Connect with us

Calgary Flames

Sutter Suggests Some Flames May Be Too “Comfortable”



Mikael Backlund, Calgary Flames

Has there been a sense of complacency among some of the Calgary Flames veterans?

After a fifth-straight loss on Monday night, head coach Darryl Sutter suggested that may be the case. His response to a question about Mikael Backlund rebounding in was interesting. Backlund was benched in the 4-3 overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils. His two goals in a 4-3 OT loss to the New York Islanders helped the team earn a point.

Sutter mentioned that there were still turnovers from that “same veteran group” against the Isles and said there needs to be more self-motivation from those players. Then he mentioned the lack of competition from the younger guys in training camp.

“There was no kids that pushed anybody for jobs in training camp – at any position – so I think there’s a little bit of a comfort level there,” Sutter said in his post-game podium. “Guys gotta push themselves out of it. They’re good players and good guys, they’ve got to push themselves out of it.

“It doesn’t always have to come from having to bench somebody.”

There were a few pleasant surprises in training camp. Maybe most notably from Sutter’s own son, Brett, who is now captaining the WHL’s Calgary Wranglers. People clamoured for more looks for Jakob Pelletier and Matthew Phillips on lines with legitimate scoring threats, but Sutter didn’t see what he wanted from either of them to warrant it.

It’s tough to get into the Sutter mindset but he frequently talks about how his assessments are about performance in all areas of the game rather than stats. It may be that time with the Jonathan Huberdeau or Nazem Kadri types could have made the younger players look better than they were really playing in their individual battles. At least as part of the overall grading system.

Perhaps that changes with Phillips netting eight goals and 13 points through his first nine games with the Wranglers.

Connor Zary, Ben Jones and even Radim Zohorna are point per game players on the farm. Pelletier has three goals and seven points.

But barring an injury up front, the concerning Calgary Flames don’t have the salary cap flexibility to make any shakeups.

And despite some of his words and actions so far this season, Sutter seemed to preach a little patience again on Monday night.

“To me, it’s not about winning and losing. It’s the process,” Sutter said. “We’ve had to almost start over again this year. That’s part of it.”

Shuffling the lines after a 5-2 start, calling out and potentially publicly embarrassing Huberdeau with his bathroom comment, and benching Backlund aren’t patient moves.

But Sutter has always been an anomaly. The new players will have to get used to it.