Calgary Flames

Flames Sunday Census: Where the blame should be placed for the current state of the team

The Calgary Flames are the NHL’s most interesting team for the second offseason in a row, for the worst reasons possible. Reports from insiders last week that all of Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund, Noah Hanifin, and Tyler Toffoli do not want to re-sign with the Flames once their contracts expire at the end of the 2023–24 season have been the hottest topics around the league, and the Flames look to be in complete disarray.

While this chaos may have been coming for a while now, it’s tough to pinpoint exactly whose feet this disaster is to be laid at. We asked fans where they would point the finger.

The Win Column - Sunday Census Featured Image - Graphical design showing a Calgary Flames branded laptop with poll results.

Want to take part in Sunday Census polls? We send them out every week on our Twitter at @wincolumnCGY. Follow along or send in ideas for the next poll!

Who is to blame for the Calgary Flames’ situation?

We presented the following poll:

Ownership is to blame

This answer received the most votes, by far. Most fans feel that this current mess the Flames find themselves is the fault of ownership, and that every problem starts there. It’s a fair assessment. From reportedly refusing to allow spending on an experienced coach, not giving the green light on trades that would have made the team better in their window to win, not spending the money needed to upgrade the arena and facilities, and refusing to allow management to even utter the word “rebuild” even when it was the smart thing to do.

With most organizations, culture comes from the top. This is definitely part of the problem and unfortunately ownership will not be changing any time soon.

Darryl Sutter is to blame

We all know what happened with Darryl Sutter last year. His relationship with the players and management soured to the point where he was fired before his contract extension even kicked in. There is plenty of evidence that points to Sutter being a locker room poison, creating a hostile work environment and making it absolutely no fun to play hockey in Calgary. He definitely shares the blame here, but Sutter actually came in third place in our poll. Perhaps the problems were there before Sutter even arrived, and he just exposed them.

Brad Treliving is to blame

Former general manager Brad Treliving was the second most popular answer in our poll, though trailing far behind the ownership option. This is actually where I would place the blame. Treliving was never able to finalize trades for this team—always the bridesmaid and never the bride. Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Ben Bishop, Jason Zucker, and the list goes on. All players who were *this* close to being traded here but never were.

As well, the only reason why the Flames are in this predicament with seven players set to become free agents in the same year is because Treliving set it up that way. Mikael Backlund, Chris Tanev, Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin, and Nikita Zadorov are all on deals signed by Treliving. Tyler Toffoli gets a pass because he was traded here, but the point remains. Treliving should shoulder a fair portion of the blame.

The players are to blame

This option received the fewest votes. Just like when Matthew Tkachuk told the team he wasn’t signing last year which allowed the Flames to maximize the return on him, these 2024 UFAs are doing the same. With how poorly last season went and how the whole relationship with Flames management soured, it’s hard to really blame players for wanting to move on. This wasn’t something they created, it was something they had to endure, and at the end of the day, you can’t really fault someone from wanting to work elsewhere.

Sorry, Craig Conroy

No matter which way you cut it, Craig Conroy has his work cut out for him. It is going to be a massive challenge to make trades for all these players before or at the 2023 NHL Draft as it’s only three days away. However, because these players are still under contract, the clock doesn’t run out on July 1 like it did with Johnny Gaudreau. Rest assured that Conroy will take care of business. It’s not the way anyone wants to start a new job, but Conroy’s legacy as the leader of the Flames starts now.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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