There is no team in the NHL that has gone through a bigger roster overhaul than the Calgary Flames. For most teams, losing two 100-plus point scorers from the roster would result in some serious struggles moving forward. That isn’t the case for this Flames team, however.
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General manager (GM) Brad Treliving was able to not only keep his team competitive despite the departures of Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk but also arguably make it even better. Jonathan Huberdeau, who came as part of the Tkachuk trade, is very comparable, if not better, than Gaudreau. Meanwhile, Nazem Kadri comes at a much cheaper price than Tkachuk and proved earlier this year that he is extremely effective in the postseason. He was able to improve the back end significantly as well, as another key player coming over in the Tkachuk deal was MacKenzie Weegar, who is one of the league’s more underrated blueliners.
Not only was he able to bring in both Huberdeau and Weegar, but he also managed to work out long-term extensions for each, ensuring the Flames would be an extremely competitive squad for years to come. That said, the best move in order to give this team a true chance to continue to be Stanley Cup contenders came on Saturday; that being a multi-year contract extension given to head coach Darryl Sutter.
Sutter Has Revived Flames Organization
Prior to Sutter being brought in, the Flames for a number of years were viewed as a team that, despite having a talented roster, wasn’t seen as much of a threat. They often struggled with consistency and at times seemed to lack intensity, which played a major role in their playoff struggles.
Their struggles weren’t just in the playoffs, however. In fact, they missed the postseason entirely in 2020-21, causing many to suggest they wouldn’t be able to have any type of success without a roster overhaul. Instead of changing his core, however, Treliving chose to bet on Sutter turning things around, a decision that has paid off brilliantly.
In his first full season with the club, Sutter led the Flames to a 50-21-11 record, which was good enough to capture a Pacific Division title. He quickly silenced any critics who suggested his team would lack offense, as both Gaudreau and Tkachuk recorded over 100 points, while they and Elias Lindholm all cracked the 40-goal mark.
Despite the offensive success, Sutter’s group continued with his patented strong defensive schemes, giving up just 206 goals on the year, the third-best total in the NHL. A clear beneficiary of that improved defensive play was Jacob Markstrom, who for the first time in his career was a Vezina Trophy finalist. Barring injury, he should be in the running for the award yet again with Sutter at the helm.
Perhaps the biggest thing Sutter has changed since his hiring is the culture of the Flames. As mentioned, prior to him joining the fold, this was a team who was unpredictable on a nightly basis. This often was a result of effort, or lack thereof, as they had a tendency to look disinterested at times. That completely changed with Sutter’s hiring, as this group gave it their all each and every night throughout the 2021-22 season. There is no reason to expect anything less moving forward with him behind the bench.
Treliving’s Summer of Brilliance Complete
As mentioned, Treliving had one of the better offseasons we have seen from an NHL GM in some time and is rightfully getting a ton of credit for the work he has done. This was a team who had every reason to sit and pout about all the bad breaks they faced early into the summer. Instead, they remained calm and clear-headed, and as a result, have rebuilt a roster on the fly that should compete for Cups for the foreseeable future. This Sutter extension is the final piece of the puzzle for what was a brilliant offseason for the Flames.