SUN Hockey Pool

No softies on Flames roster

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

Calgary Flames blueliner Robyn Regehr isn't one to mince words.

Last season, a lack of grit among some of his Flames teammates led to Regehr bluntly calling them out more than a couple of times.

That sentiment hasn't softended after a longer-than-expected summer.

"We moved out some really skilled players, but they were players also that didn't fit our new philosophy as a team," the big blueliner said yesterday, before the team took off to Edmonton for tonight's pre-season matchup against the Oilers.

"They were also players that were a little soft sometimes, and that didn't really bode well for us in the tough games and also in the playoffs."

Along those lines, Regehr has seen a marked improvement with GM Darryl Sutter's off-season acquisitions.

Gone are highly skilled offensive talents Kristian Huselius and Alex Tanguay.

In are Todd Bertuzzi, Mike Cammalleri, Curtis Glencross and Rene Bourque, which should provide a more ferocious forecheck and defence-first approach this year.

Regehr had a busy off-season that included a trip to Africa and NHLPA meetings as the Flames' player rep.

Given his schedule, he wasn't exactly glued to the summer action on the free-agent market and all the moves Sutter made.

Right now, he likes what he sees.

"I think we have a team that's a little bit better suited to playing the way we want," said Regehr.

"We wanted to play the same style last year, it's just that some of the players we had don't do that -- they've never been asked to do that and that's not in their nature as a player."

Giving up way too many shots per game, the defence -- and ultimately goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff -- took a lot of heat from the fans.

As Regehr pointed out with heated words on a few occasions, the responsibility to limit those shots lies as much with the forwards as it does the blueliners.

The team that went to the Stanley Cup final in 2004 got there with hard work and a strong forecheck.

Adding more skill after the lockout changed the game, the Flames have lacked punch. Not so much on the scoresheet, but on the defensive side of things.

Technically, the team's philosophy hasn't changed, but there is a renewed commitment to the old one.

"Our philosophy as a team this year is to, first of all, be better defensively as a whole," said Regehr.

"We need to cut down our shots against per game. What we'd like to do on the other side of the puck, on the offensive side, is forecheck a lot harder."

The newcomers seem to be buying in quickly, and the pre-season slate so far has progressed well in his eyes.

"I like the acquisitions we brought in this summer. You see a little bit different team," said Regehr.

"We're hoping to continue to improve on that and be, once again, a very difficult team to play against.

"A high-energy team, a fun team to watch, but also we have to be mindful of being defensively responsible as well."

If anyone forgets, Regehr is prepared to remind them.

"I really like the way our team has played for spurts here in the pre-season," he said. "You've got to be mindful it is pre-season ... but the overall philosophy has changed a little bit, and we need to be very mindful of that as players to continue to remind each other how we want to play."


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