Now, competition is heating up. We’ll have some tough decisions, trust me. We sat with the coaches and Brad this morning. We’re looking at some options. There’s going to be some heated discussions, I’m sure. - Bob Hartley
CALGARY, AB -- The Calgary Flames have trimmed to 33, but it hasn’t been easy.
And after trimming seven players -- five assigned to the Adirondack Flames and two more released from player try-outs -- the Flames have more to come.
“Now, competition is heating up,” coach Bob Hartley said. “We’ll have some tough decisions, trust me. We sat with the coaches and Brad this morning. We’re looking at some options. There’s going to be some heated discussions, I’m sure.”
The Flames will need to slim down to 23 by 3 p.m. MST next Tuesday.
And Hartley admitted the youth remaining in camp are making decisions more difficult by the day.
“Our scouting staff has done an unbelievable job of refueling this organization,” he said. “Last year, we didn’t have that tough of decisions, and suddenly…sometimes drafting goes by cycles. It’s all projections. It’s easy to say, ‘oh, this team is not drafting well and this team is drafting well’. Lots of time, there are so many intangibles that come in line that sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t work.
“Right now, it’s working and it’s working very well. You look at all those kids pushing for a job right now and it’s refreshing. That’s why I think the future is really bright for us.”
The Flames assigned Bill Arnold, Corban Knight, Max Reinhart and Brett Kulak to Adirondack. Sena Acolatse has been placed on waivers with the intention of reassignment. The Flames have also released defencemen Sheldon Brookbank and Nolan Yonkman from PTO’s.
The likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Sam Bennett, Michael Ferland, Sven Baertschi and Josh Jooris all remain in camp.
And as Jooris admitted, the dream is getting more and more real as the regular season approaches.
“The closer you get to October 8th, the closer you are to starting the season with the Flames,” he said. “Obviously it’s exciting. At the same time, you can’t over-hype it. You have to treat every day like it might be the last. I’ve got to treat each day as it’s own and keep going.”
Last year, Jooris attended his first training camp after capping a three-year career at Union College. He was one of six players assigned to the Abbotsford Heat on Sept. 25th as the Flames trimmed to 32 players.
Now, he’s one of the 33 that remain.
“Overall, I’m just more confident, more confident in the system and the organization,” said Jooris, who had 11 goals and 27 points in 73 games with the Heat last season. “I know names and I’m familiar with a lot of guys now. I’m really just jelling and getting to know all the players. That makes it easier to learn stuff off the ice and knowing stuff off the ice translates to on the ice.”
That comfort seems to be evident with Hartley, who didn't hesitate to compare the 2014 version of Jooris to the one that debuted 12 months ago.
“Different guy,” Hartley said. “Fifty pounds of dynamite in his body. He has confidence. He tasted it last year. Now, he wants more. He wants more and I think that he’s buzzing. That’s what I like. He’s playing with passion. There’s sparks in his eyes. He’s not the biggest guy but he’s there. You notice him out there and that’s the kind of player that we’re looking for.”
It’s the kind of feedback Jooris is hoping to hear as the regular season nears.
“It’s an exciting time and the coaches see something in me that they like, stuff that can help this team win,” he said. “Obviously when game-time approaches, its’ a nerve-wracking time because you’ve got to go out there and do your thing. You don’t want to think of the negative side or make a mistake but it’s there.”
Those same nerves have found 18-year-old Sam Bennett.
In his first camp, the Flames first round pick (No. 4) from the 2014 NHL Draft is growing more confident, and more anxious, as he survives each round of cuts.
“Every time someone goes home, there’s fewer guys here, it gets a lot more intense and I think the nerves start to kick in a little bit more as I start to see people going home,” Bennett said. “Definitely it’s exciting right now.
“You want to be here as long as you can. I think the longer I’m here, the more confidence I’m going to get.”
According to Hartley, Bennett is "most likely" ready to return to the lineup against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday. He’s not the only one, either.
After having some teeth removed as a result of an infection, Ladislav Smid should find his way back on Calgary’s blue line as will Deryk Engelland, who has missed Calgary’s past four games with an undisclosed injury.
“It’s great,” Hartley said. “Those guys need to play. They were out for a few games. Most likely, they’ll be in tomorrow night.”
The fact the Flames are getting healthier is a positive step.
But injuries, Hartley admitted, are the price of a tough training camp and Calgary is fortunate to not have sustained lasting damage to the roster.
“You want everyone on the ice,” he said. “Those training camps are very demanding. Unfortunately, there’s going to be some injuries in it. Luckily so far for us, we’ve managed to stay away from long-term injuries. Right now we’re nursing some minor bumps and bruises. We’re doing fairly good.”
Calgary welcomes Winnipeg to Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday and will be on SN960 (radio).