Flames turn to new generation of veteran leadership
Friday, 09.20.2013 / 7:16 PM
By Aaron Vickers
CALGARY -- There's no more Jarome Iginla to score a game-winning goal, no Miikka Kiprusoff on hand to make a game-saving stop.
Instead, the Calgary Flames are embarking on a new era, one that doesn't include their longtime captain, who was traded in late March, and the winningest goaltender in franchise history, who officially hung up his pads for good earlier this month.
A new, more youthful core is emerging in their place. Though the young players are not exactly household names, they are critical pieces to Calgary's puzzle as the Flames enter the first phase of a rebuilding project designed to end a Stanley Cup Playoff drought that dates to 2009.
"I'm not quite a leader yet, I've just got here," said Sven Baertschi, Calgary's first-round pick (No. 13) in 2011 who has 25 NHL games under his belt. "I barely made the team last year and I was only up for a few games and was sent down.
"This, now, is a big opportunity for me. I think I'm here to step up."
There is plenty of opportunity for Baertschi and young players Max Reinhart, Roman Horak and Corban Knight. Included among those auditioning for roles is center Sean Monahan, the sixth player taken in the 2013 NHL Draft.
"I don't know about the core person, but I think I've been welcomed really well," Monahan said. "All the veterans and all the other prospects here are great guys and fun to compete with. Obviously the management is great too. They welcomed me here really well. The coaching staff and everyone else who works with the organization are great people and they make it feel like home."
Monahan is trying to make the Flames as an 18-year-old. He's played well in his first professional camp and has been aided by a core of veterans who have taken on an additional leadership role. Among them is alternate captain Curtis Glencross.
Glencross, fellow alternate Mike Cammalleri and new captain Mark Giordano will be tasked with bringing along Calgary's newest faces, Baertschi and Monahan included.
"We're all here for the same reason," Glencross said. "We're out here to win and compete hard. We want the young guys to show some leadership here and take the bull by the horns. It can't be brought on just by the veterans; it can't be brought on by just the young guys. We're a team in here and we all have to do it the same way."
It's important that the new veteran core, though relatively young, set the tone for the Flames' emerging youth movement.
"With [Glencross], [Cammalleri] and [Giordano], they all have the quality of being great communicators, and that's going to be a key because obviously this is a totally new culture," coach Bob Hartley said. "It's a new chapter in Flames history, and I think that with those three guys we're going to get some solid leadership from them. They're great individuals. They're good guys. They love to be around those [young] players."
As welcoming as the veterans have been, and as well as the prospects have shown through training camp, veteran experience will be required when the youthful contingent stumbles through the inevitable growing pains involved in become an NHL player.
That's part of being a veteran leader, Glencross said.
"I'm the kind of guy that wants to set by example, but I'm not afraid to tell the guys what we need out of them," he said. "That's part of constructive criticism and hopefully when you do that kind of thing, guys feed off it too. We've had different leaders, different ways in here and that's part of my role."
Not that any of the young players expect to be coddled by the vets. If anything, they realize any criticism they receive is intended to aid their development.
"Overall, the whole team, they feel the change too and they want to make sure we are ready, and if we're not, the guys are going to yell on the ice," Baertschi said. "They want to help you and they want to make you better."
For rookies and veterans alike, the feeling of change is palpable.
"Our organization, it's our fresh start and it feels like this year we've changed the direction we're going," said Giordano, who was named captain Sept. 20. "We're going in a new direction and it just feels, the attitude feels like it's changed and it feels great in camp.
"Everyone's coming together."