CALGARY, AB -- The decisions haven’t been easy, but the Calgary Flames are close to finalizing their opening day roster for the 2014-15 National Hockey League season.
“It’s been tough. It’s been by far our toughest camp as a management group,” coach Bob Hartley said. “[Sunday] morning’s meeting was not a pretty one. There was no throwing stuff or punches thrown, but we each have a say in this. We came into an understanding of what we want to get done here. It’s all about what’s best for the kids, what’s best for the veterans but what’s best for the organization also.
“We feel that we came up with the right decisions.”
The Flames trimmed down to 27 after assigning Sven Baertschi, Josh Jooris and Joni Ortio to the Adirondack Flames of the American Hockey League. In doing so and with Tuesday’s roster deadline looming, Hartley is already focused on Wednesday’s home opener against the Vancouver Canucks.
The regular season, the coach said, is here.
“Right now we’re trying to make final decisions based on Wednesday’s game,” he said. “It’s the home opener. This is an okay number to work with. It’s a great number. We had a great practice. We had plenty of guys to work power play, penalty killing. We worked system work 5-on-5. The boys are sharp. You can tell that the regular season has started now in their mind.
“They have a pretty good idea of who’s on the team and what’s going to be their roles. We’re meeting with them. We’ve already started 1-on-1 meetings about their roles, our expectations, their expectations so that we make sure that we can match them. It’s a great week.”
The Flames are already set in goal with the duo of Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo.
They do, however, have nine defencemen and 16 forwards remaining in Calgary and will need to submit a roster of 23 to the league Tuesday afternoon.
Those who have already secured roster spots won’t necessarily be shedding a tear as camp enters the rearview mirror. Quite the contrary, in fact.
With two-and-a-half-weeks of the hardest -- at least physically -- season in the books, players are looking forward to converting that work over to the regular season.
“Not at all. I think everyone’s got a deep sigh that some of those skates are done with,” forward Joe Colborne said. “Now it’s onto the fun stuff. This is what all that hard work is for and hopefully we get the dividends of the hard camp we had.”
Not all are necessarily happy, though.
Mikael Backlund, who missed all but one pre-season game with an abdominal strain, would’ve liked to get in a little more action. His injury didn't allow for it.
“I wish I would’ve been part of the camp, with the boys and everything,” he said. “You don’t want to be sidelined for that. You don’t want to be sidelined at any point of the season. Even though camp is really hard, you don’t want to sit and watch it.
“Obviously I wanted to be in it but it is what it is now. I’ve got to prepare this way now.”
BACK TO BACKS
Camp was especially frustrating for Backlund. He skated with teammates just a handful of times and made his game debut in Caglary's finale Saturday -- a 4-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. Still, the 25-year-old veteran of 246 games isn’t looking negatively on the experience.
“I can’t sit here and think negatively about the camp. I won’t get anything out of it,” he said. “I’m just thinking positively. I got in one game. That’s enough. That’s the best way to prepare getting into the season. You’ve always got to stay positive and think positively.
“It didn’t go the way I wanted to this camp but I’m still very positive for Wednesday.”
While he won’t necessarily be ready for Wednesday’s game against the Canucks, Markus Granlund is inching closer to a return from a concussion.
He practiced with the team Wednesday, albeit while donning a non-contact jersey.
“I’m feeling great,” he said. “It’s great to be back with the team. I’m feeling great.
“Of course it’s hard but it was only one week so it wasn’t that bad. I’m happy I’m good to go.”
Granlund’s progress has Hartley optimistic.
“Grans has been cleared for light contact and to be with the group,” he said. “He’s not been cleared to play, but he had all his tests. The protocol has been followed and he was okay to get on the ice.”