If you’re in a hits league and own any Calgary Flames stock right now, I bet you’re feeling pretty damn good — the “Jolly Rancher” is back in the saddle.
For the second time in less than a month, the North Division saw a coaching change late Thursday night as the Calgary Flames replaced Geoff Ward with the returning Darryl Sutter. The 62-year-old, who won two Stanley Cups with the Los Angeles Kings, coached the Flames for three seasons from 2002-2006 and was their general manager from 2003-2010. Of course, Sutter also took Calgary to a seventh game in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final.
Under Ward, the Flames went a respectable 35-26-5 in 66 regular-season games.
This move by general manager Brad Treliving, hiring the fifth head coach under his guidance, signifies that Calgary is still very much in win-now mode. Simply put, Sutter has a no-nonsense approach with an emphasis on a very tight defensive structure. Traditionally, his teams have been extremely physical and tough to play against. We’ll see how or if that translates to 2021.
With 31 games remaining, the Flames (11-12-2) find themselves four points out of a playoff spot.
Undeniably, especially under Sutter, there will be a greater emphasis on team defence. The Flames currently rank in the middle of the pack or worse in the NHL in goals allowed, shots on goal allowed per game and penalty kill percentage.
1. Trade for Jacob Markstrom, who potentially stands to gain the biggest boost from having a sounder team defensively in front of him. All things being equal, the 31-year-old has been pretty good so far in his first season with the Flames. Yes, health has always been a bit of a concern with Markstrom, but I’m willing to roll the dice.
2. Act swiftly on acquiring Matthew Tkachuk, something tells me that this combination is a match made in heaven. The dual-eligible winger has just two goals in his past 15 outings.
3. New coach, new Sam Bennett? At least that’s the hope. For now, put the 24-year-old on your watch list. We’ll see how it shakes out.
4. From a daily fantasy point of view, I’d poke around on some value buys — Dillon Dube, Josh Leivo, Andrew Mangiapane, Sam Bennett and Rasmus Andersson come to mind.
5. Make a play for the underproducing Mark Giordano. The 37-year-old, who’s had an up-and-down offensive season to date, played for Sutter back in the day. I wouldn’t be shocked if the veteran captain gets re-invigorated with the coaching change.
6. Last thought on the Flames: They’re the only team with a quiet two-game slate next week, so stay away from them on the waiver wire.
7. What I took from Canucks general manager Jim Benning’s confusing presser in Vancouver: We’re selling.
Having said that, I’m buying on Thatcher Demko. Over his past eight appearances, the 25-year-old has notched a 4-3-1 record to go along with a sparkling 1.90 goals-against, .936 save percentage and one shutout.
8. I know it stinks but hold on to all things Buffalo right now. If you make a trade to sell off, you’re destined to get hosed. Also, it’s acceptable to drop Victor Olofsson and Sam Reinhart right now. What a disaster.
9. Move on from MacKenzie Blackwood. The Devils netminder has surrendered 25 goals over his past seven appearances. New Jersey, yet another team whose momentum was zapped due to a long COVID-19 layoff, has dropped eight of nine. Ouch!
10. Up front, Jack Hughes is the only player I wouldn’t think about parting with on the Devils. Only a month ago, New Jersey had a plethora of viable fantasy options. Times have certainly changed.
11. Alexandar Georgiev is the in-house replacement for Igor Shesterkin, who’s currently day-to-day due to a minor groin strain.
In Nashville, veteran Pekka Rinne will see the majority of the starts while Juuse Saros is sidelined. But you may want to stay away from that file altogether.
Brian Elliott, Alex Nedeljkovic and Ilya Sorokin are three external streamer options that could help you out between the pipes.
12. On Sorokin — buckle up for a monster second half. Because of the short training camp, the Islanders have given the rookie phenom a light workload in the early going. Over his past three starts, however, the 25-year-old has made a decent case for more playing time, going 3-0-0 with just two goals allowed while notching two shutouts. Be mindful.
13. Time to jump back in on Alexis Lafreniere. The 2020 first-overall pick has three goals and six points in his past seven games.
14. Move heaven and earth to obtain Kirill Kaprizov. For my money, this year’s Calder Trophy is the 23-year-olds to lose. Unquestionably, for rest of season purposes, the Minnesota Wild rookie should be viewed as a top-40 fantasy file. Get him!
15. Target Alex Radulov. The veteran Dallas Stars winger is expected to return to the lineup this week after missing over a month with a lower-body injury. Radulov has three goals and 11 points in eight games so far this season.
16. Mark my words: The Torey Krug buy-low window will be closing very soon. The Blues defenceman has four points over his past five contests. Don’t miss out on this bargain-buy opportunity, especially now that Vladimir Tarasenko is back in the St. Louis lineup.
17. Sell high on Aaron Ekblad. The Panthers blue-liner has six points in the last two games. Simply, the 25-year-old is playing over his head right now. Capitalize!
18. Scoop up Alex Tuch immediately. The 24-year-old has eight goals in the past six games and 11 in 20 so far this season for the Vegas Golden Knights. He’s on fire.
19. Look to acquire T.J. Oshie. The veteran winger stands to gain an uptick in fantasy value after Tom Wilson was rightfully hammered with a seven-game suspension. Oshie will likely assume plenty of those top-six minutes left behind by Wilson over the next little while.
20. Let’s get you prepped for another pivotal week in this unique fantasy season (Mar. 8-14):
Monday: 6 Games
Tuesday: 9 Games
Wednesday: 5 Games
Thursday: 10 Games
Friday: 5 Games
Saturday: 12 Games
Sunday: 6 Games
Total: 53 Games
Four Games: ANA, ARI, COL, CBJ, DAL, EDM, LAK, MIN, MTL, NJD, NYI, OTT, TOR, VGK (14)
Colorado Avalanche: Mon (ARI), Wed (ARI), Fri (LAK), Sun (LAK)
Waiver Looks: Brandon Saad, Andre Burakovsky
SN Fantasy Pool: COL Goalies 4, Nathan Mackinnon 4, Mikko Rantanen 3
Edmonton Oilers: Mon (OTT), Wed (OTT), Fri (OTT), Sat (@VAN)
Waiver Looks: Jesse Puljujarvi, Dominik Kahun
SN Fantasy Pool: Connor McDavid 4, EDM Goalies 3, Darnell Nurse 2
Vegas Golden Knights: Mon (@MIN), Wed (@MIN), Fri (@STL), Sat (@STL)
Waiver Looks: Alex Tuch, Chandler Stephenson
SN Fantasy Pool: VGK Goalies 4, Mark Stone 3, Shea Theodore 2