And just like that, the Battle of Alberta has life once again.
Thank Matthew Tkachuk, who’s once again sparked an on- and off-ice frenzy with a divisional opponent. Zack Kassian drew the opposing role in the well-trodden Tkachuk vs. The World rivalry this time around, with the two coming to blows during the Calgary Flames’ and Edmonton Oilers’ tilt on Saturday.
The young Flames winger drew the ire of the hockey world with a pair of stiff checks on the big-bodied Oiler, eventually prompting an answer from Kassian in the form of a bevy of lefts — which drew a two-game suspension for the Edmontonian.
While much has been said, written, and tweeted about what transpired and what’s sure to come when the two clubs meet for a home-and-home later this month, the Flames have been unanimous in their support of their young leader.
Count Flames general manager Brad Treliving among that group, too. Asked what guidance he offered Tkachuk following the incident with Kassian and the subsequent fallout, Treliving made clear the organization has no issues with how their young winger has conducted himself.
“There’s really no guidance, to be perfectly honest,” Treliving told Sportsnet 590’s Hockey Central crew Thursday. “We want Matthew playing exactly the same way that he always does. And what that is is being, in my mind, one of the top impactful players in the league. He drives the bus for us on a lot of nights, he drags our group into games.
“… So, the guidance from us is, ‘Continue to be who you are. Continue to have the impact you have on the game and on our team,’ and we continue to follow his lead.”
If there’s one thing with which the GM has taken issue in the wake of Saturday’s heated meeting against the Oilers, it’s the criticism that’s been levelled at Tkachuk.
“What’s bothered me about a lot of [it], I’m not a big fan of the talk in the media and all the rest of it, some of comments that have been made towards Matthew,” Treliving said. “Number one, we’ve got his back. I think there’s 30 other teams other than ours who would take him on their team in a New York second. And some of the crap, I guess would be the best way to put it, written or tweeted or talked about, I think is just that.
“This is a guy who has a big impact in the game, and does what he does better than most, or any, in the game right now. So we’ll continue to support him.”
The characterization of the Flames’ alternate captain in the wake of the Kassian incident has missed the mark, in Treliving’s eyes, with much of the conversation about Tkachuk’s style of play focused on his role as an agitator and not the skill and scoring ability that supplement that aspect of his game.
“When you talk about Matthew, that ability to get under people’s skin is part of the game, but what gets lost is the talent level. I don’t hear that enough,” Treliving told the Hockey Central crew. “This guy is an extremely skilled player — he’s established himself as one of the top young players in the game. His hockey brain and his hockey sense is, to me, elite, and he’s got so many ways that he can impact and touch a game.
“… You’re always looking for guys that can impact the game, and there’s different ways to do it. But very few have the ability to do it as Matthew does — both from a physical standpoint, and from a skill and talent standpoint as well.”