CALGARY — Confrontations can’t be avoided.
Who in a workplace of nearly 30 people — be them accountants, telemarketers or retail workers — can say every one gets along all the time?
But was the dressing-room dynamic so bad that Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter had to make massive moves to correct it?
Not according to most of the guys on the inside.
But reading between the lines of defenceman Robyn Regehr’s comments Wednesday as the players cleared out their belongings, you can’t help but feel he was happier after a late-January trade sent blueline partner Dion Phaneuf packing for Toronto, then Olli Jokinen to New York.
“We had a lot better team atmosphere after we made some personnel moves and brought in different guys,” said Regehr, who reminded reporters the deals came just after the team snapped a nine-game losing streak.
“Maybe things weren’t working out here, or guys were plateauing, there were changes made. The feeling around our dressing room was better after that. No one was having any fun.”
Whether the tension was created by the losing streak, or the skid was started because of personality clashes in the room, only those who were in it from start to finish could say.
And they either weren’t saying, or honestly had no idea why the GM made comments suggesting there were issues.
“This was always a tight-knit team. Guys get along well,” said winger Eric Nystrom. “Maybe they saw something from above that we don’t see in the locker-room. I didn’t see it as a reason for the trades. That’s their perspective. I don’t know what they are talking about. I’ve never seen anything like that in this dressing room.
“Maybe they saw something we didn’t.”
Whether it was a case of management trying to justify deals made out of desperation to turn things around after they failed to provide the result he wanted, or a shrewd move that proved Sutter has his pulse on the team’s internal temperature remains a mystery.
To the players, too.
“I really liked Dion. He’s a colourful guy. His personality is a bit abrasive at times,” said Craig Conroy.
“I think Dion is a great player and a good guy. I didn’t have a problem with Dion.
“Maybe he rubbed someone the wrong way. I’m not sure. Maybe somebody went to Darryl and said I’m not happy with Dion. That wasn’t the case with me.”
Nor was it the case with Jokinen, as far as captain Jarome Iginla can tell.
“He was a good guy,” Iginla said. “I heard about it before he came that maybe he wasn’t the best dressing-room guy, or maybe a little selfish but I didn’t see it.”
Neither did blueliner Jay Bouwmeester, who said he saw nothing out of the ordinary for an NHL locker-room.
“I don’t think there were any big problems,” said Bouwmeester. “Any team, no matter who you are, there are issues. There wasn’t anything real significant.
“There weren’t incidents. Not everybody is going to be best friends. We had a good group and everyone got along fine. I’ve been in situations where there were bigger problems for sure.”
Seems more and more likely there was at least one that was big enough to pry Phaneuf, Sutter’s prized 2003 draft pick, away from the Flames.
And enough to cut bait on Jokinen, who came at a hefty price a little more than a year ago.
“I don’t know why, but they are both gone and we got some great guys in return,” Conroy said.
“Hopefully, whatever happens in the off-season, the fans will come back.”