For the first time in many years this organization has not been facing this problem or this situation. At the same time, I think it’s a great problem to have. That’s going to be up to myself, to my staff, to management to discuss about it. - Bob Hartley
CALGARY, AB -- It’s the type of problem Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley doesn’t necessarily mind having.
With Josh Jooris a hopeful for Wednesday against the Edmonton Oilers, Mikael Backlund remains as Calgary's only sidelined skater and even his return is drawing closer. Able to carry 23 bodies, the return of Backlund is going to force some difficult roster decisions for Hartley & Co.
“That’s going to be the challenge,” Hartley said. “For the first time in many years this organization has not been facing this problem or this situation. At the same time, I think it’s a great problem to have. That’s going to be up to myself, to my staff, to management to discuss about it. We will come with the best possible decision to allow us to win some hockey games.”
Calgary has already seen some of that crunch.
Michael Ferland and Sven Baertschi were optioned to the Adirondack Flames after the likes of Joe Colborne, Matt Stajan and Mason Raymond returned from injury earlier in the month. It’s also forced the likes of Stajan, Lance Bouma and Brandon Bollig to sit as healthy scratches at times in December. Mason Raymond could be the latest to to shuttle to the press box versus the Oilers.
“That’s part of a hockey club, any team,” Raymond said. “You’re out here, you’re battling for spots. I’m no different than anybody else. It’s as simple as that. We have healthy bodies and whoever’s going is going to play.”
Curtis Glencross sees it, too.
“It’s a battle,” the alternate captain said. “It’s a battle and grind every day. We come here to go to work. That’s part of the business. It goes back and forth that way. Guys are trying to come and take your jobs and take your spots and it pushes you to be better too.”
One of those pushing is Jooris. The rookie has eight goals and 13 points in 28 games this season.
He doesn't expect anyone to sour over the Flames newfound depth.
“I think we’ve got a good group of guys in here. We all pull on the same rope,” Jooris said. “There’s competition here and I think that’s a good thing. You want to have competition for success. I think it only pushes guys to be better and be at their best every night. I think that helps us.”
But depth, and it's consequences, doesn’t come without challenges.
Twenty-three can sit on the roster. Only 20 can suit up.
“It’s tough,” Glencross said. “It’s not fun sitting out for anyone. You’re here to play hockey and you want to play the game. None of us want to sit out.
“You’ve got to try to keep everyone up. I’ve been in those situations when I’ve been scratched a few years ago too. It’s tough mentally on you. It’s definitely not fun sitting out. You understand where they’re coming from but at the same time you’ve got to be there for the team.”
It’s the first time that Hartley has had so many options at his disposal since stepping behind Calgary’s bench.
The depth has helped put the Flames in a situation to contend for a playoff spot in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
It's an asset that could help Calgary get there, too.
“We’re going to keep that mindset until the end,” Hartley said. “If you want to play, you have to contribute. You have to make sure that you bring something. Whether you play 20 minutes, whether you play eight, nine minutes, it doesn’t matter. Everyone has a role, everyone has an importance and it’s important that we keep everyone accountable.
“Sometimes injuries are not fun but they make our jobs easier because we only have 20 healthy bodies. In a situation right now, I think it’s going to bring the best out of everyone.”