Photo: LA Times
The Calgary Flames announced right after their 7-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night that they have fired head coach Geoff Ward and replaced him with Darryl Sutter.
After an active offseason where they brought in No. 1 goaltender Jacob Markstrom and defenseman Chris Tanev, the Flames are 11-11-2 24 games into the season. They are currently two points behind the Montreal Canadiens for the final Stanley Cup Playoff spot in the North Division, though the Canadiens have two games in hand.
After replacing Bill Peters as head coach on November 29, 2019, Ward went 36-26-5 (.575 points percentage) in parts of two seasons as Flames’ head coach. The team defeated the Winnipeg Jets in four games during the best-of-five Stanley Cup Qualifier series a season ago before falling to the eventual Western Conference Champion Dallas Stars in six games during the first round under Ward. The Flames, who have had three head coaches in the past two seasons, removed the “interim” tag off of Ward after last season ended.
The Flames are 4-6-1 since February 12, a stretch that includes a 5-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks (who are sixth in the North Division with a 10-15-2 record), a 7-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers (third with a 14-11-0 record), a 6-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators (last with an 8-17-1 record), and a 5-1 loss to the Senators.
The Flames’ average of 2.71 goals-per-game this season ranks 23rd in the NHL while their 3.04 goals-against per game average is 19th, 21.4% power-play efficiency is 16th, and 78.8% penalty-killing rate is tied with the Stars for 16th.
Sutter went 634-467-101 (.565 points percentage) in 1,285 career games behind the bench with the Flames, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, and Chicago Blackhawks but has not been in a coaching role since 2017. He had been an advisor with the Anaheim Ducks since.
The 62-year-old guided the Kings to two Stanley Cup Championships in three years after coming over mid-season during the 2011-12 campaign. In addition, he is 42-27 (.609 winning percentage) during his time behind the Kings’ bench and 89-81 (.524) in his Stanley Cup Playoff career. The Kings were tied for fifth with an 83.5% penalty-killing rate and 15th with an 18.1% power-play efficiency under Sutter. They also allowed the fewest goals-per-game (average of 2.27) and but were 22nd in goals-per-game average (2.56).
During three seasons behind the bench in Calgary, Sutter went 107-73-15 (.581 points percentage) and took them to Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, where they lost. He was also the team’s General Manager from April 11, 2003, through December 28, 2010.
The Flames have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in two consecutive seasons and four of the last six but have only made it past the first round once (2015) in that time.
The Flames will visit the Oilers at Rogers Place on Saturday night (10 PM ET, NHL Network).
This is just the second head coaching change a team has made this season after the Canadiens replaced Claude Julien with associate Dominique Ducharme as the interim on February 24.
Darryl Sutter, who calls this “unfinished business,” is going through protocol and will coach practice Tuesday. Ryan Huska runs the bench this weekend
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) March 5, 2021
The Flames’ first game with Sutter will be on Thursday against the Canadiens at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
By Harrison Brown