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A chat with Mike Cammalleri

Friday, 06.27.2008 / 9:00 AM
Brian Compton  - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Mike Cammalleri experienced a dramatic career change last weekend at the NHL Entry Draft in Ottawa when the Calgary Flames acquired the forward from the Los Angeles Kings for the No. 17 selection.

It’s an indication that things may be looking up for Cammalleri, a speedy left wing who scored 79 goals during the past three seasons in Los Angeles — but had just 19 in 2007-08, when he missed 19 games with injuries. Cammalleri has yet to play in a Stanley Cup Playoff game. There’s a good chance that will change next season.

Cammalleri walked into our NHL.com offices in New York on Wednesday afternoon and took time out from his rare visit to the East Coast.

NHL.com: How excited are you to be a member of the Calgary Flames?

MC: I’m really excited. I've had a few days to digest it, and I'm really excited about it. I’ve always thought it would be fun to play back in Canada, so that excites me. I really like the team. I think that it's a great bunch of guys. I like the identity of the Calgary Flames. They're intense and they play hard. They're tough competitors. I really want to be a part of that, so it's really exciting for me.

NHL.com: Were you surprised by the trade, or did you have a feeling a move was on the horizon?

MC: I heard a lot of rumors, so I had a feeling maybe something would happen. I didn't know where or when, though.

NHL.com: Have any of your new teammates called you since the deal?

MC: Yeah, I’ve talked to a few guys. Craig Conroy is a good friend of mine, so I talked to him right away. We've had some good conversations. Jarome (Iginla) called me to welcome me, which was first-class by him. I know Dion (Phaneuf) pretty well, so he messaged me right away and he welcomed me as well.

NHL.com: How disappointed were you with the way things went in Los Angeles last season and how high were your hopes given the amount of young talent?

MC: It was a tough year for us on a lot of different levels. I learned a lot from it, though. I'm ready to move on.

NHL.com: What do you know about Mike Keenan, and are you excited about playing for another coach who has won a Stanley Cup?

MC: I'm really excited. I think we all know a lot about Mike Keenan. His reputation precedes him. I've got a lot of respect for what he's been able to do in his career. I think he's the kind of guy who brings out the best in a guy. He's an intense guy, and I'm an intense guy myself. I look forward to it.
   
NHL.com: Jarome Iginla led the Flames in scoring by more than 30 points last season. Are you confident you can take some pressure off him offensively?

MC: It seems to be what I’m hearing. I would think that I'll be able to do that. I've always been a guy who has been relied upon to produce offensively. It's a responsibility, and I really welcome that responsibility.

NHL.com: Are you anxious to be a part of the heated rivalry between Calgary and Edmonton?

MC: I'm really looking forward to that. "The Battle of Alberta" … I actually heard a lot of rumors about going to Edmonton, as well. For Calgary to get me, it makes it even more special. I've watched those games like you have or anybody else has that's a fan of the game. That intensity … it's just awesome. I really look forward to that.

NHL.com: First and last place in the Northwest Division were separated by just 10 points last season. Do you think you’ll notice a big difference playing in the Northwest as opposed to the Pacific?

MC: I guess. I haven't really thought about that. I just like our team and I like our chances. I'm just excited about the opportunity. I haven't really thought about the standings yet or what the other teams are going to do. When you have a team like we've got in Calgary, you worry about your team and getting ready to play. I think all that takes care of itself.

NHL.com: Growing up in Ontario, which team did you root for and which player did you idolize?

MC: I grew up in the Toronto area, so I was a Leafs fan, but I was also a Red Wings fan because I played for the Toronto Red Wings growing up. Wayne Gretzky was always my hockey hero, but I idolized Joe Sakic, too. He's a guy I've always tried to learn the most from.

NHL.com: Who do you think is the best player in today's NHL?

MC: I'd say Sid (Crosby) and (Alex) Ovechkin are probably the class of the league, but I've got to think you put Iginla in the top five. I really do. That’s exciting (for me). But those two are kind of in a class of their own right now.

NHL.com: The NHL will open next season with games in Prague and Stockholm. Last season, the Kings had the chance to play in London. How was that experience, and are you in favor of opening the season overseas?

MC: The experience was OK. I think it could have been structured a little better for us, the way the travel was and all that. But going over there and playing was cool. I think it was a good idea. I'm in favor of it, but I think a little bit more research needs to be done as far as travel and the teams individually on how to get their guys rest. We were just really busy and tired. It was tough on us.

NHL.com: You started your collegiate career at the University of Michigan almost 10 years ago, and next season will be the very first time you’ll get to play your home games in your native country. Is that exciting for you?

MC: That's a wild thing. I was 17. It was almost nine years ago since I played a home game in Canada. I didn't even think about that. That's kind of wild to think about, but yeah … it used to be few and far between when I'd hear both anthems before a game. Maybe now I won't sing along as much. I'm exited to go to Canada and play in front of Canadian fans, where the game means so much to everybody. I really think there's a lot of positives that can come from that.

NHL.com: The free agency period is set to begin in just a few days. Is there a player out there you'd love to see the Flames sign?

MC: There's a lot of good players out there, but I was just traded there. I don't think it’s my place as far as the moves we should or shouldn't be making yet. I'll just worry about getting ready the best I can. One thing, though, is I'm confident that management there is pretty assertive in what they do, for sure. 

NHL.com: Do you think you'll put any added pressure on yourself going into the last year of a contract?

MC: I've kind of always been that way. I've never really had a long-term deal, so I've kind of always played contract to contract. It doesn't really concern me all that much, to be honest with you. I'm pretty focused on the positives right now, and I'm just excited about the opportunity.

Contact Brian Compton at: bcompton@nhl.com.



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