The Calgary Flames returned from their Eastern Canadian road swing with a lot to be encouraged about.
They took a point out of their shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs and beat the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night. A defeat at the hands of the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night was the only blemish on the three-game trip.
The Flames went .500 on their little sojourn to Ontario and Quebec, which is generally about where you want to be on the road.
But headlines away from the ice had largely dominated the narrative over the past week. The late-Friday report about Nikita Zadorov’s trade request was big news and the Tuesday night revelation from TSN’s Darren Dreger that Nazem Kadri wasn’t interested in hanging around for a lengthy rebuild, should that happen, drew a lot of eyeballs, too.
The Flames, though, insisted they’ve been able to block out any distractions. The way they played against the Habs backs up that assertion.
“We’ve dealt with it within the room,” said Flames captain Mikael Backlund. “We addressed what we had to address and now we’re ready to just focus on the hockey and move on.”
That’s what you’d want to hear from the Flames. They remain a close-knit group despite whatever speculation might be circulating about potential trades or the future direction of the franchise.
And they’ve also taken points from four of their last five games. That’s seven out of a possible 10 points.
If there are people out there trying to paint this as some sort of dysfunctional group that isn’t playing hard, well … all available evidence points to the opposite right now.
Yes, they had a six-game losing streak a couple of weeks ago, but they do appear to have turned the corner and are playing a lot better. If there’s a circus in town, it’s not at the Saddledome.
And it’s not even as if the report about Kadri was particularly revelatory. Of course a 33-year-old veteran would want to be playing for a team with championship ambitions, right? He hasn’t asked to be moved and as he made clear on Wednesday, Kadri still firmly believes that the Flames are a competitive team right now.
“For me, I think, obviously at my age you want to win now, I came here to have an opportunity and I still feel like we still do, we still have a great team,” Kadri said. “Obviously, we should maybe have a couple more wins than we do, but at the end of the day we’re going to find ways to stack them on top of each other and find ourselves back in the playoff picture.
“It’s obviously very early, but I have not lost belief in this team one bit.”
Recommended from Editorial
With report that Kadri wants no part of rebuild, more questions arise about Flames’ future
Flames’ Zadorov addresses trade talk, understands teammates may be miffed
That hurts! Is hard-hitting Nikita Zadorov ready for farewell to Calgary Flames?
On Wednesday, the focus for the Flames lay squarely on preparing for Thursday’s home game against the Vancouver Canucks. That’s a big game against a rival, and it matters any time the teams play — but with the Canucks starting the season hot and sitting in second place in the Pacific Division, 11 points ahead of the Flames, it somehow feels even bigger than normal.
The Zadorov situation will play out the way it plays out, but he and his teammates have handled it behind closed doors and are moving on and staying focused on the task ahead.
That’s the right approach. Block out the external noise and keep working away.
“You always try to be delicate with guys’ situations and what they want for their future and how that goes,” Kadri said when he was asked directly about the reported Zadorov trade request. “At the end of the day, it is a business and guys want to secure themselves for their families and for themselves, but for us, as far as I know they’re fighting hard for this team and want to be part of the team and from within the dressing room, everything’s fine.”
Wes Gilbertson and Danny Austin have been covering the Flames for years and know what makes the team tick. Have questions? They have the answers – or the contacts to track them down. Send your questions to email@example.com