In this edition of Calgary Flames News & Rumors, Johnny Gaudreau is set to make his return to the Saddledome in a week’s time, and is well aware that the reception may not be a friendly one. In other news, Oliver Kylington is said to still be receiving assistance from the Player Assistance Program, but a potential return to the lineup remains unknown. Meanwhile, Jacob Markstrom has really been struggling during the month of January, causing many to suggest that Dan Vladar should be given the bulk of starts moving forward. Last but not least, Walker Duehr seemed rather even keel when speaking with the media after scoring the first NHL goal of his career.
Gaudreau Expecting Boos in Return to Calgary
This offseason, Johnny Gaudreau shocked not only Flames fans, but the entire hockey world with his free agency decision. While many had speculated he may be looking to move on from Calgary, the expectation was that he would sign with the New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, or the New York Islanders to be closer to his family. Instead, however, he chose to ink an eight-year deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets, a decision that has drawn plenty of criticism from Flames faithful.
Now, in a week’s time, Gaudreau will return to the Saddledome for the first time wearing an opposing team’s jersey. Despite the success he had while dawning Flames colors, he is well aware of the public perception of him throughout the city of Calgary, and doesn’t expect his return to be filled with cheers.
“If I get cheers, that’ll be awesome. And if I get booed – which I’m sure I will – that’s okay too,” Gaudreau told NHL.com’s Mike Zeisberger. “It shows how supportive they are to their team. It’s a great hockey city and I wouldn’t expect anything else.”
While the Blue Jackets were by no means expected to be a powerhouse even with the addition of Gaudreau in 2022-23, few thought they would be just 13-27-2 through their first 42 games of the season. Despite the struggles, Gaudreau has remained rather productive with 12 goals and 41 points. He will look to improve on those totals when he makes his return next Monday.
Kylington’s Return Date Remains Unknown
Prior to the start of the 2022-23 season, Brad Treliving announced that Kylington would stay home in Sweden due to a personal issue. Fast forward to where we are now, and the 25-year-old continues to remain there, with hopes of a return in 2022-23 dwindling by the second. It is an unfortunate situation, though, as Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli recently pointed out, one which the Flames need to get figured out ahead of the trade deadline.
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“…But I think when it comes to talking about the Flames and their deadline that it can’t be overstated how critical it is for them to get an answer on Oliver Kylington,” Seravalli said when talking with Pat Steinberg on Sportsnet 960 The Fan this past week. “That is probably number one in terms of their priorities right now. I did follow up today on Kylington and what’s happening there is he’s still receiving assistance from the Player Assistance Program. He’s on their cap and has been there all year, and I think there was some hope that he might be able to come back over to North America before the holidays and that didn’t materialize, and I think now everyone’s wondering ‘is this going to happen, is he going to play this season?’ And I think, without putting too much pressure on him, ideally the Flames would like to know really before the end of January.”
As Seravalli noted, it is important not to put pressure on Kylington, as he is clearly going through a difficult time. That said, knowing whether or not he is going to return this season could seriously alter Treliving’s approach as we inch closer to the trade deadline. Perhaps we will have a better idea of the Swedish defenseman’s status in the coming weeks.
Markstrom’s Struggles Continuing
After a career-best 2021-22 season, one in which he was nominated for the Vezina Trophy, things have quickly gone downhill for Markstrom. First was last year’s playoff series versus the Edmonton Oilers in which he struggled immensely. Now, past the midway point of the 2022-23 season, those struggles have continued, and are causing plenty of frustration among Flames fans.
It seemed as though the 32-year-old was beginning to snap out of his funk in December, as he recorded a respectable 2.39 goals-against average (GAA) along with a .906 save percentage (SV%) during the month of December. Things have fallen apart since, however, as he has a putrid 3.29 GAA paired with a .875 SV% through the month of January.
Due to those struggles, Vladar has started each of the Flames’ past two games and has picked up victories in both. Though his season stats of a 2.73 GAA and .907 SV% are by no means jaw-dropping, he has been the far more consistent of the two netminders this season, and could play a huge role for his team down the stretch if he is able to continue to rack up wins.
Duehr Pots First NHL Goal
Less than a week after receiving his first NHL call-up of the season, Duehr was able to score the first NHL goal of his career in what ended up being a 4-1 win over the St. Louis Blues. It was a great moment for a player who has had to earn every opportunity he has been given to this point in his career. Despite all his hard work, however, he did his best to deflect attention from himself when speaking with the media afterward, instead praising his teammate Nazem Kadri. (from ‘Stephen Hunt: Duehr shakes off the Blues with first NHL goal’, CTV News Calgary, 1/13/23).
“Pretty cool feeling,” Duehr said. “Something you dream of – so, [it’s] pretty cool.
“Naz made a great play to get it over to me, and [I] just tried to get it off quick, and it went in there.”
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The goal came in just the third career game for the 25-year-old, who has spent the majority of the 2022-23 campaign with the Calgary Wranglers of the American Hockey League (AHL). The undrafted college free agent, who was signed by the Flames near the end of the 2020-21 season, has continued to grow his game over the past two seasons in the AHL, and has all the tools to become a regular at the NHL level in the near future. Perhaps that time is now if he is able to continue producing offensively.
Looking Ahead for the Flames
The Flames have three games on their schedule this week, the first coming tonight against the Nashville Predators. They will then have a day off before seeing the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, followed by the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday afternoon. All three will be massive outings as they look to gain more ground on the Los Angeles Kings for third place in the Pacific Division.
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.