Ales Kotalik would like nothing better than to put last season behind him.
It's just that, well, people won't let him park it. Throughout Calgary Flames training camp this fall, media have been asking about him having a bounce-back season; about being placed on waivers in the summer; about re-emerging as a 20-goal scorer in the National Hockey League.
Kotalik, the 32-year-old native of the Czech Republic, scored 11 goals and 27 last season in 71 games with the New York Rangers and Flames.
|Ales Kotalik is putting up points in the pre-season |
He arrived in Calgary for training camp after coming over in a late season trade determined to prove himself -- to himself, to coaches and to any doubters in the crowd. He has faced the media music with honesty and not ducked any of the hard questions.
"I'm not going to let one tough season finish my NHL career," said Kotalik in a recent interview. "I know I've still got it. Everything is a matter of opportunity and trust from the coaches. If you have it you can be successful. I hope I can do big things for this team."
Through the early stages of the pre-season Kotalik has been playing with confidence, using his size and speed to generate scoring chances, driving to the net with his big six-foot-one, 225-pound frame.
Through four pre-season games he tallied three goals, one of them a game-winner, two assists and a game-winner in the shootout. Those kinds of numbers will boost your confidence in a hurry.
"I am trying to play up to my abilities. The coaches trust me and they know what they can expect from me. That's an important thing for me and any other player," said Kotalik.
The former Sabre, Oiler and Ranger didn't change anything over the summer. Not his diet, not his workout routine. If anything he simply worked harder to regain the form that saw him be a 20-goal scorer four times in the league.
"For me it is the same. You try and get ready for the season and work toward that ultimate goal," said Kotalik. "You always want to play in the NHL and fight for a role on the team and this year is no different.
"I am still the same player."
That player is a big body who moves well and has a shotgun hard shot.
"I am living and dying with the physical conditioning. I'm not a fancy guy. I've got some skill but mostly I am a big guy, strong, with a good shot," he explained. "For that you've got to train. When you don't train you lose it. You don't have the power to move that big body on the ice. That's the bottom line. The physical preparation is key."
Kotalik believes in himself. And he believes in the team.
"Every guy that didn't have a season that he was supposed to have last season, for whatever reason, will try and prove, especially to himself that he is capable of playing in this league and prove to everyone who does not trust that he can, that he can do it," said Kotalik.
"That's no different than my situation and that is why I am here. From my perspective I think this team can do really good things and I want to be a part of it."
And, along the way, put last season behind him.