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Glencross maturing nicely in Calgary

by Todd Kimberley
It’s said that the Calgary Flames signed Curtis Glencross to a free-agent contract while the Edmonton Oilers were looking the other way.

But another NHL club has been taking a long, hard look at the speedy winger . . . with plenty of regret.

"Both (GM) Scott (Howson) and I probably wish we could have Glennie back," Columbus Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock revealed earlier this week as the Jackets kicked off their current four-game road trip.

"He’s become a very effective player. He’s really matured. He can play on a checking line, or he can go like he is now (on the Flames’ No. 1 unit with Jarome Iginla and Craig Conroy), and play on the top line and still be effective, because he’s very dependable from the red line back."

Glencross broke into the league with Anaheim, playing two games with the Ducks, but became an NHL regular with the Blue Jackets during the first half of the 2007-08 season, before Columbus traded him to Edmonton for defenseman Dick Tarnstrom on Feb. 1, 2008.

Flames GM Darryl Sutter inked Glencross to a three-year deal on July 2, 2008, with the Oilers concentrating on pooling their financial resources trying to land Marian Hossa. And the 26-year-old from Kindersley, Sask., has blossomed in Calgary — his speed being just one of his attributes.

"He skates like the wind. He lets that wrist shot go as quickly, and as accurately, as just about anybody, and he can also feed the puck very well," observes John Garrett, a longtime TV analyst for Rogers Sportsnet. "And he’s good on the forecheck. He takes the body, and finishes his check. He can play on the power play, he can kill penalties, and he can score goals."

Hitchcock and the Jackets never doubted that offensive ability. The former University of Alaska-Anchorage Seawolf lit the lamp 15 times during that ’07-08 season split between Columbus and Edmonton, and scored 13 times last winter with the Flames.

And early this campaign, Glencross has four tallies to his credit — one back of team leader Dion Phaneuf — and a club-leading plus-8 rating over nine games, heading into the 6-2-1 Flames’ home contest Saturday night against the Oilers at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

"I think we all thought he was going to be able to score goals," says Hitchcock. "But when he was a younger player, Glennie was a guy who was . . . from the red line in, very dynamic, and from the red line back, you did not know what he was going to do. I’m not sure that Glennie knew what he was going to do.

"But he’s become a really dependable player. Defensively, he’s a good penalty killer, solid in his own zone, good on the boards. Those are things he’s really grown into, really matured. He plays a solid, sincere game that’s very effective . . . (and) he’s become a really good player because of it."

It may surprise Jackets brass to learn that Glencross feels he began developing his two-way game right in Ohio.

"I credit a lot of that, I think, to Hitch. He was pretty hard on me about my D-zone play, and I learned a lot in that time I was there," says Glencross, the 6-1, 195-pound left-winger. "With his help, and the coaching staff there, they helped me out quite a bit. That’s something I take pride in now, the plus-minus part of the game and your D-zone.

"I played all the games (in Columbus), and I worked on a lot of the board play, and it definitely helped my career out."

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