SUN Hockey Pool

Kotalik backing up to move forward

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:32 AM ET

The rumour started before last season ended.

It went like this: Ales Kotalik would be convinced by the Calgary Flames to finish his hockey career in Europe.

He'd earn his US$3-million per year the next two seasons on loan from the NHL club that scooped him out of the New York Rangers doghouse and then built him a bed in their own.

Rumour resembled reality when he was waived by the Flames in June.

"Some of those things that happened over the summer I didn't expect," the 31-year-old winger said Thursday after a skate at the Saddledome before training camp officially kicks off Friday.

Then another shocker.

"I didn't really expect, after that, I'm gonna be still here in this organization," he added.

"But I'm here. And I'm ready to go. I'm here to play for this organization and, most of all, play well."

When quizzed at the end of his most disappointing NHL season about the rumblings he wouldn't be welcomed back, Kotalik was genuinely stunned at the notion.

clause (which he suspended to join the Flames in February), the Czech product has some say in where he plays.

Waived without warning in June and going unclaimed, Kotalik spent the summer wondering what his NHL future would hold and was left in the dark by Flames management.

"I didn't talk really to anyone from the executive," he said. "I was talking to the coaches, Brent (Sutter) and Pi (Dave Lowry) and the guys and they told me what they're expecting from me. I think I'm capable of doing that."

What they expect is production. The four-time 20-goal scorer put up 11 splitting last season between the Rangers and the Flames.

Three goals and five points in 26 games came with the Flames after joining the team along with Christopher Higgins in exchange for Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust.

"One bad season, I'm not gonna let that finish my NHL career," Kotalik said.

"Sometimes, you have to make a step back to make two big strides forward. I truly believe that's going to be my case."


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