Matthew Tkachuk is apparently ready to start proving he’s as good at agitating opponents off the ice as he is on it.
Like father, like son.
"I expected more from him, honestly, than to go right to the media and start complaining after a loss," a brazen Tkachuk told Postmedia’s Wes Gilbertson on the eve of their rematch in Calgary.
"He’s a good enough player where he doesn’t have to worry about any of that stuff. He’s a skilled guy and everything like that, and he’s won a couple of Cups. He’s still a real good player so I don’t think he’ll be too worried about it tomorrow."
Tkachuk was clearly responding to Doughty’s pointed comments after the Mar. 19 game, won 5-2 by the Flames in which the veteran said, "He’s a pretty dirty player, that kid. To be a rookie and play like that is a little surprising."
Typically, yes, it would be surprising for a teenager to bust onto the NHL scene and start throwing his weight — and now his words — around so liberally.
However, this isn’t your typical NHL rookie.
This is a Tkachuk.
Need anyone be reminded his father, Keith, was one of the most colourful and well-rounded players of his era, racking up almost 2,400 penalty minutes in 1,290 NHL games from 1991 to 2010?
In his first full season with the Winnipeg Jets, Keith had his first of three seasons eclipsing 200 penalty minutes, while also racking up 51 points.
Different era, yes, but the kid’s got similar numbers.
The six-foot-one, 195-pound Matthew has 46 points to go with 98 penalty minutes, which is the ninth-most in the NHL.
Shocking effectiveness for a 19-year-old, who has played a key role on the Flames’ best line this year.
Keith said he has long hammered home the importance of being hard to play against, a mantra the youngster clearly embraces.
Fact is Tkachuk is not a dirty player.
He’s an agitator, who clearly crossed the line with an elbow Doughty had every right to be furious about.
That will likely happen several more times in his career as Tkachuk tries to straddle that line between being a disturber and being, well, Steve Ott or Matt Cooke.
The question is whether Tkachuk’s decision to start stirring the pot through the media is a smart move ahead of the biggest game of the year — a contest in which the Flames can clinch a playoff spot with a regulation win.
It’s certainly an unconventional move as most players today distance themselves from suspensions and potential wars of words by suggesting they simply want to move forward.
This was a calculated salvo, much like the ones his father had no qualms issuing throughout his career as one of the game’s more outspoken players.
Coach Glen Gulutzan pointed out the obvious, that Tkachuk might get some extra attention from the Kings on Wednesday.
But those who’ve been around the poised youngster are aware he relishes such attention as it means he’s done part of his job.
"It has no effect on me what (Doughty) says or anybody on their team says," Tkachuk told Gilbertson when asked if Doughty’s post-game criticism angered him.
"If it was a pretty dirty play … I mean, nobody really did anything about it and nobody on our end really thought it was that bad. But that’s in the past. Tomorrow, it’s just another game and hopefully another game closer to playoffs."
Furthering this dispute on the ice or in the press will only serve to empower this intelligent youngster, whose actions and mouth will very likely make him one of the league’s most hated opponents for many years to come.
Just ask Doughty.