32 Thoughts: Mikael Backlund urges teammates who want out to be quieter about their desires

Photo credit:Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
7 months ago
One of the problems that has plagued the Calgary Flames organization lately is the number of players who have said they want to play somewhere else. It caused issues before the off-season when some of the big-name players suggested that they wanted out (or were at least considering moving on from the club). The most recent player to have his name in the news for wanting out is Nikita Zadorov, who simultaneously said that he wants to be a Flame for life after being asked about the reported trade request.
However, as the Flames try and find their way back into the post-season, they were mentioned in the most recent edition of the 32 Thoughts column by Elliotte Friedman both for their upcoming schedule and Mikael Backlund’s desire for players that want out to let management know quietly.
“16. Massive stretch coming up for the Flames. Colorado, Dallas and Vegas twice each in the next 18 days — not to mention Carolina, New Jersey and Vancouver. This will tell everyone (including Calgary) where they stand. After last season, Flames players told the organization Mikael Backlund should have been captain, already. He proved it by asking everyone to cut the drama and focus on hockey. Wednesday’s loss in Nashville was the first game in five Calgary didn’t get a point, going 3-0-1 over that stretch.”
“18. Backlund isn’t the only person who, in recent months, asked teammates or players to calm the noise or quietly let management know if they wanted to move on. Several Canucks credited Rick Tocchet for the same approach. (I think it was last season.) As he got to know his players, he told them he would put them in positions to succeed, provided they were committed to Vancouver. They liked his honest approach, and clearly responded to it.”
Depending on how the upcoming stretch of games plays out for the Flames (they already have the big win against the Dallas Stars after their huge comeback), the focus will hopefully be about the play on the ice rather than the drama off the ice. There will be trade talks, of course, but with wins comes more positive narratives and fewer attention-grabbing headlines about different players who want out.
The Flames look like a team that are beginning to gel within the new system that head coach Ryan Huska has put into place. Even players who struggled last season like Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri appear to be more confident in themselves and in their teammates to be in the right positions. Pair that with the strong goaltending of Jacob Markstrom early in this 2023-24 campaign, and things are beginning to look up.
With Backlund taking the reins as captain and making sure that everyone is focused on hockey instead of the outside noise, it has made the focus tangibly better, and most importantly, it provides a sense of stability that the Flames didn’t appear to have at all last season.

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