WATCH ABOVE: Flames fans watching practice at WinSport arena on Thursday saw a lot of smiles from the players who survived NHL deadline day and from a new Flame looking for a fresh start. More from Kevin Smith.
Confidence can be a funny thing. It’s an immeasurable, unquantifiable feeling that can turn around a fan base, a season and a player’s career.
It wasn’t too long ago that the Calgary Flames dropped seven out of nine games in January. The top line wasn’t producing and the head coach was growing frustrated.
And then Johnny Gaudreau scored an overtime winner against the Ottawa Senators, ending an 11-game goalless drought and the Flames’ stretch of poor play.
Since Gaudreau jumped into Mikael Backlund’s arms after scoring the winner, the Flames took off and a fan base was reignited.
Watch below from March 1: Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving says his team did their homework when scouting Curtis Lazar and feels they have confidence with their squad heading forward.
The Flames are currently 10-2-1 in their last 13 games and for the most part, kept their crew intact following the NHL trade deadline.
“We like our room and I thought that (Brad Treliving) has a good pulse of everything that is going on,” Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan said.
“Our room is a close group, we’re playing well. We like what we have and we think we can do some damage with what we have.”
Treliving wasn’t completely silent on deadline day. While there were no blockbusters that shook the NHL to its core, he sent Jyrki Jokipakka and a 2017 second-round pick to the Senators for forward Curtis Lazar and defenceman Mike Kostka.
Lazar, who is best known for his smile and eating a cheeseburger off the ice, is working through his third season in the NHL. After scoring six goals and 20 points during the 2015-16 campaign with the Sens, the former 2013 first-round pick has struggled this year, registering only one assist in 33 games.
He arrived in Calgary Wednesday night and the first thing he did was send a text to his parents that read: “I’m home.”
“It’s been a pretty hectic 24 hours for myself, but I couldn’t be more excited for my time here as a Flame and I’m looking forward to getting started,” Lazar said.
Newly motivated with something to prove, he has begun searching for the confidence that has been absent from his game. Stepping into a dressing room with familiar faces is a great place to start.
Flames assistant coach Dave Cameron was behind the bench in the nation’s capital when Lazar made his debut.
“When he played for me, he was a good young player: good on the forecheck, a fearless shot blocker, lots of energy and enthusiasm and has a high hockey IQ,” Cameron said.
Alex Chiasson, right winger for the Flames, played with Lazar from 2014-16. Lazar also shared a line with Sean Monahan during the 2013 prospects game and split a hotel room with Sam Bennett during a tryout camp with the Canadian Junior team.
“He always has a good attitude and everyday he brings his work ethic to the rink and I just think he’s a really good kid,” Chiasson said. “It’s been a frustrating season for him, but we all have been through that, myself included. So I think for him, it’s just to go back to the type of player he’s capable of being. He’s a guy that brings a lot of energy, can play on the penalty kill, he gets on the forecheck and plays the right way and that’s the type of player we want on our team.”
The Flames also acquired defenceman Michael Stone earlier in the week from the Arizona Coyotes for a third-round pick and a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2018 NHL draft.
By seemingly adding without subtracting too much, Treliving portrayed confidence in his roster out to the fan base.
Some of the Flames’ younger fans were on hand Thursday morning at WinSport Arena to watch Lazar skate as a member of the Flames for the first time.
“At the beginning of the season, I was kind of nervous about them making the playoffs, but now, it’s a great game to watch and really entertaining,” said Hunter McChesney, a student at the International Hockey Academy and a Flames fan since Day 1. “It’s pretty exciting to see an NHL team at my school, that doesn’t happen at a lot of schools.”
Lazar is still getting familiarized with his new surroundings, teammates and systems. Gulutzan hasn’t tipped his hand as to when the 22-year-old will crack the lineup, but he is ruled out for Friday’s tilt with the Detroit Red Wings at the Scotiabank Saddledome as the Flames look to extend their five-game winning streak.
The Flames currently sit seventh in the Western conference with 72 points, two points back of the Anaheim Ducks for third place in the Pacific division.
Story by Tyler Lowey, Global News
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