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Calgary Flames

Is ‘Excitement’ Returning To The Flames Locker-Room?



Guess the excitement of becoming a member of the Calgary Flames faded quickly last season.

Without very specific details, the summer has offered a little more insight into the challenges within the Saddledome locker-room during a disappointing 2022-23 NHL campaign.

Mikael Backlund, who got into plenty of shouting matches with former head coach Darryl Sutter, was recently quoted on a Swedish site saying there was “a lot of negative leadership” because the team was losing frequently. Jonathan Huberdeau told RDS at a golf tournament there will be “a lot more fun” this season with Sutter getting fired this spring.

Milan Lucic also mentioned the ancient nature of the rink and lack of things to do in a frigid winter city as reasons guys like Tyler Toffoli and Noah Hanifin either asked for a trade or said they wouldn’t sign an extension this season.

The futures of Backlund and fellow Swedish centre Elias Lindholm are very much in doubt, and it’s expected both are willing to see how this season plays out in advance of the trade deadline before considering putting pen to paper on any new deals.

But the words from Nazem Kadri, one of last summer’s blockbuster additions who picked his landing spot and was a ball of energy early in the season before fading, sounded like someone who had long tired of the old-school approach Sutter employed. Even though he’d only been around a matter of months.

“It’s a re-energizing feeling anytime you make any sort of coaching or management change. But when you look at what (Flames GM Craig Conroy) has built, we’ve got a coaching staff that is going to have us playing a different way and, in my opinion, more to our style,” Kadri told the Calgary Flames website‘s Ryan Dittrick this week, adding praise for new head coach Ryan Huska. “I have a really good idea of how he wants us to play and what he expects out of us. He’s a guy that communicates well, too, and I think that’s going to be great for our team.

“It’s what we need.”

You probably know this already, but Sutter wasn’t much for communication. His philosophy was that the players knew what was expected of them, and their ice time would indicate what kind of job they were doing.

It didn’t mix well with last year’s collection of players, including Kadri, who along with Huberdeau has talked about the excitement of changing their style on the ice under the new coaching staff.

“It’s back to that excitement we talked about,” Kadri said. “That’s the new-school hockey. That’s the new-school NHL. I think the offence is very modernized and you have to be able to use your creativity to have success. I can tell Husk is thinking outside the box already.

“For me – and I know for a lot of guys, too – we feel rejuvenated and we’re going to come out with lots of energy next year.”

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