Despite a Pacific Division title in the regular season, the Calgary Flames weaknesses were exposed in the playoffs.
In an interview with Eric Francis on Sportsnet 960 radio on Tuesday, head coach Darryl Sutter talked in depth about the adventurous offseason for the first time.
Among the tidbits of truth he revealed were his thoughts on why his team failed to prevail against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers in the second round this spring.
“Bottom line is we were not good enough at centre ice – it showed up in the playoffs,” Sutter told Francis.
“The top teams in this division are three centremen deep, and it really exposed us. Especially with Sean (Monahan) being hurt and not being able to play.”
Kadri, Huberdeau and Weegar compensate for Flames losses
“I think he’s a guy that understands what it takes to win,” Sutter said, also mentioning NHL trade additions Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar as critical pieces that have improved the team. That, in spite of the major losses in Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk.
“I think our team, at the end of the day, has been looking for leadership – not just last year but the last few years – and (Calgary Flames GM) Brad (Treliving) bringing in these guys this summer will really help us in that area.”
Kadri gives the Flames a depth at centre they haven’t had in decades. With Selke runner up Elias Lindholm, Kadri and Mikael Backlund, the franchise has three standout 200-foot pivots who can also contribute offensively. With Backlund able to match his skills against some lesser opponents, those offensive numbers could rise.
Lindholm and Kadri both had career years with the former cracking 40 goals for the first time. Kadri finally crossed the point-per-game threshold (28 goals, 59 assists for 87 points in 71 games). It was his 10th NHL season. He also put up seven goals and 15 points in 16 playoff wins to help the Colorado Avalanche win the Stanley Cup.
“You say he’s a Darryl Sutter type player. He’s a winner,” Sutter said on the broadcast during a break from unloading wheat.
“He finished, what, tenth in scoring last year? He plays in a lot of situations and still has a little bit of old school in him. One thing him and I talked about is that once you’ve won, you just want to win again.”
Perhaps Kadri and the overhaul are key in helping the Calgary Flames accomplish that for the first time since 1989.