Flames coping well with ever-louder trade rumours about Tanev, Hanifin and Markstrom

Despite everything, the Flames seem to be playing their best hockey, going 4-1 in their last five games

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Practice makes perfect, right?

Fortunately for the Calgary Flames, they’ve had a lot of experience dealing with speculation about who might be the next player to get dealt out of town.

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From the start of the season, the Flames have been asked about the big names on their roster who are set to become unrestricted free agents.

And with the March 8 trade deadline mere weeks away, it seems as if the speculation surrounding the futures of defencemen Chris Tanev and Noah Hanifin is reaching a fever pitch.

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And with insiders suggesting the Flames and New Jersey Devils have been having extensive conversations about a trade involving goaltender Jacob Markstrom, the distractions are only growing louder.

And yet … the Flames seem to be playing their best hockey. They’ve gone 4-1 in their last five games and beat some very good teams on their recently concluded four-game road-trip along the eastern seaboard.

Even losing first-line centre Elias Lindholm in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks doesn’t seem to have slowed them down.

Elias Lindholm
Elias Lindholm is now a member of the Vancouver Canucks. Rich Gagnon/Getty Images

“I think we believe in ourselves. We still believe,” said Flames winger Jonathan Huberdeau. “We know we can have a shot at it and make the playoffs and it doesn’t matter, I think we lost some good players but at the end of the day it’s whoever is in here and some young guys can step up and that’s what they did.

“Everybody’s got to step up a little bit more. It’s towards the end of the season and there’s not a lot of games left so we’ve got to get some points right now.”

Maybe this is just a great example of a group of players recognizing that they can only control what they can control. Whatever GM Craig Conroy decides to do with Markstrom, Tanev and Hanifin, the guys in the locker room will have to live with it.

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And as professional hockey players, the expectation is they’re going to come to the rink and put in the same work.

And so far, the Flames have managed to do just that. The results haven’t dipped since Lindholm was dealt – they’ve improved, technically, although it’s a very small sample size — just like the Flames didn’t fall off when Nikita Zadorov was traded, also to the Canucks.

“That’s one thing we’re proud of them for and will continue to be,” said Flames head coach Ryan Huska. “It’s not going to change them. They know they have a job to do, they have to come to the rink every day and play their best and if you’re worried about who’s in your lineup or who is out of your lineup, then you’re looking for excuses and that’s not our job.”

There have been a lot of reasons why the Flames have managed to keep up their standard of play since Lindholm was traded.

Calgary Flames
Flames players collapse around goaltender Jacob Markstrom during a game against the New York Islanders on Feb. 10. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

A big part of that is the approach of the team’s leadership group, which has long maintained a policy of leaving what is happening away from the ice out of the locker room.

Huska also credited the introduction, or reintroduction, of new faces.

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Kevin Rooney and Jakob Pelletier returned to the fold after missing the first couple months of the season with injuries. While Pelletier left Monday’s game against the New York Rangers, he’s listed as day-to-day and is expected back soon. Both guys have brought a renewed energy to the fourth line.

And Andrei Kuzmenko, who was acquired in the Lindholm trade, seems to have settled nicely on the first line alongside Huberdeau and Yegor Sharangovich. Defenceman Brayden Pachal, picked up from the Vegas Golden Knights off waivers, has also looked solid on the team’s third-pairing with Oliver Kylington.

“When you bring new people into your lineup there’s a new energy that comes along with them,” Huska said. “They’re all people who want to have an impact on the lineup and they’re bringing some good energy because of that.”

There may be even more new faces soon, if rumours are to be believed and if any or all of Markstrom, Tanev and Hanifin are moved on.

It’s the talk of the town.

The Flames, though, are doing their best to make sure it’s not a topic of conversation inside their locker room.

“We knew it was going to be harder, you lose your number one centreman and it’s never going to be easy,” Huberdeau said. “But guys gotta step up and the fourth line, the new guys, they came back and have been playing well for us consistently. That’s what we need.”

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X: @DannyAustin_9

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