Tkachuk frustrated, wants Flames to have consistent presence in playoffs

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CHICAGO — Matthew Tkachuk said it’s time for the Calgary Flames “to really do something” and become a consistent presence in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“It’s kind of enough is enough right now,” the forward said at the NHL/NHLPA Player Media Tour on Friday. “Time is ticking, and average isn’t fun, and that’s what we’ve been. We’ve been making playoffs, missing playoffs, make the playoffs, lose first round, it’s not been fun. It’s time for us to really do something, take that next step, but I think guys really have to dig in and do it from the start.”

Calgary has either been eliminated in the first round or not qualified for the playoffs in Tkachuk’s five seasons.

The Flames averaged 2.77 goals per game last season (20th in the NHL). Forward Johnny Gaudreau led them with 49 points (19 goals, 30 assists) in 56 games, two seasons after scoring 99 points (36 goals, 63 assists) in 82 games in 2018-19. Forward Elias Lindholm was second with 47 points (19 goals, 28 assists), and Tkachuk was third with 43 points (16 goals, 27 assists), each in 56 games.

Darryl Sutter was named coach after Geoff Ward was fired March 4. The Flames went 15-16-1 under Sutter to finish 26-27-3, fifth in the Scotia North Division, and didn’t qualify for the playoffs. 

“We’re all thinking the same thing: enough is enough, and we want to make a difference, and average [stinks],” Tkachuk said. “We want to take that next step in the playoffs, but we have to get there first.”

They’ll try to do it without defenseman Mark Giordano, who was selected by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft on July 21. Giordano scored 509 points (143 goals, 366 assists) in 949 games in 15 seasons with the Flames and was their captain since the start of 2013-14. He led them in average ice time per game last season (22:57).

“The culture will definitely change because of him leaving, and guys are going to have to definitely step up, especially our defensive corps,” Tkachuk said. “He’s a guy who played so many minutes in so many key situations, but we do have so many great players who can fill that. We’ll have to do it by committee because of everything he did. From the leadership standpoint, we have a lot of great leaders, but losing him was a big loss.”

Calgary acquired Nikita Zadorov in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks on July 28 and signed the restricted free agent defenseman to a one-year, $3.75 million contract Aug. 20. They signed two unrestricted free agent forwards, Trevor Lewis on July 28 and Brad Richardson on Sept. 8, each to one-year, $800,000 contract. Free agent defenseman Erik Gudbranson signed a one-year, $1.95 million contract Sept. 10.

But their biggest acquisition was forward Blake Coleman, who signed a six-year, $29.4 million contract ($4.9 million average annual value) July 28. The 29-year-old scored 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in 55 regular-season games for the Tampa Bay Lightning last season and 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 23 playoff games to help them win the Stanley Cup. He also won the Cup with the Lightning in 2020.

“Any time you can add somebody who’s won two Cups, recently too, it’s going to be huge for our team,” Tkachuk said. “Kind of the way the NHL has changed over the last 10-20 years, for him to win it in today’s game and win it recently and not however many years ago, it’s good to have someone I can lean on who knows what it takes to win right now, so that’s going to be important to have.”

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