"It hasn't been easy": Sutter speaks on challenge of rebuilding Flames culture

Mar 24 2023, 8:57 pm

Darryl Sutter said plenty of times that one of his main tasks last season was to reset the culture of the Calgary Flames.

Turns out, it’s been a bit of a project on this year’s to-do list, too.

Sutter admitted Friday he had to pretty much restart the process after a summer of change that saw the Flames move out its top two leading scorers and bring in three more key pieces of personnel.

“I think we pretty much had to again,” Sutter told media Friday. “You do that much transformation of the top-end of your lineup it’s a whole reset. It hasn’t been easy.”

The Flames lost leading scorer Johnny Gaudreau to the Columbus Blue Jackets in free agency, a last-minute decision from the pint-sized, 115-point winger on the eve of the open-market process.

Shortly thereafter, linemate Matthew Tkachuk informed Calgary he would not be re-upping after the final season of his contract, prompting a summer blockbuster swap with the Florida Panthers in exchange for Jonathan Huberdeau, defenceman MacKenzie Weegar, prospect Cole Schwindt, and a conditional first-round pick.

Flames general manager Brad Treliving extended Huberdeau to an eight-year, $84 million pact and signed free-agent centre Nazem Kadri to a seven-year, $49 million contract. He also extended Weegar on an eight-year deal worth $50 million.

“I just think the personalities are different, so it’s not so much coach-player, it’s more the player-player,” Sutter said. “That’s way more important than anything. It’s the connection in the room more than anything else I would say.”

Calgary topped the Pacific Division last season and advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs before losing to the Edmonton Oilers.

This season, the Flames are on the outside looking in.

Calgary sits six back of the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference with nine games remaining. Further, they also need to leapfrog the Nashville Predators to earn the berth. Nashville is one point up with three fewer games played.

Suffice it to say, Sutter isn’t as far along in his process as he’d like.

“Obviously we’re not in a playoff spot, so obviously it’s not where I want it to be,” he closed.

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