The man certainly added plenty of … Po(s)p.

Often, the numbers don’t lie – and when it comes to the infusion of Martin Pospisil and the spunky, scrappy, and at-times edgy game he supplied nightly, the results most definitely speak for themselves.

“He was awesome this year,” said Head Coach Ryan Huska, offering the type of praise you don’t typically hear from a skipper in-season.

But on this of all days, it was richly deserved.

With Pospisil in the lineup this year, the Flames cobbled together a 34-25-4 record – a 94-point pace that would have any team flirting with a playoff spot.

Without him, they were 4-14-1, including a 2-7-1 start to the season that put them firmly behind the eight-ball.

Correlation, causation, and all that.

But when Pospisil was quietly summoned from the farm and made his big-league debut on Nov. 4, one of the feel-good stories of the season began to take flight.

For both the player hungry to author a new chapter – and a team in need of some fervor.

“If you look at our team, there was one guy that I thought changed that 2-7-1 start, had an impact on flipping the script a little bit on our season, that was Marty,” Huska said. “Every night, he was a ‘rat,’ if I can say that. The pace that he plays the game at is what we want to see from more of our players. He is what we want to look like in a lot of ways.

“The part that you love about him, he practices the same way, so our players on the ice in practice know that, ‘If I’m not ready, he’s going to finish his hit on me,’ so he’s just able to carry that over onto the game. For a young guy like that, to understand how he has to play all the time and that he can be a really good NHL player…

“Not just an NHL player.

“This guy can be a really good NHL player.

“He's one of the guys you have to be really happy about this season and how he progressed this year.”

For a fifth-year pro who’d suffered more than his fair share of concussions and other injuries that could’ve permanently derailed his journey, the Pospisil story is one for the books.

He arrived as advertised that balmy night in Seattle – a ‘banger’ that dished out a pair of hits, while quickly endearing himself to his Pacific brethren with plenty of talk around the benches and after the whistle, before chopping a loose puck under the bar for his first-career goal.

The 23-year-old buries a loose puck to score the milestone marker

A couple of face washes entered the fray for good measure, too.

Point is, there was a confidence to the winger’s game the Flames needed at the time that was on full display from the drop.

And later, evolved to help the team develop one of their most effective forward combos, alongside Nazem Kadri and fellow greenhorn Connor Zary.

Sure, there were times when the 24-year-old crossed lines and went over the edge with his punishing play style, with Player Safety ringing him up on more than one occasion to enforce the boundaries.

But you don’t finish the year with 238 hits without a couple toeing the confines. In time, he learned to better control the brashness, while maintaining the effectiveness he brought as one of the league’s most effective physical brutes.

“I don’t really care,” Pospisil said of the reputation he may - or may not - earned around the league this year. “I just want to help the team to win. It doesn’t matter what it’s going to take. Not everyone is going to like you. I don’t really watch the media, or whatever is going on around me. I’m just focusing on my game, every day, to be better and help the team to win.

“I’m still learning, this is my first year. Hopefully it’s going to be better, (and) I’m still working on it.

“But the game that I play, I’m not going to change it,

“Just be smarter and don’t go over that line.”

While drawing the ire of the enemy is a skill in itself, Pospisil showed some hands, too, closing the year with eight goals and 23 points, and showing chemistry with almost anyone he played.

In sport, there are few traits in a team setting rarer, and arguably more crucial, than having a player on the roster that makes others around him better.

Pospisil, though, certainly falls into that category.

And as much as he leaned on Kadri for learning the ways of The Show, there was undeniable symbiosis between the two that led to their success as a pair this year.

“To play with that kind of player, it’s a privilege,” Pospisil said. “Watching him every day, even in practice, it was something special for me and I learned a lot.

“At the end of the day, I enjoyed every day, being on a line with him. He was always trying to help me, with just the small details on the ice that makes it much (easier) to play, in the D-zone or the O-zone.

“I appreciate him for that.”


Now, Pospisil heads into the summer knowing he put his best foot forward and that a foundation exists for him to build upon for next season and beyond.

But as the players met with both Huska and General Manager Craig Conroy before going their separate ways Friday, the message the organization left the rookie with was clear:

It only gets harder from here.

“For me, the one we tried to leave him with – and Connor (Zary) is the same – you guys had great years this year, there was a lot of positivity around how you played,” Huska said. “(But) I tried to get them to understand that next year will be much, much harder.

“Because this year, there (were) no expectations on them.

“Next year, there will be.

“That's a different animal for a player to learn how to handle that at a younger age. Now, 'If I turn a puck over, I don't get the same leeway as I did as a first-year guy because they were trying to bring me along.' … 'People know when I'm on the ice now, because people know my name and they know I'm a good player,' so you're going to get better defencemen playing against you. All that stuff comes into play, so you have to be able to handle that.

“Expect it to be harder.

“That means the preparation that you put in this summer has to be at a different level to make sure you're confident and ready to go.”

"Really try to bring it every day"

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