Calgary Flames players brush off negative noise of being a healthy ...
Published Mar 18, 2023 • 4 minute read
Being a healthy scratch isn’t the end of the world.
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Maybe it gets treated that way on social media when the Calgary Flames make a decision to drop guys like Walker Duehr and Jakob Pelletier from the lineup the way they did for Thursday’s win over the Vegas Golden Knights, but it’s something most young players understand is part of their process.
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Andrew Mangiapane even turned down an opportunity to go to the AHL all-star game back in 2018 so that he could continue practising with the Flames as he tried to find his way into a full-time NHL role.
“I was laughing, they asked me if I wanted to get sent down to the AHL All-Star Game and I said ‘Yeah … I’m going to say no, politely’, “ Mangiapane said Saturday. “Obviously, it’s nice to get selected in the AHL but my dream is to be in the NHL and make the NHL. If you’re scratched the one game, you’re still up and you still have to work hard and show what you can do in practice.
“You never know, right? You might be scratched one game but you might get in the next game and that’s when you finally pop.”
That’s something that guys like Pelletier and Duehr very much understand. It’s not always a straight-line to becoming an everyday NHL player, and the challenges of playing day-in and day-out mean that a night off here and there isn’t always the end of the world.
And while Pelletier missed a second-straight game on Saturday night when the Flames took on the Dallas Stars at the Scotiabank Saddledome, Duehr was back in the lineup after his one-game break in the press-box.
“We kind of know that’s part of the process and whether you’re talking with the older guys here or the coaching staff, they kind of reiterate that,” Duehr said. “Just continue to stick with it and kind of analyze your game and know where you can get back and then, just in practice, work on that stuff every day. When you’re up-top watching, just watch how guys play and how they’re successful.
“It’s just part of the process, for sure.”As Sutter explained, the decision on whether to sit a player for a game or two isn’t always about demoting them for a lack of production or something similar.
In the case of Pelletier, dropping him from the lineup has more to do with keeping him fresh during a stretch where he’s played more hockey than he’s ever played before.
“Pelts has been really good for us,” Sutter said. “With him, he’s played a lot hockey. He didn’t get the all-star break, he went back to the (Calgary Wranglers). He played before the break and he’s played pretty significant minutes. Going back to the Anaheim game (March 10), I think he’s starting to hit a little bit of a wall just where he couldn’t do everything he wanted to do or what he’s capable of doing. Just doing a little bit of a re-set.”
Using that re-set is the important part, and it’s not as if it’s only the young guys who are occasionally getting dropped from the lineup. On Saturday night, Milan Lucic – who has played more NHL games than anyone on the Flames’ roster – was a healthy scratch, as well.
But there is legitimately an adjustment that young players need to make as they transition into full-time NHL life. The league may never get to the point where teams are doing load-management with veteran players the way we’re seeing in the NHL these days, but helping younger players out by giving them a day-off when it’s needed definitely isn’t a bad thing, regardless of how it may be perceived outside the lockerroom.
““My first full year, I remember I was scratched in San Jose on a back-to-back,” said Flames defenceman Rasmus Andersson. “It was Billy (Peters) at the time, and we talked. I think the outside world makes a bigger deal than it really is. Because, you know, when you’re a young guy and you try to become a full-time NHLer, it’s hard. I
“ don’t think people realize just how many games we actually play. It’s different from if you play in Europe or you play in the AHL. Here, it’s a game night-in and night-out. In the AHL, you usually play Friday-Saturday and then you have a full week of practice. So in my opinion, it’s not the end of the world. Especially for a young guy, it’s something you need to learn and something you need to go through. Sometimes, honestly, it’s good for you to just sit and watch and take a step back and kind of focus and get that hunger.”