| March 4, 2010 |
|Former rival now a friend |
The Calgary Flames were quite busy during the NHL's trade deadline, moving three players and acquiring two new faces. Dustin Boyd, Aaron Johnson and Curtis McElhinney all found new homes on Wednesday while netminder Vesa Toskala and defenseman Steve Staios arrived in Calgary. Of the two new players coming in, Staios is garnering the most attention due to the fact he's coming over from the Flames biggest rivals, the Edmonton Oilers.
"It's a little weird," he said of putting on a Calgary jersey. "It didn't take long (to get adjusted to the locker room). I know a lot of the guys here and I've competed against them for a long time and have a high respect level for them so I'm really excited."
It's the first time in history that the two clubs have made a direct trade, making Staios an instant part of hockey history. However, the veteran blueliner shrugged off the notion that his name would be etched into the history books for being the first Oiler dealt the Flames.
"I don't see it as such a big deal really. Two great cities and two great hockey markets and two great organizations so this is a thrill for me," he said. "I think I'm fortunate I can be a part of that and I know it's the first time in history but I'm really excited to be here. It's been awhile since I've played some meaningful games. With the chance of getting into the playoffs and getting onto a roll with this team, I'm just thrilled.
"For me, as a hockey player, you have no control over the situation. You couldn't have imagined it but now that it's happened, I think it's a great fit."
Staios has long been known for his gritty defensive play and leadership skills and many expect him to be able immediately jump into a role that offers direction and guidance to the rest of the room.
"I won't do anything differently than I've done in the past," Staios said. "I'm just going to be myself. I care about my teammates, I work hard ... I don't know if that transcends into leadership. I won't always be that vocal but there may be sometimes where you see something you address.
"You have to first earn the respect of your teammates and you do that by being committed to the team and be be committed on and off the ice to the organization. I know it's a quick transitiion but I feel comfortable. I know a lot of guys in this locker room so hopefully that will help."
Head coach Brent Sutter believes Staios will be in a top-four role when he suits up on Friday and the former Oiler is looking forward to the challenge.
"Any role they want to give me, I'm here for that. It's always about the team first. I'll bring it every night like I did in the past."
Staios did mention one bit of advice he's going to pass onto his new teammates: have fun.
"I've been in this situation before, where games become really important and it's a fun time of year to play. I'm just going to try to lead by example and offer as much leadership as I can. I think the guys have to realize this a real fun time to be competing and playing. I know that from the recent past - when you're not playing for anything, it's no fun. Hopefully we all embrace it and take it to the next level."
With just 19 games left in the regular season and the Flames in a dog fight for a playoff spot, Staios is joining the roster a crucial point of the season. While some may be intimidated by this, the blueliner is looking forward to the stretch drive.
"I have the experience of going through these types of situations. It seems like almost every year we were going through a situation like, where you have a chance at the playoffs, you're in the 8th or 9th place. I don't mind coming right into it. You want to be as involved as you come early on. It might have been nicer to be here a month earlier to ease yourself in as part of the team but that's never been a problem for me. I'll lay it on the line and see if we can't put this team over the edge."
"I embrace the situation, where it's crucial time and the team needs to be performing at a high level right away," Staios continued "It's no problem for me. It's unfortunate that the game didn't go well for the guys but at this time in the year and that is point, where the situation that we're in here, one day can't transcend into the next, good or bad. It has to be a playoff type mentality and you have to put in the effort that night and get positive results. If not, you have to move on."
Cracking down defensively
The Flames had a lackluster performance against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night, unable to put anything past Niklas Backstrom and making sloppy defensive plays that led to all four goals against. That shakiness in their own zone was the one thing players were talking about the morning after.
"One of our big things is we’re trying not to get odd-man rushes against. We did have a few odd-man rushes and boy they really capitalized. They looked good," forward Craig Conroy sighed.
"We had a talk today and hopefully it got through and we have our best game of the year next game. There was a lot of different stuff, bottom line was awful last night, terrible game, unacceptable and we have to regroup. We can’t do anything about it now because it’s too late. We do have an opportunity with 19 games left and we’ve got to take advantage and seize this opportunity."
Robyn Regehr said the team absolutely has to learn from games like Wednesday's or else they are going to free fall in the standings.
"If we don't learn from our mistakes, that's something that's very foolish," he said firmly. "We've talked about things, what we need to do better and the obvious thing is giving up very good scoring chances on odd-man rushes like last night on that two-on-ones and three-on-twos. Minnesota capitalized and we can't have that, at all. It doesn't matter if there's 19 games left in the season or not. You can't make those mistakes and end up winning hockey games."
Another new city
Toskala has been on three teams this season alone and while being traded twice in the month span is difficult, the Finn is taking it in stride.
"This is all new, but at the same time there’s lots of things in this league that you can’t control. I’ve been trying to always be that way. I’m not worrying about the things that I can’t control. I’ve been having a good time every place I’ve been."
The trade didn't come as a total surprise to Toskala. Toronto traded him to Anaheim earlier this year but he never suited up for a game with the Ducks, an indicator that another move may be coming before the trade deadline.
"I kind of expected to get traded," he said. "You can’t control many things in this league. You just have to go with the flow. I’m been having a good time every place so far where I’ve been. I’m just going day by day and trying to enjoy my life."
With just 19 games left in the season and Miikka Kiprusoff being his usual workhorse self, Toskala isn't expected to get many starts but Toskala says he's prepared to perform when called upon.
"It’s a really busy month. I think it’s 14-15 games this month and I guess a few back-to-backs too. I’m just trying to do my best every time they put me on the ice and trying to give the team a chance to win when I’m playing."
Has he talked to the coaches about the how many starts he can anticipate?
Kiprusoff, who backed up Toskala during their tenure in San Jose, is looking forward to having his old teammate and friend joining the club.
"It’s good to see him here. I think he’s going to help us out. I’ve played with him in the minors earlier and I’ve known him for a long time, so it’s good to see him here," Kiprusoff told the media on Thursday. "I know he’s a pretty good goalie so he can help us out. It’s good to have him here."