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Alberta

Calgary Flames start afresh with head coach Darryl Sutter, new leadership

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CALGARY — A significant change in leadership under new-ish head coach Darryl Sutter make the Calgary Flames a team in transition heading into the 2021-22 season.

“Honest, hardworking” is the identity Sutter wants for a club that either missed the playoffs or exited in the first round all but one season since Sutter coached the Flames to the Stanley Cup final 17 years ago.

A second-round appearance in 2015 is Calgary’s deepest post-season run since losing the Cup final in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004.

Sutter returned to Calgary’s bench 26 games into a 2020-21 season shortened by COVID-19. Geoff Ward was fired when the Flames were 11-11-2.

Calgary went 15-16-1 under Sutter to finish fifth in the North Division and four points out of a playoff spot. He’s the team’s third coach since 2019 following Ward and Bill Peters.

The Flames went 6-3 against the eventual Stanley Cup finalist Montreal Canadiens last season, but “we struggled against all the other teams,” goaltender Jacob Markstrom said.

Calgary opens this season Saturday in Edmonton against the Oilers before Monday’s home-opener with the Anaheim Ducks.

The Seattle Kraken plucking captain and top defenceman Mark Giordano in the summer’s expansion draft left a void in both leadership and quality back-end minutes.

For the first time in almost a quarter-century, the Flames opened training camp without a captain. Sutter wasn’t in a hurry to name Giordano’s replacement.

Mikael Backlund, now the longest-serving Flame, Matthew Tkachuk and Sean Monahan are potential candidates.

This edition of the Flames got a training camp in with the 63-year-old Sutter from Viking, Alta., who doesn’t filter his public comments when he’s displeased with a player or the team.

“As you guys know, he’s very black-and-white when it comes to what he wants out of you, which I think is great. It makes everything clear,” forward Milan Lucic said.

“If we just come together as a team and follow his lead and follow his message, that’s when we’ll have the most success.”

Sutter’s blunt assessment of the Flames to conclude last season was the team couldn’t execute at a pace the league demands.

A training camp of hard skates rectified that.

“Better-conditioned and a faster-paced team,” Sutter said.

Tkachuk, Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm producing seasons of 70-plus points, as they all did when the Flames topped the Western Conference in 2018-19, would help return Calgary to the NHL’s top tier of teams.

A healthy Monahan, who was plagued by hip problems most of last season and underwent off-season surgery, bodes well for Calgary’s offensive depth.

“We’re a group that can rely on different guys in different moments,” Lucic said. “We’re not always relying on one or two guys to do everything for us.”

Giordano’s departure spreads more responsibility among returning defencemen Rasmus Andersson, who will quarterback the top power-play unit, Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev, and Juuso Valimaki.

 

JOHNNY GAUDREAU

Contract talk will swirl around Calgary’s top points producer for five of his seven NHL seasons. The 28-year-old left-winger is in the final season of six-year contract paying him an average of US$6.75 million annually. Gaudreau wished aloud during training camp for a more regular right-winger for himself and Monahan instead of a revolving door, although it’s likely Gaudreau will spend some time on a line with Lindholm and Tkachuk.

ANDREW MANGIAPANE

The 25-year-old winger from Bolton, Ont., had a breakout performance leading Canada to gold at the men’s world hockey championship in June. Canada was 0-3 when he joined the roster, but Mangiapane galvanized the Canadians with seven goals and four assists in seven games en route to earning tournament MVP honours.

INCOMING

Winger Blake Coleman is fresh off back-to-back Stanley Cup wins with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Veteran forwards Trevor Lewis (2012, 2014) and Brad Richardson (2014) won Cups under Sutter with the Los Angeles Kings. Defencemen Nikita Zadarov and Erik Gudbranson were brought on board to backfill the loss of Giordano’s minutes. Backup goalie Dan Vladar, a 24-year-old Czech, owns a career five NHL starts. Kirk Muller and Cail MacLean joined Ryan Huska as Sutter’s assistants.

JACOB MARKSTROM

The 31-year-old goaltender posted decent numbers in his first (shortened) season in Calgary with a 22-19-2 record, a 2.68 goals-against average, a .904 save percentage and three shutouts. The Flames will need more than decent from the $6-million-a-year Swede for a long post-season run. If he stays healthy, Markstrom could surpass his previous season-high 60 starts. Add games he could play for Sweden at the Winter Olympics to his season workload too.

SCHEDULE WATCH

The expansion Kraken and their first captain Giordano are in town Dec. 23. After 10 meetings with the Edmonton Oilers in the North Division last season, the Flames face their provincial rival just four times in 2021-22.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 13, 2021.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Regulator lays charges against Tidewater Midstream for acidic water release

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CALGARY — The Alberta Energy Regulator has laid charges against Tidewater Midstream and Infrastructure Ltd. for a release of acidic water in west-central Alberta.

The regulator says the release occurred in Oct. 2019 at Tidewater’s Ram River sour gas processing plant near Rocky Mountain House. 

It says the acidic water flowed into a nearby creek.

Calgary-based Tidewater has been charged with 10 violations under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, including releasing a substance to the environment that caused or may have caused an adverse effect. 

The regulator also alleges that Tidewater failed to report the release of the acidic water as soon as possible, and failed to take all reasonable measures to repair and remedy the spill.

Tidewater is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 8 in Rocky Mountain House.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published October 21, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:TWM)

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Alberta

Alberta's top doctor says COVID-19 cases receding but vigilance needed at Halloween

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EDMONTON — Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says COVID-19 case numbers in the province continue to recede.

But Dr. Deena Hinshaw cautions that the hospital situation remains precarious given the high number of patients.

And she says Albertans can’t afford to let up on health restrictions, particularly with Halloween coming up.

There were 770 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday for a new total of 10,434 active cases.

There were eight more deaths, bringing that total to 3,014.

Alberta Health Services says there are 912 people in hospital with COVID-19, and that 201 of them are in intensive care.

Alberta remains under gathering restrictions for indoor and outdoor events, and Hinshaw says it’s important to stick to those limits at Halloween.

Hinshaw urged those setting out candy for trick or treaters to not use bowls, but to set out the candy spaced apart on a surface like a blanket.

She says those who want to have a Halloween party should consider a small gathering of vaccinated people.

“This is not the year for large Halloween parties,” Hinshaw said.

“If you’re planning a Halloween gathering try to have it outdoors and make sure the limit of no more than 20 people is observed.”

Hinshaw noted that last Oct. 31 there were 5,600 active COVID-19 cases, about half the current total. There were 141 people in hospital with the illness a year ago.

Alberta continues to battle a fourth wave of the pandemic.

It has more than doubled the normal number of 173 critical care beds and has had to cancel thousands of non-urgent surgeries to handle the surge.

Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley says with winter coming and COVID-19 still circulating, the province needs to provide stable funding to social agencies for winter emergency shelters.

“All people deserve to live in dignity and have a safe place to call home,” said Notley. “These calls are urgent. It’s getting cold outside, and our northern winter will be here soon.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2021.

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