once Chris Tanev got hurt I think our young pair, Noah (Hanifin) and Rasmus (Andersson), that was a lot to take on. Shilly (Oliver Kylington) and Z (Nikita Zadorov) both played with a separated shoulder and broken ribs, Tanny was out… You’re down to the short strokes, and that’s what happens in the playoffs, the further you go.

“The top of your lineup has got to be really healthy – that’s how good teams win. It wasn’t ‘what went wrong?’ at all. I mean, that’s playoff hockey.”

Sutter certainly isn’t wrong in this assessment. Tanev was only able to suit up in one game versus the Oilers and was banged up to the point that he appeared to be struggling to hold his stick throughout the contest. While having him wouldn’t have shut down the brilliance that was McDavid and Draisaitl, he certainly could have helped limit them to a certain extent. After all, there is a reason why he is considered by many to be one of the best defensive defensemen in the entire NHL.

Sutter Not Making Excuses

To many, especially Oilers fans, Sutter’s comments may come off as someone making excuses. The first part of his quote does appear that way, but as mentioned, complaining and/or coming up with excuses isn’t part of the 64-year-old’s DNA. He backed that up by acknowledging that several Oilers were playing through injuries as well.

“Those kids were banged up too,” Sutter said. “But the difference is that their top end was better than ours. Seriously.”

It is important to confess that last part, as it is an undeniable fact that both teams played at less than 100 percent. The Oilers may not have had as many injuries, but had some severe ones to some of their top players in Draisaitl as well as defenseman Darnell Nurse.

Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers Jacob Markstrom Calgary Flames
Jacob Markstrom of the Calgary Flames makes a save against Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

That said, heading into the series, the vast majority of analysts and fans pegged the Flames as favorites, suggesting they had a deeper roster overall. The Oilers seemed to prove that notion incorrect, though it is clear that some, Sutter included, believe the outcome was significantly impacted as a result of injuries. The good news for both sides in this argument is that the two could very well face off once again in the playoffs this coming year, perhaps settling the debate once and for all.