Can the Canucks copy the Flames’ model for success next year?

Jan 29, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat (53) skates with the puck against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 29, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat (53) skates with the puck against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /
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To their great dismay, the Vancouver Canucks have one of the most passionate fan bases in the NHL.

After a good game, they’re on pace to win the Stanley Cup, in the minds of their fans. After a bad loss, they should sell every good player for picks and prospects. For this reason, it’s hard to gauge how good the Canucks actually are.

This season is no exception.

The game of musical chairs to determine playoff spots continues, and the Canucks are just hoping to get a spot when the music stops. Half of the fans believe they should sell at the deadline, while the other half hopes against hope that this season is different than the past few.

Admittedly, the 2021-22 season is a coin toss for the Canucks— they might make the playoffs, they might not. But those who think the team should sell are overlooking the coaching change and the history that coaching changes have on teams.

The Canucks are in the same boat this year as the Calgary Flames were in last year. Next year, they could be in the same boat the Flames are in this year.

How does these two teams truly compare? Take a look below!

2020-21 Calgary Flames

Credit: Sergei Belski- USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Sergei Belski- USA TODAY Sports /

The Flames started the 2020-21 season with a mediocre 24 points in 24 games. They looked uninterested and unmotivated, and it showed in their results. A little less than halfway through the season, they decided to change that by firing head coach Geoff Ward and hiring Darryl Sutter in his stead.

Although Sutter’s numbers as a whole were similar to Ward’s numbers, he transformed the identity of the team. They became tough. They played well defensively. They were a new team.

2021 ended in disappointment for the Flames, as they fell four points short of the playoffs. But all was not lost.

Sutter got the chance to command the Flames from the beginning of the season this year, and things couldn’t be going better for them. They sit atop the Pacific Division at the moment, and look like true Stanley Cup contenders.

Sutter is also getting the most out of his players this year. Johnny Gaudreau, who has struggled the past few years, is on fire. Andrew Mangiapane and Elias Lindholm, among others, are having career years. Oliver Kylington has broken out as a legitimate top-four defenceman.

The Flames made this improvement with minimal roster changes over the summer. They added depth in net with Dan Vladar, a middle-six forward in Blake Coleman, and a couple of bottom-pairing defensemen in hopes of filling the void left by Mark Giordano. Their improvement was the result of organizational change, not roster transactions.