Before the 2022–23 preseason got underway, Darryl Sutter took a quick break from his duties on the farm to chat with Eric Francis. Sutter isn’t a man of very many words, but he dropped quite a few interesting tidbits of information as the Flames inch closer to opening the next season with a very different roster than last year.
The best part of the interview is that you can hear Sutter working outside while he’s on the call—just another classic Sutterism.
Here are the most noteworthy comments from the head coach.
The Flames were lacking at the centre ice position last season
When asked about the addition of Nazem Kadri, the first thing Sutter mentioned was that Kadri was a centreman. He spoke about how the Flames’ centre depth was lacking in the playoffs last year and it exposed them when they faced elite competition.
The first was to fill a need on the team from last year. Sutter teams are known for having a top goaltender, solid top-four defenders, and strength down the middle.
“As great a regular season as we had, I think there’s some areas that showed up in the playoffs where we were probably not as good as the other team and I think that Brad’s done a heck of a job putting the pieces back together here… This division, the top teams are three centremen deep and it really exposed us, especially with Sean [Monahan] being hurt and not being able to play.”
Leadership and naming a captain
“I think our team, at the end of the day, has been really looking for leadership, not just last year but the last few years, and I think that bringing in these guys in the summer will really help us in that area.
“I don’t think my [mindset] has changed. And it probably goes back to last year, anybody that was a consideration for it, they were the up and comers but they were also guys that weren’t under contract. So really, it would make not much sense to be naming captains if they’re only going to be here for a year or two. I think it’s still a growth part of this team. I don’t think the captain thing is something I’ve thought a lot about.”
Roles for the new look Flames
Sutter will be spending training camp getting to know the new guys as people and as players and will be looking to find the best spot for them. Some of the first questions he brought up as ones he’ll be looking to find answers to are who plays with MacKenzie Weegar, and if Jonathan Huberdeau will play with Elias Lindholm or Kadri.
He’s very much looking at line combinations from a centre-out viewpoint—he’s working on finding his centres the best linemates first and foremost. When asked about Mangiapane’s role and where he’ll play, Sutter said it’s more important to find out which wingers will be playing with Kadri. Mangiapane will be on either Kadri or Lindholm’s line, but it’ll depend on the best fit for the centres.
When asked about Huberdeau’s defensive game and playing 200 feet, Sutter said that everyone asked the same questions about the stars last year. They learned the style and were better for it.
“He’s got his head in the right place. He’ll be fine. He’s a big strong guy, he’s got incredible hands. We have enough good players to surround him with and he’s going to make our guys better players. I’m not worried about that defensive part at all.”
The Flames need a star defenceman to be a contender
Sutter was asked point blank if he thinks the Flames have all the ingredients to be a contender.
“Well, all the top teams have a star defenceman. I think we’re a more balanced type defense. The last seven or eight Stanley Cup teams, there’s a stud on defence, a guy that can play half the game, that can play all situations, special teams, the whole deal. That’s where the growth of our young guys, they still have to take those steps. I think that’s really important.”
The Flames have more maturity this year than ever before
On what the biggest change is this year from years prior, Sutter immediately said that the Flames now have more maturity.
“I think we’re a more mature team. By bringing in Kadri and the two boys from Florida [Huberdeau and Weegar], you know those guys are coming off big years too and on teams that were very, very effective. I’d say that right there is a value for us for sure.”
Being ten percent better
In true Sutter fashion, he took some pretty serious shots at the team last year. He was asked what the message was heading into this season for the young guys especially.
“Ten percent better. They were one of the poorest trained teams in the league coming into last season. The biggest surprise I’d ever seen was when I came in midway through the year was the [lacking in] the conditioning part, they became a slow team because of that.
“They really worked hard at it last summer and now they’re working hard at it again. We think there’s still improvement there, and with that improvement the skill sets become noticeable. Those kids that had career years last year, it wasn’t by accident. It was because they trained a lot different. They trained to be faster players. Some of those kids that had career years aren’t big guys but they played the right way and they were rewarded for it.”
Sutter is excited
The goal this season is to make the playoffs and make more noise than last year. Sutter said he was excited about the season and the team and the players are too.
“There are three spots that aren’t wild card spots and you want to be one of them.”
It’s going to be a fun year. Buckle up.