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Calgary Flames

Take A Deep Breath, It’s Going To Be Ok: The Erik Gudbranson/Nikita Zadorov Story

There’s panic in the air and it’s stupid.



Pump the breaks Calgary Flames fan base. Pump. The. Breaks. Did Erik Gudbranson and Nikita Zadorov have bad games last night? For sure. Each took a dumb penalty that led to PPGs in Calgary’s 5-3 loss to San Jose. Did they look bad in Vegas? Yeah. But it’s not like the entire team was fantastic in Sin City either. The point is this: Gudbranson and Zadorov are more than capable as a bottom defence pairing and at the same time it’s also “Ok” to think they need a night off as well.

The Flames have options in Michael Stone and the recently recalled Juuso Valimaki, so if I were to guess one of, if not both, will see ice time in one of the two Flames next homes games. Calgary has Carolina and Boston on a brief two game homestand and after a couple of rough games, both Zadorov and Gudbranson could probably use a night off. The fanbase certainly thinks so:

That’s just a rough sampling of the pulse of the fanbase when it comes to the Flames bottom defensive pairing. But I’m here to semi defend their play as it hasn’t been as bad as you all make it out to be. A lot of this is “what have you done for me lately” as both players haven’t had solid back to back games. But as Darryl Sutter would remind you, the ENTIRE defence was atrocious in San Jose:

“The six defenceman played like it was an exhibition game.”

There you have it. Darryl Sutter doesn’t put up with anything and there will be changes for sure on the blueline, but don’t expect it to be permanent. I’m fine with rotating Stone and Valimaki into spell Gudbranson and Zadorov, but you have to get over the fact that they are the Flames 5th & 6th defenceman. Those are Sutter guys, who despite your short sightedness, have been plenty serviceable so far this season. Juuso Valimaki hasn’t done much of anything when he’s been given the chance (8 games so far), but he had a very good showing in Stockton when he was sent back down. Michael Stone is what he is. He’s been around the organization long enough that the Flames brass know exactly what they have in him and clearly if he was a better option, he’d be playing. Plain and simple.

The massive overreaction to a couple of bad games by your BOTTOM defence pairing seems a little over the top. Anyone calling for Mikael Backlund to be benched after his broken stick/leave the ice on a PK that set up a 5 on 3 goal for San Jose? How about Blake Coleman and his penchant for dumb penalties? No? Didn’t think so.

Folks, the Calgary Flames are 15-6-5. They are in the first place in the Pacific. They are the second best team in the Western Conference. They have the 4th most points in the league currently. Come on. The Flames are playing very good hockey and there are going to be games like this that happen again. And it’ll the third line that messes up. Or the top line will have an off night. Or Andersson and Hanifin will struggle. Those are the ebbs and flows of an 82 game season. Am I fine with both Gudbranson and Zadorov getting a night off? Sure. If say, Stone and Valimaki crush it when they get in, play the hot hand. I have no problems with that. But you all better be prepared for Nikita Zadorov and Erik Gudbranson to get right back in that lineup and be the third defensive pairing because that’s what they are and the Flames have done just fine, mostly, with them in there. This massive overreaction is bananas and it’s funny to watch during a season where the Flames are playing their best hockey in a very long time. I don’t understand it. Just for a moment, based on past results and the current situation, that Darryl Sutter knows a little more about hockey than you and I and he knows what’s best for the Calgary Flames.

by Mark Parkinson