57Curtis Lazar Profile
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Lazar looking for an opportunity

Curtis Lazar had a fantastic WHL career with the Edmonton Oil Kings. He went to the Memorial Cup as a rookie in 2012. In 2013, he lost in the WHL final to Portland, and in 2014 he returned to the Memorial Cup and won.  He scored 99-69-168 in three seasons with the Oil Kings and added 27 goals and 52 points in 63 WHL playoff games. He was drafted 17th overall in 2013 by Ottawa, and I felt the Senators rushed him to the NHL at 19 years of age. He was a regular his first two seasons, but last year he only dressed for 33 games before being traded to Calgary on March 1.

The Senators actually sent him to the AHL last year, where he played 13 games, but then they inexplicably recalled him and had him play his 160th NHL game, so then they couldn’t send him back down without waivers. I still don’t understand why they would recall a player knowing the rule and knowing they weren’t going to play him regularly. He would have been much better off playing regularly in the American League.

Regardless, he was traded to Calgary and the 22-year-old was ecstatic to get a fresh start.

I spoke with Lazar after he signed a two-year extension with the Flames. He was extremely excited, and he was also very honest about his time in Ottawa and what he feels he is capable of moving forward with the Flames.

Jason Gregor: When you got traded were you just looking for a fresh start, because your time in Ottawa didn’t go as you well as you planned?

Curtis Lazar: Yeah, you hit the nail on the head there. I was really looking for that fresh start. I enjoyed my time just after the deadline with the Calgary Flames. We were on a roll, so it was tough for me to get into the lineup, but that was almost a blessing in disguise. It allowed me to get settled in the city and become comfortable with the organization. When I did get into a few games, I played pretty well.

So this new contract is good, I’m excited for next year and we’ll see what happens.

Gregor: You have always been a very smiley, happy person. How much did last year’s situation in Ottawa, when you were a healthy scratch for a significant amount of time for the first time in your career at any level, test your super upbeat attitude?

Lazar: It did and it got to a point where some days I didn’t want to go to the rink. You guys know who I am and what I’m all about. I love being around the guys and I love having fun. To be in that mental state, it just wasn’t healthy for myself. So when I did get to play I wasn’t that effective and it had a domino effect, and it went the negative direction.

Looking back now I think it was almost, things happen for a reason I guess you could say, and I’m very happy, ecstatic about the opportunity I have with the Flames because of the faith they have in me. They believed in me and this contract shows they are committed to me. Being able to turn things around at the end of the season and get back into that good space, that’s been positive for myself and the Flames.

Gregor: I don’t care who you are as a player, when you lose your confidence you can try as hard as you want but you probably don’t make plays you are accustomed to. You mentioned it wasn’t fun to go to the rink in Ottawa, so I assume your confidence was almost non-existent. How much did confidence, or a lack of it, contribute to your struggles?

Lazar: Oh big time. I mean confidence is probably the top of the list of things players need to be successful. You watch the superstars of this league and they’re always handling the puck and they’re trying stuff that doesn’t always work but when they do, something happens.  You need confidence to try to make plays.

I was playing it so safe because I knew if I turned the puck over, I wasn’t going to be playing for the rest of the game or the next game after and so on and so forth. So just being able to reinvent myself in that regard, where you handle the puck and I use my strength and skill that I showed off as an Edmonton Oil King, and then being able to utilize those in games down the stretch with Calgary was huge for me. I saw my potential come back and I saw my game come back where I’m carrying the puck and using my speed. I’m hitting guys and everything like that, so I’m very optimistic. I know the potential I have and getting this contract, it makes me even more motivated to show the Flames that they made the right choice.

Gregor: That belief system in yourself, it’s huge for any human being but for a professional athlete it’s a must have. You only played four regular season games in Calgary, but picked up three points. Do you feel in a better mindset that previous offseason’s thinking, “Okay, I believe I can do it and I just proved it to myself, now it’s just a matter of proving it to everybody else?”

Lazar: Yeah, exactly and I didn’t play much down the stretch so as soon as I got back here in Kelowna I took a week off and then I was back in the gym because I’m champing at the bit to get going.  I think today was probably the most motivated I’ve ever been in the gym. The contract is over and I can picture the direction our Flames are going in. They made some great acquisitions this offseason and we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.

