On Monday, the Calgary Flames announced that they fired head coach Darryl Sutter after an underwhelming 2022-23 season, and according to DailyFaceoff’s Frank Seravalli, that might have just saved the team from crumbling.
On a Thursday radio hit on Calgary’s Sportsnet 960, Seravalli revealed that multiple Flames players put in trade requests throughout the difficult season. But according to Seravalli, those players withdrew their trade requests after Sutter was let go.
"In talking to various people around the league that have connections to Calgary, the sentiment was any trade requests that were out there, or demands so to speak, have been rescinded now that there's been a coaching change," Seravalli said.
“I believe there was at least a handful of players who had spoken honestly and frankly to (former general manager) Brad Treliving and (president of hockey operations) Don Maloney, who were in the room for the exit interviews, to say exactly that. Essentially, it's as simple as, 'If this guy's back, I don't wanna play here.'"
If true, the easy decision to axe one coach to save a portion of the roster should have been an easy one.
Last summer, the Flames were already forced to part ways with superstar forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk. Losing both of those key players no doubt played a role in some players wanting to go and management not wanting to go through another massive roster overhaul.
At least Sutter’s firing did not come as a surprise.
The Flames were a stellar team last year, going 50-21-11 and finishing at the top of the Pacific Division. This season, without those superstars and their replacements not playing up to snuff, they missed the playoffs by just two points with a 38-27-17 record.
If it was any other coach, they might have run it back, but Sutter is known to be an abrasive bench boss and goes about coaching in a fairly divisive way. Plus, expectations were sky-high after winning the division and not even making the playoffs is a bad look.
It is unclear which players wanted to get out of Calgary, but two key players in Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund are going to be free agents next summer and were wary to answer any questions about re-signing with the Flames.
In addition to those two players, top-of-the-lineup players Tyler Toffoli, Noah Hanifin, and Chris Tanev are also set to hit free agency in 2024.
How the 2023-24 regular season, with a new head coach and a new general manager, pans out, will certainly play a role in whether or not those players will want to stick around or not. If things don’t go according to plan, well, at least the new Flames general manager will have a number of players to flip at the trade deadline.