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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

‘I just really wanted to be a part of it’: Kris Versteeg on his love for the game and re-signing with the Flames

A year ago, Kris Versteeg could’ve been an Edmonton Oiler. In camp on a professional try-out, he was offered a deal by the Oilers and could’ve played with Connor McDavid. But the Lethbridge native opted to take a deal offered by the Calgary Flames and instead spent a season with a Southern Alberta club.

This summer, Versteeg could’ve gone anywhere. After a 2016-17 campaign that saw him become an important part of the Flames’ potent power play and a spark plug on the club’s third line, he had considerably more options than he did the prior summer. Instead of testing the market, though, Versteeg decided to stick around Calgary and signed a one-year deal with the Flames.

During the first couple days of training camp, Versteeg had a chat with FlamesNation’s Ryan Pike to discuss just what made him decide to return to the Flames.

One of the comments we often saw attributed to you, especially around the time you re-signed with the team, was that you fell in love with the game again last season. Is that true, and what does that mean?

I didn’t really know, first and foremost, what I was going to be doing last year. Didn’t know if the NHL, that was it for me. I came back to Calgary with an opportunity, being able to be around my family, with a great head coach and great organization, I guess it just kind of snowballed from there for me. It made it really exciting to come to the rink again every night.

Did that make the decision easy to re-sign with the Flames?

Obviously the past summer I had options early on and they all dried up. This year the same thing, I had a bunch of options but this year I wanted to get something done before things dried up. But it was mainly to stay in Calgary for me, first and foremost, just seeing a young team and being a part of this again and hopefully trying to push it forward and push it even further this year. So it’s a great challenge for myself and it seemed like an exciting one and I just really wanted to be a part of it.

That kinda reminds me of a quote that Elliotte Friedman brings up pretty often from Bob McCown: ‘Don’t mess with happy.’

It’s kind of the same thing as the grass is never greener on the other side. Every time, you know, when I was traded and played in some good situations you always think it might be greener, but it’s really good when you’re happy like you said or like McCown said. Obviously the game’s a business and you want to make money, and you want to win at the same time and you want to find that fine line, but for me being home and being happy and being around my grandparents first and foremost, that makes me happier than anything. I think that’s why it parlays it onto the ice and I’m just excited to get out there and play in front of them again this season.

You’ve been around teams as their ‘window’ begins to open. Is there the same feeling around here as there was early on in Chicago?

I was really young when I was in Chicago and I still remember being there and we were a team, 8,000 people a night, 6,000 people. When I came in for my first full rookie season I remember Dale Tallon made a speech in the room and he said ‘in a few years we’re going to have that Stanley Cup on Michigan Avenue’ and lo and behold two years later we had the Stanley Cup and we were walking it down Michigan Avenue. We didn’t have any crazy speeches like that, but you still feel, talking to the team and wanting to win and having young pieces in place, at that time I never knew if it was possible when I heard Dale talk about it, but you still felt there was a young, exciting group and here too, you never really know until you get out there but you do have the feeling that we’re a young, exciting group. We have a lot of good people in place and if everyone does their job, pulls their weight and we get lucky, the bounces come our way, then why not us to try to be where we think we can be?

I just turned 32. You’re about my age… [Versteeg: “I’m a year younger.”] Do you feel like you have a lot left in the tank?

I have a lot left. I feel great. This year, the last couple years I changed the way I trained, little things trying to keep up with the pace of the game, trying to evolve myself and find new ways to become productive. I really got to work on and off the ice in different ways, I think smarter than I’ve ever been, I feel great. Feel like I’m skating just as good as I ever have. I’ve had seasons in the past where I’ve had opportunities to put up big numbers and obviously injuries have plagued me. I can’t do anything about that, but I intend to hopefully help the team and produce in whatever way that is. My main goal is to help them win and if I’m on the scoresheet and we win or not, that doesn’t matter, but if I am that’s a bonus and that’d be great.

  • Flaming1

    The success of the team this year really hinges on a few players.With,Gaudreau, Monahan , Giordano,and Hamilton we know what we have. Those guys are probably not getting better. They are good and we know that.
    It’s guys like Bennett and Ferland that will take this team to another level.
    If they don’t improve I don’t see us being any better than we were last year. Oh ya and goaltending needs to be better.

    • Crazy Flames

      Truthfully Gio is the only one who won’t get any better. We have a good idea what the other three bring to the table but one has to believe they’ll have the ability to elevate their game

    • StarIV

      I absolutely think that Monahan and Hamilton can get better. I’d like to see Johnny hit another level too. Tkachuk, Bennett and Ferland need to step up to make our top 9 more formidable.