Gregor: What do you feel you can excel at in the NHL? What do you think you’re going to bring to Calgary that maybe they didn’t have?

Lazar: I mean, even my time in Ottawa one thing that I always focussed on was energy. People saw that from whenever I started playing — going up through the ranks and even in Junior, I love getting people going and even my teammates. If it’s blocking a shot, taking a hit or giving a hit or scoring that big goal, I mean I think you said it, I have that grin on. A lot of times it’s for excitement, other times it’s a little cheeky to get my opponents off of their game. That’s one area I can excel at, but also my speed. My speed is a strength and it really opens up the ice for me. On top of that, I’m happy to be out west. It’s more my brand of hockey, more of that rugged style and what not.

Again, going to training camp, hitting that ground running and just seeing where things take me.

Gregor: Getting faster, getting stronger, every player wants to do it. Are you working on skill development, scoring from in tight, working the puck off of the boards? How do you balance your training between getting stronger to skill development?

Lazar: I’m at the point now where a lot of it is skill development because the skillset that I had in Junior, it kind of got washed away with limited roles and limited minutes I had in Ottawa. Working on those skills and drills the muscle memory comes back really fast and I’ve already noticed that this summer. I started skating the past couple of weeks. I’m starting to get my, I guess puck touches back and whatnot, but in saying that I also needed the strength that I had last summer leading up to getting sent. It was tough to come back. You’re trying to build strength and mass throughout the season and that’s one tough thing to do. I’ve noticed this summer that I’m stronger than ever. I’m lifting more weight than I ever have. It’s kind of that fine line, you’ve got to be strong, but you’ve got to be fast because the league is so quick nowadays.

Gregor: Even though you had some adversity, you have had stretches of success so you feel you can produce and succeed. Now that you’ve had three years in the NHL, what has been the one thing that was harder than you thought that it would be?

Lazar: I think the competitive level on a nightly basis. I mean it’s something you can say it as much as you want, but until you’re out on the ice competing then you understand how difficult it is. It’s a tough league. Look at how good the goalies are, the defensemen. As a forward it’s tough to score goals and the big picture, the Stanley Cup, is one of the toughest trophies to win, and you look at what Pittsburgh was able to do, winning back-to-back Cups and what the guys are playing through — the broken bones, the separated shoulders and stuff like that. It’s a man’s game and as a kid going out there it can be a little intimidating, but you get used to it pretty quick and then you just try to cement yourself into the league and build your reputation so you don’t get pushed around too much.

Apr 19, 2017; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson (36) guards his net as Calgary Flames right wing Curtis Lazar (20) tries to score during the second period in game four of the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Gregor: In your exit meetings with Glen Gulutzan, did he tell you where he sees you fitting in with the team?

Lazar: Not necessarily. Again I played both centre and wing. I’ve played with many different players. So that’s going to be the fine tuning points in training camps where I’m sure I’ll get looks with many players and in different positions.

I see myself as a natural centre,. That’s where I’ve played the majority of my hockey career. Just being around the puck more, taking the faceoffs and being the guy that can be all over the ice. I really do preach a 200-foot game. I’m very versatile in that regard so anything that they throw at me, I’ll be able to handle it.

Gregor: Every player just wants a spot in the lineup. Beggars can’t be choosers, but most player have a certain sense of where they are most comfortable. When you spoke to Gulutzan did you discuss where you felt you could contribute the most?

Lazar: As the new guy I was just trying to get into the lineup. Getting back into a more traditional system like in Calgary compared to the track system that Ottawa has, there were still a few adjustments. I had to get back to that pace of style, and it is right up my alley, so it didn’t take long, but that’s where you’ve got to ask questions. The biggest thing for young players at any level is that you are always scared to go and talk to the coach or think what if he gets mad hearing that. We’re all on the same team at the end of the day and you’re trying to get better. I had those talks and I told Coach Glen that I see myself as a more effective centreman. Will it happen? We don’t know, it’s definitely up to him if he ever wants to try it out.

Gregor: What is it about centre which makes you feel you’re more effective there than at wing?

