This past weekend has been more of the same for Calgary Flames fans. The last few months—or what feels like an eternity—have been one constant drama-filled rollercoaster that often includes a player wanting to stay, then asking to be traded, and then a combination of both to follow.
Nikita Zadorov’s recent trade request hasn’t sat well with many based on how beloved he has come in the city of Calgary. Although trading him makes the most sense from an asset perspective, fans are more frustrated to hear that a player who adamantly said he’d be a Flame for life if he could is switching tones quickly and asking out.
You can be sure that Zadorov isn’t the only one looking for a change in that locker room.
But why has this trend kept popping up? Well, I believe it’s because despite the organization preaching “change” for the players, I don’t actually think anything has.
Searching for change off the ice
After the debacle of last season’s missed opportunity, combined with poor player performances and poor coaching, the team needed a fresh start with new perspectives moving forward.
So that is what they did.
Long-term general manager Brad Treliving was replaced with assistant general manager Craig Conroy, and a recently extended head coach Darryl Sutter was replaced with assistant coach Ryan Huska. Two first-time NHL GM and head coach positions for both respectively and a sign that the team was looking in a brighter direction.
But hang on, did that actually change anything at all?
Both Conroy and Huska have been big parts of the organization for the last handful of seasons. They have been around for the ups and downs and everything in between for the Flames. That means both of them were also a part of last season’s debacle that seemed to turn everyone sour against everyone.
Heck, the team even threw in a new president of hockey operations in Don Maloney, who had also been the Sr. VP of Hockey Operations since 2018–19 and with the organization since 2016–17. The heads of the snakes haven’t changed, but yet there has been so much talk of what is new.
For those that have gone through job changes before know that your manager or boss is a huge part of your work experience. If you love them, it feels like you may not fully be working all the time or the hard times are made easier. If you hate them, it doesn’t matter what happens as you feel like nothing can go right.
If you are somehow in a work setting where you have a few people at the management level you dislike, and one is replaced with another upon a departure, you feel like the only thing that can change your perspective is a new change of scenery.
I guarantee that is how the Flames players feel right now.
That isn’t a criticism of Conroy, Huska, or Maloney as people, but if your players don’t see the vision in terms of direction or on-ice play, it’s a problem. The roster has already been through a hockey operations change and it has ultimately had little effect.
Going somewhere else makes more sense.
Searching for change on the ice
The other key thing is the people that surround you at work.
For the Flames, aside from the departure of a few guys like Tyler Toffoli, Milan Lucic, and Trevor Lewis, almost every player remained the same year after year. We are seeing a much more positive trend with some of the younger players on the roster, but you can look back at the disastrous start to the season and see that there was such a lack of chemistry.
Or maybe the players are just tired of each other.
After last season, it would be no surprise that some guys just have short fuses when it comes to others in the locker room. Losing will do that to you. Add in the start of the season that the team has had, and those positive vibes that some people preached entering this campaign have dissipated quickly.
You can make small adjustments to some players, but if the core of the team has grown sour of each other, it’s no longer a viable option to keep tinkering with it.
Rebuild, here the Flames come
The only way to really get the change needed is to rebuild.
Management is in place, coaches are in place, and that won’t be changing much over the next few months. The only real option for bigger change is that of the players on the ice. The mix of players the Flames have right now is just not what they need long-term.
Make more room for the younger players looking for an opportunity, and get a fresh pair of eyes across your lineup. Or else, the change the Flames so desperately desire will never truly materialize.