After wrapping up their season against Vancouver a couple nights ago, the Calgary Flames held locker cleanout day yesterday. Several players were made available to answer questions from the media, as well as head coach Darryl Sutter and GM Brad Treliving.
In case you missed the availability yesterday, we’ve compiled the important quotes and notes for you here.
Mark Giordano and Mikael Backlund
The first two players to sit down in front of the media were Mark Giordano and Mikael Backlund. Both longtime members of the team and two of the veteran leaders in the locker room, they had to answer for the disappointing season.
The responses given by these two players were pretty bland and generic, to be honest. Nothing truly groundbreaking here. The only notable answer was from Giordano when he was asked about the expansion draft and the possibility of being exposed to Seattle.
He said what he was supposed to say. With how incredible Chris Tanev was this year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Giordano exposed, and if that happens, there is a very real chance he’s a Kraken next season.
Elias Lindholm and Jacob Markstrom
The two Swedes and good friends had a more honest approach to the questions they were asked. Jacob Markstrom was hard on himself, acknowledging that he didn’t play as well as he felt he could the entire season. He specifically identified the middle portion of the year that coincided with his return from what we now know was a concussion. Elias Lindholm was also particularly honest with a couple interesting quotes.
There was a sense of realization here that the team took themselves for granted this year. What we saw, a team that didn’t look like they wanted to win too many times, was a mentality they actually had. It was good of Lindholm to admit that, but is a concerning thing to hear nonetheless.
Lindholm then said this, which I thought was worthy of discussion but didn’t see it on anyone else’s Twitter feed.
Nobody has corrected me on this so I’m assuming I heard it right. Again, some realization here that this version of the Calgary Flames isn’t good enough to contend for a championship. It’s one thing for fans to think that, it’s another for the players to feel that as well.
Johnny Gaudreau was excellent in his availability. He gave his honest assessment of how the Flames underperformed this season and said what he needed to say. However, the biggest nugget with Gaudreau was that he went out of his way to say he was interested in re-signing in Calgary and that he loves playing here.
And then, later on in the day, Treliving confirmed it.
If the Flames can re-sign Gaudreau to a good contract, it’s a no brainer to bring him back. He was one of the team’s best offensive players this season and is truly an exciting player to watch when he has the puck. The Flames wouldn’t be able to replace him easily and players like him don’t come around all that often.
Perhaps the most interesting and engaging interview all season long, Milan Lucic again provided excellent quotes yesterday.
He didn’t name any names, but he commented honestly on the missing mentality on this Flames team.
Culture is hard to build and it takes the right people to build it well. Lucic’s contract doesn’t look good on paper, but if he’s actively working to change the culture in Calgary to be more like it is in Boston, he’s worth every penny. We can speculate all we want about who he’s referring to when he mentioned personal goals being more of a priority than team goals, but that sounds a lot like a shot at Sam Bennett to me.
When you consider the trade request, pouting to be put on the top line, and then doing basically nothing with the increased responsibility, it really lines up.
The other option is Matthew Tkachuk. In his availability, it was clear he didn’t like the reduction in his ice time when Sutter arrived. Lucic may have been pointing to Tkachuk taking that personally and not continuing to play hard for the team. However, I’m not sold on that because Tkachuk should have been upset with that reduction and after a few games even Sutter admitted he needed to play Tkachuk more. But, just covering all the bases here.
Brad Treliving is a true professional, and everything he says is laced with political ambiguity. The most important note from him was this:
There will be changes this offseason. You can bet on that.
Other than this ominous quote, he commented on the injury status of a few players
- Markstrom suffered a concussion midway through the year.
- Dillon Dube suffered a concussion in the meaningless last game of the year, and will miss suiting up for Canada at the World Championships because of it.
- Tanev was playing down the stretch with broken ribs and a torn pectoral muscle, despite the Flames being out of the playoff race for many weeks.
- Josh Leivo broke his thumb in one of the last games against Vancouver.
Always a good quote, the highlight of Darryl Sutter’s availability was how he responded to questions about what he feels about the team heading into next season. He said, multiple times, that this wasn’t a good question because the team will look quite different. Because of the expansion draft, free agency, and trades in the offseason, there wasn’t any point answering that now. When he was asked about this the second time, he told the reporter his question was irrelevant.
The quote that stood out again was about expectations:
Again, this is a clear indication that changes are coming.
Sutter also talked a lot about how this is a 3-2 league that is about checking and pace. To his credit, the Flames really turned a corner down the stretch and improved in a lot of areas. A full season of that style of play will be interesting to see.
It’s tough to predict what will happen next season, but the Gaudreau – Lindholm – Tkachuk line was elite at even strength. Keeping that line intact going into next season should be a priority. Again, Tkachuk deserves top line ice time, and he was absolutely right to be upset when he wasn’t getting it.
That’s a wrap
As always, locker cleanout day marks the end of the hockey season. While the Flames lasted until May before their cleanout day came along, they had to do it while 16 other teams were in the midst of Round One of the 2021 NHL Playoffs, making for a very different vibe. Now that the Flames’ 2021 season is all over, they’ll relax, reset, and retool—all during the offseason and will be back at it again come the 2021-22 season.