Lazar: I think my motion, it’s just my speed, that quick transition game where I’m around the puck and I can really catch the defenders off guard. That’s something that will lead to more offense, but I’ve always been a guy that doesn’t cheat for offense. I love being down low in the defensive zone, taking charge, and playing that way. As a winger you’re kind of standing around, watching your defensemen and stuff and I’m fine with doing that, but I like being more involved. Many of the top forwards in the game, most of them played centre before reaching the NHL. There are only four centre spots and there are eight winger spots so you have to pick and choose who you want where. But my versatility is big and I’ve also spent some time on defense way back when, so who knows what could happen (laughs).

Gregor: Well yeah, that would be a big stretch (laughs). Speaking of comfort, who felt more comfortable on a horse at Stampede, you or [Johnny] Gaudreau?

Lazar: Hands down myself. Actually that made my day was seeing Johnny roll up with his DC shoes and his jogger pants. That’s another cool thing about being traded, was with the Stampede being in Calgary, being involved with the community. I mean a few people were quite scared when Johnny fell off of his horse, but like the cowboy he is, he got back up and rode it like a champ (laughs).

Gregor: He fell off of his horse?

Lazar: Yeah, we got to the grounds and we were waiting for the parade to start. We had about forty minutes to kill. His horse didn’t like him or he did something to annoy the horse, and I think the horse was just keeping him honest. But Johnny went flying and he barrel rolled out of it. No harm done thankfully, but it made for a good laugh.

Gregor: Were those plaid shirts you were wearing your choice or were they given to you? They were terrible (laughs).

Lazar: I’m colour-blind so it wouldn’t make a difference, but that was just nice to be involved. Everyone was matching and I got to feel like a cowboy for a day.

Gregor: Congratulations on the new contract and welcome back to the Battle of Alberta, this time on a different side.

Lazar: Thank you. I loved my time with the Oil Kings and I can’t wait to play spoiler for the bad guys this time around (laughs).

WRAP UP

Lazar is one of the nicest players I’ve encountered over the years. He is always smiling and upbeat. I appreciated his honesty on how difficult his last season in Ottawa was. Having no confidence and not enjoying coming to the rink would be brutal, and if you are playing scared your chances of playing well are low. Lazar was never an elite point producer in junior, so I don’t see him being a top-line forward, but he has the potential to be a very good third line player, who could fill in your top six when injuries occur. I don’t think his first few seasons in the NHL are an accurate presentation of his potential. He would have benefited from some time in the AHL. He even admitted his puck skills eroded, and I’m curious to see if he can get them back. I hope he does.

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  • The Sultan

    Good read. I’m excited to see what a healthy Lazar can do after a hard-working summer and after a full training camp. Calgary is deep at center; Monahan, Bennett, Backlund, Stajan, Lazar, Jankowski. Will be interesting to see who gels with who.

  • Upkeeper

    I know we all love the 3 M line but I would love to see a kid line next year of Lazar Bennett Tkachuk. I think they would drive teams crazy and be a real pain to play against. Would be fun to watch. Then personally I would have Janko with the 2 M’s to really solidify himself as a defensive forward.

  • freethe flames

    There are two options I would like GG to consider for using Lazar. One would be at RW on the Sandwich line BLT; Tkachuk/Bennett/Lazar or as the center with Stajan as his LW(support for face offs)

    Ideally the flames need to have one of Lazar or Janko step their games up and prove to be a replacement(and upgrade) over Stajan as a center ice option.

  • HOFer_dirty30

    I’m all for the BLT line. 1000%. All 3 play a gritty fast game, and as some of our youngest 3 forwards I think they would benefit from the easier matchups. This opens up a spot for janko on the 2M line and sure versteg has to be 4th line but it gives the 4th line some skill and Brouwer picks up his game we have 4 complete lines. I’m super excited for this season! Go flames!

  • dontcryWOLF88

    For the record: A player can be sent down to the AHL without having to clear waivers in cases of injury recovery. Lazar did so while recovering from mono. However**, the recovering player can skate in no more than 14 games before having to return to the NHL, or be forced to clear waivers. Ottawa gave him 13, then brought him back to the NHL. If they could have kept him down there without waivers, I am sure they would have done so.

