Calgary Flames fans have made it very clear in recent months how they feel about Matthew Tkachuk. The 24-year-old star was once a fan favorite in Cow Town, but no longer after forcing his way out of town by letting management know he had no intentions of signing a long-term deal. To make matters worse, this news came very shortly after Johnny Gaudreau chose to take off via free agency.
While plenty has been made about what the Flames will be like moving forward, as well as Tkachuk’s new team in the Florida Panthers, very little has been said from anyone in the organization regarding his departure. In fact, almost any fan would have assumed that he had plenty of support from his former teammates and coaching staff despite his decision. However, as fans learned on Thursday, that may not entirely be the case.
Sutter Gives Blunt Assessment of Tkachuk
In recent weeks, Sutter has spoken plenty about the upcoming 2022-23 season. It is clear that he believes this team has just as great a chance, if not better, than they had this past year. With additions such as Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri and MacKenzie Weegar to the roster, plenty of fans throughout the NHL feel the same way.
As for having two of the best players in Gaudreau and Tkachuk leave, Sutter hadn’t divulged much, other than saying it is simply part of the game. However, when speaking with media on Thursday, he gave a very interesting answer when asked about any potential similarities between Tkachuk and current Flame Tyler Toffoli, one that is impossible to be perceived as anything but a major shot.
“No,” Sutter said when asked about comparisons between the two. “One guy’s won Stanley Cups, been a big part of long playoff runs.”
Sometimes, media can take quotes and spin them in an attempt to make them more of a story than they are. That isn’t the case whatsoever in this situation. This, no matter how it’s framed, was a clear shot at Tkachuk, and should give fans a pretty good idea of his thoughts towards a player who many believed would be the Flames’ future captain.
Tkachuk’s Playoff Struggles Continued Under Sutter
There are few in the NHL who know what it takes to win more than Sutter. The 64-year-old gave it his all each and every shift throughout his 406-game playing career, and as a head coach led the Los Angeles Kings to two Stanley Cup Championships in 2012 and 2014. He knows exactly what types of players are needed for a team to win a Cup, a feat that he has accomplished with Toffoli.
As for Tkachuk, his playoff struggles have been well documented. Given the style of game he brings to the table, he has all the makings of a player who would excel during the postseason, though that has been far from the case thus far in his career. In fact, through 27 combined playoff outings, he has just seven goals and 15 points.
Many hoped that the hiring of Sutter could get a player like Tkachuk to pick up his postseason play, but that wasn’t the case. While his 10 points in 12 outings earlier this year look decent enough on paper, they do not tell the full story. Through the Flames’ first-round series versus the Dallas Stars, he was goalless with four assists through the opening six games before scoring his first in a Game 7 victory.
He then started off hot in Round 2 versus the Edmonton Oilers, recording three goals in what turned out to be the Flames’ only win of the series. He went on to record just one assist over the final four games, becoming a complete non factor when his team needed him the most. You can bet that has left a long-lasting impression on Sutter, and likely played at least a part in his quote on Thursday.
Rumors of Locker Room Rift With Tkachuk
One other thing that comes to memory with these Sutter comments are reports that came out during the 2020-21 season that suggested Tkachuk’s teammates had grown tired of his act. While never confirmed, it was heavily speculated that the team sat him down and told him to ease up on some of his theatrics, which caused some tension in the dressing room.
That chatter went away last season, though perhaps that had more to do with the Flames’ overall success rather than Tkachuk changing his ways. It seems quite odd for a usually tight-lipped Sutter to throw shade like this, and may be a reflection of how many in the locker room feel about a player who many in the media over the years had dubbed as a leader. Perhaps we will get a better idea of the way Flames players feel about their former teammate when they face him this November.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.