Upon review, Flames' Markstrom wants to play more, not less

Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom shares his thoughts on the departures of Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk as well as how he thinks the team will perform with the arrivals of Nazem Kadri, Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar.

CALGARY -- Phone calls from your GM in the middle of the night don’t generally bode well.

In any business.

But the call Jacob Markstrom received from Brad Treliving in the wee hours of a fine summer evening in Sweden wound up being good for the soul.

“I was at Nicklas Backstrom’s wedding and Tree called me at, like, 2 am,” recalled the Calgary Flames netminder in a quiet moment in the bowels of the Saddledome.

“He just asked me about (Jonathan) Huberdeau, because he was there in Florida when I was there.

“He just asked what kind of guy he is, and I just said, ‘he’s a great guy.’

“The deal was probably done by then, but as a player you always appreciate when the GM calls you at any time to test the waters.

“That was probably the best sleep I had all summer.”

One day later, Huberdeau was a Flame, as part of a four-pack from Florida that included MacKenzie Weegar, in exchange for Matthew Tkachuk.

Prior to the blockbuster Flames fans won’t forget, sleep was at a premium for the 32-year-old netminder.

His team had lost the services of Johnny Gaudreau almost two weeks earlier, despite a call from Markstrom, “trying to see if I could twist his arms a little bit.”

Then, word was out Tkachuk was about to be traded.

Those developments compounded the weight he left Calgary with following four straight playoff losses against an Edmonton team that torched Markstrom for 24 goals in five outings.

While the summertime goal is always to look forward, Markstrom kept finding himself looking back.

“I should have been better, for sure,” he said of the playoff exit in which the Vezina finalist allowed at least four goals in each of the five games -- all of which he has reviewed on film.

“I’ve been going back and looking at most of the games, and obviously it’s something I’d like to go back to right now and start with Game 1.

“With the group we had, it felt way too short. The tough part is when you’re part of a group and you know in the back of your mind they have contracts that are up and they might not stay.

“Let’s just say the taste on the flight home was not good. It wasn’t champagne or anything like that, unfortunately. It was just sparkling water.

“And then you get home and it's back to work.”

Part of that work included trying to figure out how things went sideways so quickly.

For him, and for the team.

The short of it is that the Flames allowed Edmonton’s big guns to dictate the play, obliterating the Flames’ structure with a run-and-gun style the Oilers thrive on.

Despite a brilliant series from Markstrom in Round 1 against Dallas, many still wonder if the goalie's workload finally caught up to him.

Should he play less this year?

“No, more,” insisted the six-foot-six, 206-pound Swede, who won 37 of his 63 regular-season starts, sporting a sparkling 2.22 GAA and .922 save percentage.

“I don’t think there is an easy explanation. I think it’s everything from mental to physical. It’s not like I should have rested two weeks in February and that would have helped me out.

“I don’t think that's the answer. But I think it’s an easy answer for people to look at when the outcome is what it is. They say, ‘look at how many games he played.’

“I always feel so much better when I play consistently and when I play a lot.

“With Darryl’s practices, they are usually harder than the games. And if I play three games a week I’m practising twice maybe. If the game is on and I feel good and we’re winning hockey games, it’s almost easier to have a week with three games and two practices than one game and four practices.”

It’s the coach’s call, albeit with the type of consultation Treliving afforded him on Huberdeau.

Either way, with all the questions surrounding the Flames’ line combinations and the need to build chemistry with the new lads, one thing this organization doesn’t need to worry about is goaltending -- the most important position of all.

It’s a luxury that came with signing Markstrom to a six-year, $36-million deal, which was insulated with the signing of young Czech revelation Dan Vladar.

Both have had peerless pre-seasons (their respective save percentages are .971 and .941) and are stoked about backstopping a team many predict will defend its regular-season Pacific Division title.

And plenty of that optimism revolves around the deal that brought Huberdeau and Weegar to town.

It gives Markstrom yet another chance to look back - way back -- to his time with a budding young superstar Florida had picked third overall in 2011.

“When Hubie got in, you could see right away he was so ahead of the time,” said Markstrom, who was a third stringer behind Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen.

“Now you see young guys come in with the skill they have. But back in 2011/12 it was mostly men, strong, physical. It was a way different game than it is now.

“He was so ahead of his time with his poise with the puck and just seeing the game. His vision was unbelievable.

“He can pass, and shoot, and score -- he can do it all. I’m excited to have him on our team.”

So is the rest of Calgary – an excitement he shares with a fan base eager to approach him around town with their optimism.

“Even if we lost a few guys, we added some amazing players and I truly believe we’re a better team this year than we were last year,” said Markstrom, whose sleep patterns got even better after the signing of Nazem Kadri.

“So now we’ve just got to get it to all mesh together, and get some chemistry up front, and the back as well.”

And keep the late-night phone calls positive.

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