    As far as Lazar in Calgary, I still think he is a resonable gamble for what was payed. He will get his chance. Past that, he needs to develop a niche for himself. A secondary scoring/ high energy third line guy will be good enough. He is obviously a smart guy though, and ironically, sometimes intelligence can make you a slower learner (but, with a higher than immediately apparent ceiling). Due to that intelligence, and his obvious passion and self-expectation, I think there is still the outside possibility he could develop into a top six. *personal opinions, all*

  • HAL MacInnis

    I really appreciated hearing about what was going on with his time in Ottawa. It makes me wish that we could get more interviews with Flames players and personnel.

  • L.Kolkind

    I’ve seen him at my gym, he is always there super early and trains as hard as anybody I’ve seen there. I really like his attitude and style of play. I hope GG gives him some rope to play with, and maybe even some minutes with Gaudreau. He has the fast hands and smooth stick work to be able to handle playing with Gaudreau and those two, if they do pair well together, could put up lots of points.

    • oddclod

      He does have more offensive upside than Ferly. I’ve never heard the suggestion but it’s possible and would be the best feel good story since Wideman’s contract expired.

      • dontcryWOLF88

        Ferland has proven far more at the NHL level than Lazar. Its fair be be excited about Lazar, but dont be such a fanboy that you cant see he is an unproven asset at this point. Cheer for him, you bet, I will be also. Realize though, that he got what is essentially another entry level contract for a reason. As an aside, Ferland got 800k more per year, also for a reason.

        Who of those two ends up better in the end is not a conclusion we can arrive at here. Both are reclamation projects. Time will tell.

        • Albertabeef

          Ferly is just better. Bigger and has scored more throughout his junior and pro career. Lazar just doesn’t project the same way. But if he can help the fourth line produce then yeah. Otherwise he can keep Brower company in the pressbox.

        • L.Kolkind

          I know he is an unproven asset, that was thrown into the NHL before he was ready, and continually given worse and worse treatment until this past season where he played less than half the games. He did show promise before these past two seasons and I’m hoping with a fresh start, new team and great work ethic he can become the player he was drafted to be. At this point, he is an asset for us and whatever we spent to get him is a sunk cost, and we may as well cheer for him to improve.

          Ferland is an LW and I believe it would be best for him and the team for him to play there. We have enough RW’s between; Versteeg, Chiasson, Frolik, Lazar, Foo, F. Hamilton, and last and least Brouwer. I know Ferland did really well on the top line, but I think the handedness issue especially with GG as the coach we can expect Ferland to be playing LW. Other than that I don’t see a reason to compare the two we know Ferland is great and that Lazar needs to bounce back. You are comparing two players in completely different situations, Ferland is no longer a reclamation project he is a solid NHL player that can play up and down the lineup.

  • Connor'sGotHart,Ross,Lindsay!

    Those power rankings I just looked st are hilarious. Basing it on how many trades a team made,without even playing a game.
    The top ten is a joke . Vegas,Vancouver,Buffalo,Carolina, Dallas,and Calgary , all teams that missed the playoffs or got killed in the first round.
    This list means absolutely nothing.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      It’s talking about off-season moves. In case anyone is curious I did a simple HERO chart comparison of the entire Flames vs. Oilers roster. I simply added up all of their HERO scores comparing each line vs. defense pairing. Players without a prior year score projected to be on current roster (Jankowski and Pulijarvi) I gave a score of 15 (those were the only two). I ignored extra skaters (pressbox) as scores are both low and unavailable. Here’s how things shake down:
      Top line Flames (85 points) vs. top line Oilers (98 points)
      3M line Flames (95 points) vs. 2nd line Oilers (88 points)
      3rd line Flames (73 points) vs. 3rd line Oilers (58 points)
      4th line Flames (56 points) vs. 4th line Oilers (68 points)

      Total HERO points for Flames forwards (309 points); Total HERO points Oilers (312 points)

      Defense:
      Top pair Flames (71 points); Top pair Oilers (59 points)
      2nd pair Flames (57 points); 2nd pair Oilers (46 points)
      3rd pair Flames (44 points); 3rd pair Oilers (45 points)

      Total Flames D points (172); total Oilers D points (150)
      *note assumes Bartkowski on CGY’s 3rd pair (Kulak is better) and Gryba on Edmonton (Benning may be better). Also includes Sekera who may miss significant time

      Overall = Flames 481; Oilers 462.

