Milan Lucic couldn’t fathom the idea of being traded to an in-province rival, but that’s exactly what happened earlier this summer when the Edmonton Oilers sent the power forward to the Calgary Flames for James Neal.
After consulting with those closest to him, including his wife, agent, plus several former teammates such as retired Flames captain Jarome Iginla, Lucic agreed to the move and is now optimistic about the upcoming 2019-20 season.
“I think the main thing for me was just getting a fresh start,” Lucic told Sportsnet 960 Thursday.
“Coming to a good team, a veteran team, a team that took a big step in the right direction last year, for myself, it’s just coming in and just helping. I’m not coming in looking to be some saviour or anything like that. I don’t think it was like that going into Edmonton as well, but in Edmonton I think I put a little too much pressure on myself to be this leader, power forward, goal scorer, all this type of stuff. I think I put too much on my plate, too much for me to handle.”
In three seasons with the Oilers, the Vancouver native registered 39 goals, 104 points and 221 penalty minutes in 243 games, however, his goal and point totals decreased year-over-year and 2018-19 was not kind to him.
“At times it wasn’t fun, especially when you’re losing and when you’re struggling,” Lucic said of his time in Edmonton.
“For someone that’s had success and been a part of really good teams, you kind of miss being a part of that culture and going to the rink every day trying to get better. Not that I wasn’t trying to do that in Edmonton, but it just seemed to not flow, or I can’t really put my finger on it.
“For me personally I just want to leave the past in the past and worry about the future. Even the positives. You want to leave the positives in the past and the negatives in the past and worry about what you need to do to make the Calgary Flames a successful team going forward.”
The Flames are expected to contend for a Pacific Division title next season and Lucic adds a physical element the team lacked a year ago.
“They’re a team that’s looking to win now and that’s one of the things that I had talked to Jarome about,” Lucic added.
“At my age, you need to be on a team that’s competing every night and for myself – it’s been like this my entire career – when I’m playing meaningful hockey, I’ve always played my best hockey. It’s just getting back to that. …
“It just felt like the culture in Calgary fit me a little bit more and the veteran group fit me a little bit more. Those were a lot of the things we talked about leading up to the trade.”