      • Flaming1

        So what is your ceiling expectations. Gaudreau max will be 75-80 points. Monahan about 70.
        Gaudreau won’t take that next step until he can consistently score on the road. I don’t know the stats but he scores way less on the road than at home when he doesn’t get the favourable match-up.

    • Crazy Flames

      I wouldn’t be surprised if Hamilton eventually becomes the best out of all three. It’s easy to forget how young he is and how good he already has been

  • Scary Gary

    “I came back to Calgary with an opportunity, being able to be around my family, with a great head coach and great organization, I guess it just kind of snowballed from there for me.“

    He said great head coach and he didn’t need to; a genuine sentiment.

    • HAL MacInnis

      Yeah, I noticed that too, Gary. We all harp on Gulutzan… *climbs up to the podium*

      But if this man, this Kris Versteeg, can see the good in Glen. Perhaps we too can be better people. Perhaps, we are… the monsters. In our quest to be the most informed and opinionated fans, we may have lost sight of what’s really important. Kindness to others. Giving others a chance to succeed…

      *gestures Walter White to remain seated*

      …so it is with kindness in our hearts when I say, Glen, you have but 10 games to prove yourself or you will be tied up and dragged around town by Harvey the Hound.

      • Schlomo

        Lol wow. That’s a bit of a reach. It’s like someone saying they like hotdogs, so automatically your assumption is they must think hamburgers are the worst. This article starts out just as laughable, saying versteeg could have played with mcdavid but opted not to. He was destined for the 3rd or 4th line in Edmonton and was told as much by management so he went to a team with less forward depth and more opportunity, period. Guess you didn’t read the article last year from oilers training camp in which versteeg told a story about the day he was born and his mom had an oilers game on in her hospital room and he’s been an oilers fan ever since. He’s just pandering to flames fans in this interview.

  • HAL MacInnis

    I like this interview. It paints a great picture of Versteeg’s character. Strip the “A” off Brouwer and give it to this man. Even in silence, he’s more worthy.

    I wish we could get more interviews like this. The more informal, the better.

    • piscera.infada

      It’s strange because wasn’t the knock on Versteeg that he wasn’t a “team guy”? Perhaps that speaks to the validity of such labels, or perhaps to the culture of the locker room. Maybe both. I don’t know, but it’s interesting.

        • Derian Hatcher

          I think a good example would be Taylor hall when he was with Edm. Great skill no doubt, but would constantly try to go 1 on 2 or 1 on 3 and turn the puck over and there was no way he would ever get involved in a scrum to help defend a teammate. IMO, that’s part of what got him shipped out to NJ.

    • Kevin R

      Which is why I would love to see Tkachuk-Bennett-Versteeg together this year. Quite an interesting dynamic. But I must confess, I still would be giddy with Gaudreau Bennett & Ferland & put Tkachuk-Monahan & Versteeg together. Who knows maybe I’ll get my wish at some point of the year, just not expecting it Oct 4th.

      • oilcanboyd

        You talking presason? preseason? preseason?!
        Wow! Tallbutt mailed in his last game against Carolina! Must start Brossoit opening night against the Flames Oct 4. He earned it! Tallbutt did NOT!

  • Gmoney72

    Glad he’s back for another year. Very under-rated, one of the best secondary player in the league! You can plug him anywhere in the line up without looking out of place. Fits in with just about anybody. Every team needs a guy like him.

  • The Doctor

    Btw, the projected lineup for tonight’s game is on the Flames website. Very boring lineup – all vets, no prospects. No Jankowski even. And why is Tanner Glass a thing?

  • Stajanforadirtyboot

    I heard he has a No Stajan Clause in his contract. He agreed to re-sign as long as he was not put on a line with Stajan….its true…its dam true…

  • freethe flames

    “The Burden” could learn a lot from Versteeg in regards to how hard to play and caring about the game. I have decided not to use “The Burden’s” name until either he starts playing up to his reputation and salary or he is gone.

  • Just.Visiting

    Great interview, and he showed passion, humility and a genuine desire to be here, as evidenced by probably leaving some money on the table relative to other alternatives that presumably were available. Contrast the tone with the recent musings by Misters Brouwer and Bartkowski in the Herald over the last week.

    Liked his effort last year and hope he does the same this year, as it’s a great example for the younger players to emulate.