      I think the question this all comes down to: is Edmonton’s goaltending that much better to make up the nearly 20 point difference in HERO scores?

      • The GREAT WW

        Interesting stuff.

        What it really comes down to is injuries; a long term injury to EITHER McDavid, Talbot or Larson and the Oilers are back in lottery territory.
        Injuries would hurt us too, they would really suck, but not to that extent….

        WW

        • Bean-counting cowboy

          I actually think Klefbom is the better defender than Larsson, mostly because Larsson has very little offense.

          I plan on running these on the other pacific teams later on when I have more time to see where it all shakes down – I’m curious to see where the Flames stand as opposed to a team like the Sharks or Ducks. I’ll post once done.

          • Connor'sGotHart,Ross,Lindsay!

            The one thing Larsson brings is a fierce competitor , very physical and a mean streak. those things don’t show up on the stats sheet. i’m ok if people think Klefbom is better. He had an excellent year and he too is not afraid to get involved.

          • Baalzamon

            those things don’t show up on the stats sheet.

            Actually they do. Inputs aren’t measured; outputs are. If a player does something that helps his team win that effect is, without exception, measurable.

          • TheoForever

            On another board they just had couple of polls:
            Hamilton obliterated Larsson as the better player.
            Klefbom obliterated Larsson as well.
            Hamilton vs Klefbom is neck in neck with most neutral fans picking Hamilton, and Klefbom being propped up by the greater number of Oiler fans on the site.

      • JMK

        Great idea! FYI If you download the data, it gives you more accurate numbers. For instance Klefbom:
        SHOTSUP 6.351617891
        SHOTGEN 5.942296278
        FIRSTA 6.500615207
        GOALS 8.281877051
        ICETIME 6.715383924

        • Bean-counting cowboy

          Go to ownthepuckblogspot.ca and click on the chart guide. It explains the methodology. It uses a bunch of modern statistics and rates players on how close they are to the mean (a score of 5)

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    OK. The results are in. I’ve added up the HERO scores for the whole team for the entire Pacific Division (excluding Nights – they’re roster isn’t as set) Results is as follows:

    LA Kings: Forwards (325) + Defense (157) = 482 Total points
    Flames: Forwards (309) + Defense (172) = 481 Total points
    Sharks: Forwards (314) + Defense (167) = 481 Total points
    Oilers: Forwards (312) + Defense (150) = 462 Total points
    Ducks: Forwards (297) + Defense (156) = 453 Total points
    Coyotes: Forwards (248) + Defense (169) = 417 Total points
    Canucks: Forwards (271) + Defense (140) = 411 Total points

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      Now a few observations:
      – I was surprised at how high the Kings roster was. But kind of makes sense given they were the top possession team in the league last year. They’re scoring marks are lower but shot suppression is off the charts. It will be interesting to see how this changes with the new system this next year.
      – Surprised the Ducks were as low as they were given the reigning division champs for awhile now. However many people said the Flames out-played them that series but were unlucky and had bad goaltending
      -Sharks still sitting pretty good despite the Marleau loss – tied with Flames. I wonder if Jumbo Joe will regress.
      -Flames D is far and away the best in the division – however with the addition on D for the Coyotes they are a surprising sleeper in that department
      -Canucks D is terrible. Like absolutely garbage
      -Goaltending the great unknown could be the great equalizer as always!

      That’s it! It was a fun exercise. I’ll do the Vegas Knights once we know what players they’re keeping. I may look at the other Western Conference teams later as well if anyone is interested.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      Other observations:
      -Flames core is young, presumably better – other cores are aging
      -Hamonic & Stone were coming off major surgeries. They’re HERO’s in past years were better than last year’s
      -Rookies are another unknown on the impact they will have. They get plugged in with a 15 score but could provide more than expected (see Tkachuk last year)

      • freethe flames

        Having spent some time around orthopedic surgeons they frequently talk about taking a year for people to fully recover from surgery; pro athletes compete much earlier than us average joes and joannes but it takes that long for natural strength, natural reactions and the mental aspect of athletes to get over the surgery; saying this I expect both Hamonic and Stone to return to form.