On Monday, the Calgary Flames made a move that almost seemed unimaginable. Approximately seven months after signing a two-year contract extension through the 2024–25 season, the Flames announced that they’ve relieved head coach Darryl Sutter of his coaching duties.
The name Darryl Sutter carries a ton of weight in the Flames market due to his marvelous run with the Flames in 2004. The coach from Viking, Alberta has been with the Flames organization for many years, including several seasons as both the head coach and general manager. When Sutter was brought back in the 2020–21 season, he preached the idea of “unfinished business.” This caught the heart of practically every Flames fan, who wanted to once again experience a Stanley Cup run. But, things didn’t go as peachy as that introductory press conference, and Sutter finds himself hitting the open road.
Many fans, including myself, had been hoping for this announcement for quite some time. Nothing but respect for Darryl Sutter and his career, but his antics had clearly gone stale, and it was time for a change. I didn’t think the Flames were going to bite the Sutter bullet, given how they just extended him before the 2022–23 season.
It was widely reported that Darryl Sutter’s new deal was set to pay him $4.2M in 2023–24 and 2024–25, for a total of $8.4M. That is not a cheap bullet to bite, so I commend the Flames for doing what was needed. Note: They will still have to pay that salary over the next two years, whether Sutter is behind the bench or not.
Sutter’s year-by-year results
What is Sutter’s legacy in his second tenure as Flames Head Coach? Well, to put it bluntly, it was kind of a negative sandwich.
Record: 15–15–0 (0.500)
Result: Miss playoffs
Sutter takes over for Geoff Ward midway through the 2020–21 season. Ward coached the Flames to a 11–11–2 record in 24 games before being fired. Sutter takes over, and leads the Flames to a 15–15–0 record in his 30 games. Ultimately, the Flames have a 0.500 record before and after hiring Sutter, missing the playoffs. Not good.
Record: 50–21–11 (0.677)
Result: Beat the Dallas Stars in seven games, then lose to the Edmonton Oilers in five games
The 2021–22 season is the positive section of this negative sandwich. Everything seemed to go Calgary’s way, leading to the second highest point total in franchise history at 111 points. That was only behind the cup winning 1988–89 team, who had 117 points in the regular season.
Johnny Gaudreau has a career year. So does Matthew Tkachuk (before he has another in 2022–23). Heck, even Erik Gudbranson looked good this year. This was a very enjoyable Flames team to watch all season. But, it all comes to a disappointing ending, when the Flames lose to their rival in five games. Still, only the second time the Flames went to the second round since 2005, so that’s a positive.
Record: 38–27–17 (0.567)
Result: Miss playoffs
Where do we even start. It seems like it all went downhill early, when Sutter joked about Jonathan Huberdeau having to leave the ice to use the bathroom. Then there’s playing Huberdeau on right wing for 31 games—a position where he’d never played before. How about Sutter’s treatment of Jakob Pelletier in the “what’s his number?” press conference.
Barely playing Matthew Phillips in his brief call-up. Nick Ritchie in the shootout, anyone? How does Milan Lucic playing in the top six for an extended sound of time sound? This was just negative storyline after negative storyline all season long.
Ultimately, this current group of Flames just didn’t gel with the coach, aside from the likes of Tyler Toffoli and Trevor Lewis. In the modern day NHL, coaches are hired to be fired, with the exception of Jon Cooper. But he did a little thing called winning two Stanley Cups back-to-back. Since 2000, the average life-span of an NHL coach is 2.83 years. Well, Sutter’s second tenure practically hits that number bang-on.
Darryl Sutter’s old school tricks finally caught up to him. From not playing young players, to not communicating effectively with his veteran players, the Darryl Sutter era comes to a dramatic end. I will definitely be slamming the “Over” on Huberdeau’s point total next season.