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.