The season was on the line for the Calgary Flames on Monday, and they needed two points against the Nashville Predators to still be in playoff contention. The game was tied 2-2 after regulation and was decided in a shootout.
Calgary Flames knew what was up. Their hopes of playoffs were eliminated if they didn’t clinch the W. And that’s when head coach Darryl Sutter made a decision that made fans upset.
Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri stepped up first for the Flames, but on the ice to take the third shootout attempt was Nick Ritchie. Since signing earlier this year, Ritchie has only recorded 5 points in 16 games with the Flames, but Sutter still trusted him to step up in the most important moment this season.
Star players like Andrew Mangiapane, Tyler Toffoli, and Elias Lindholm didn’t get a chance to score. The Flames lost the shootout, and they’re eliminated from the playoffs.
Postgame, Sutter was asked why he selected Ritchie in the shootout, and he explained that Ritchie’s only shootout goal in his NHL career was against Juuse Saros. He felt that meant more than just looking at percentages, and that’s why Tyler Toffoli sat through the shootout.
“Not much difference if you do the percentages or odds,” Sutter said. “You’re going on practice and you’re going on guys who’ve scored against (Saros) prior. That’s not the point, really. It had no bearing on the game. The difference was those great chances in overtime — 3-2 game, it’s like a playoff game, right?”
Flames fans absolutely slammed Sutter for his decision in the shootout, and so did several experts. Ryan Whitney, former NHLer and host of the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast, had this to say:
”Daryl Suter has accomplished WAY more than I ever even sniffed in the NHL but i am sitting here in utter disbelief that Nick Ritchie went in a must win shootout and Tyler Toffoli (the best player on the flames this year by a mile) sat on the bench and watched his teams season end.”
ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski was also surprised.
”If I’m hearing this correctly, Sutter put Nick Ritchie in this critical shootout because he scored against Juuse Saros on Nov. 21, 2022, while with Arizona in one of his 5 career SO attempts,” he said on Twitter while sharing Sutter’s postgame thoughts.
Dustin Nielson also shared his thoughts on Twitter:
”Sutter throwing Nick Ritchie out in the shootout with the season on the line is the MOST SUTTER THING EVER.”