Salim Valji: Calgary Flames culture of responsibility could leave veterans healthy
There was a time in the not-too-distant past when healthy Calgary Flames players sometimes chose not to skate on optional practice days, and a roster spot was given rather than earned.
In the 13 months since being rehired by the franchise, head coach Darryl Sutter has sought to transform that culture into one of accountability, while general manager Brad Treliving has provided him with roster items to support that. culture.
With the additions of Tyler Toffoli, Jarnkrok Streetand, more recently, Ryan Carpenterthe Flames look like one of the deepest attacking groups in the league, which could lead to respected veterans finding themselves on the sidelines.
Carpenter, touted as a defensively responsible deep striker who can kill penalties, was skating on a line with Milan Lucic and Brett Ritchie Thursday training. longtime flame Sean Monahan and veteran Trevor Lewis were the extras before tomorrow’s game against the Arizona Coyotes.
Monahan was once a franchise center but could find himself outside the roster. He’s spent most of the season on the fourth line and has eight goals and 22 points in 63 games while being useless in his last 14. Monahan began his career with the Flames scoring 20 or more goals in seven consecutive seasons and is eighth in franchise history with 212 goals.
After the Toffoli acquisition, Monahan was bumped from the top power-play unit and hasn’t seen any power-play ice time in the past two games. If he’s out on Friday, it would be the first healthy scratch of Monahan’s nine-season career. Monahan was not made available to reporters on Thursday.
“It’s not the season he would like to have,” assistant coach Ryan Huska said. “He’s used to scoring goals, that’s what he’s been doing since he’s been here.”
Huska hailed Monahan’s willingness to accept a different role after several seasons on the team’s front line alongside the star Johnny Gaudreau.
“He’s been challenged in different ways by missing time on the power play and taking it out, he’s seen changes up and down in our roster,” Huska said. “But that’s what we need. We need people to have different roles for us to be successful. That’s what Sean is doing right now.
Carpenter, an American who was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks at the trade deadline for a fifth-round pick in 2024, will likely fill that fourth-row role. Carpenter was part of Vegas’ run to the Cup final in their inaugural season and has 26 playoff games under his belt.
“I know my skills and my role in this league,” he said. “I know what I need to do to stay and contribute to a team.”
Carpenter grew up in Florida looking up to the former New York Rangers forward Ryan Callahan because of his liveliness and energy.
“There are a lot of guys you try to emulate, but this is a guy you saw who played hard every night,” Carpenter said.
The key to the Flames’ success this season has been checking, and not just in the physical sense. The Flames are 20th in the league with 1,391 hits, but that fully explains their mentality in how they shut down opponents.
“Verify, not defend,” Huska said. “Johnny Gaudreau defend differently than Milan Lucicso there are huge differences, but you would expect them all to do the same thing.
“Where Milan is more of a physical presence, Johnny has to check with his feet, his stick, his angles, his head…Trevor Lewis a lot of the time checks in with his mind being in the right position so he doesn’t even get into fights because he’s always there before the puck comes.
Inserting Carpenter into the Flames lineup bolsters a fourth line that has been ineffective at times. It also means increased competition, which pervades the entire range and is a feature of the new culture.
“Part of our culture change is that there is accountability in terms of how we need each individual to play and how we need to play as a team,” Huska said.
“[Competition is] a nice thing… you can see, even in the post practice stuff there are more guys hanging around doing a little more extra work. A lot of it comes down to them seeing the quality of the players we have and wanting to make sure they’re ready to play when called upon so they never put themselves in a situation where they might not be part of it on a nightly basis.