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Jones embracing new opportunity in Calgary

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

At the end of last year, we had a good meeting with Blair and we put the cards on the table, what we wanted to see and what he needed to do.Bob Hartley

CALGARY, AB -- Forward Blair Jones is just trying to play his hand the best way he knows how.

Seemingly out of coach Bob Hartley's plans last season, the Calgary Flames forward has found a way to leave a lasting impression on his boss through the opening days of this year's training camp.

"At the end of last year, we had a good meeting with Blair and we put the cards on the table, what we wanted to see and what he needed to do," Hartley said following Calgary's 3-2 preseason-opening loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.

"I told him, I said 'Right now, I'll be honest with you. We have no plans of (the) first line with you. If you want to be on the third or fourth line, there's a job description that fits that role' and you saw it [Saturday]."

Amongst the prerequisites for the gig include tenacity, ferocity and persistence.

The candidate has shown his qualifications in the young camp.

"I was prepared for what I had to do when I came here," said Jones, who has 15 points in 114 career games. "I'm just trying to be a guy that's getting under the opponents skin and working hard."

Jones, though, has a lot of work to do to erase memories of a difficult 2012-13 campaign with the Flames that saw him tumble down Hartley's depth chart.

So far, in fact, that the 26-year-old found himself falling through the waiver wire and landing on the Abbotsford Heat. He remained in the American Hockey League until a late-season stint back with the Flames.

He was the first to admit that his ride was a little on the rough side.

"It was a tough year, no two ways about it," Jones said. "It was a very hard year for me but I had time to reflect when the season ended and kind of take a step back and look at it from a different angle and maybe realized some things I could've done differently."

Things that were clearly laid out for Jones in retrospect.

"Last year we offered him to the 29 other teams; he cleared waivers," Hartley said. "I think that the message was pretty clear on the wall.

"He turned it around; he showed up. Like I said, we had a great meeting last year. It might not have been fun, but the truth was on the table and he had the choice to take it or to leave it and he took it. The battle is not over yet, but he's doing very good."

The 6-foot-2, 216-pound forward could've spent the summer sulking.

Instead, he opted for opportunity.

"I had some time to think," Jones said. "I have another year on my contract here and I told myself I wasn't going to let last season be my last so I put in a lot of work this summer and was very focused.

"It's not an easy league to get into or stay in and you've got to find a way to do so. I had no problem with what they're asking of me and what they thought I needed to do."

By no means is the former Tampa Bay Lightning pick out of the woods yet.

But Jones knows he's taking the right steps and is in control of his final destination.

"I'm basically in a way that I'm in control of what I'm doing," he said. "So I put my best foot forward and I'm trying to give myself the best opportunity to not have a season like last and take a couple steps forward and in the right direction and keep getting better as we go here."

He's going in the right direction.

And if he continues moving forward, Jones could win a spot on Calgary's roster out of camp.

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