Photo Credit: Candice Ward/USA Today Sports

Flames focusing on what they can control

It’s safe to say that the Calgary Flames haven’t had an ideal first half of the 2019-20 season. Through 40 games, the Flames sit precisely at the .500 mark – with 20 wins and 20 losses, five in extra time – and the circumstances surrounding the team have been a tad tumultuous.

Between a disappointing start, TJ Brodie’s scary on-ice collapse, a lengthy losing skid, and Bill Peters resigning amidst allegations of prior racist comments, the Flames have been embroiled in a lot of noise thus far. It’s worth noting, then, that under interim head coach Geoff Ward things have calmed down dramatically.

One of the common threads that keeps coming up in discussions with players in recent weeks is the team’s inward focus: Ward has been focused on encouraging the players to focus on the things they can control and ignore the noise swirling around them. Thus far it’s worked, as the Flames have a 9-3-1 record and have forced their way into the playoff picture once again.

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Speaking with the media following Saturday’s practice at Winsport, alternate captain (and leading scorer) Matthew Tkachuk summed up the team’s current mindset heading into their three game homestand:

This stretch in our schedule is no cakewalk. This is a time where we’re playing a lot of teams in the West. Coming up, a lot of teams that are around us in the standings. We have Van here, and then we’ve got Chicago twice, we’ve got Minny twice. Just a lot of teams that are fighting for their lives sorta right now, they don’t wanna get behind the eight-ball going into the second half stretch. For us, I don’t know if we can look at a lot of the teams here. We’ve got 10 games left until the bye week, try to win most of them and we come out of that break feeling good about the position we put ourselves in.

Forward Derek Ryan noted that players’ lives are often pretty busy – several Flames players have kids and families and so that takes up a lot of their attention away from the rink. But once they’re at the rink, it’s up to the players themselves to manage the group’s mindset and focus – making sure the group doesn’t get too high or too low during the grind of the long NHL season.

“I think we have a good group of guys that are pretty good about just not talking about negative stuff,” said Ryan. “They’re always being energetic, uplifting and fun to be around. I think that’s a benefit of our group this year, is we have a lot of guys that are good at that.”

Ward got a bit philosophical when discussing how the group avoids getting too high or too low.

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“Life in the NHL is all about ups and downs,” said Ward. “And so for us, the fact is we treat every day as a new day, we treat every game as a new game. And for us it’s about the process, not necessarily the result. We really believe that if we look after the process, if we focus on that, the results will look after themselves or will start to.”

The Flames’ effort against the Edmonton Oilers has been characterized as “business-like,” and Ward praised his group’s focus coming out of their holiday break (and into a key stretch of their season).

“I like where our players are in respect to their focus and their preparation,” said Ward. “And we’re doing a really good job right now sticking with the process. And I think that’s why it’s easy for us to be able to put games behind us, get onto the next game, not live in wins or losses and stay in them and just move ahead. For us, it’s all about getting better every day and we’re doing a good job of that right now. The players are doing a really good job of being a solid team. We’re starting to see some real nice chemistry within our room and in our team.”