CALGARY — The Calgary Flames will spend training camp adjusting to new goaltenders for a second year in a row.
Defenceman Mike Stone is familiar with one from their days as Arizona Coyotes teammates. He said the Flames will have to get their heads around Mike Smith’s propensity to leave the net and play the puck.
“We’re going to have to understand he likes to get out and move the puck to you. Don’t go get it from him,” Stone explained Thursday during physical testing for training camp.
“When I was in Arizona, I don’t think I went back and picked the puck up behind the net, ever. Go to the corner. He’ll get it to you.”
Not only teammates, but Flames fans will have to get used to an active starting goalie.
“I’m sure there will be moments when they’re not liking what I’m doing out of my net, probably yelling at me to get back in my net.” Smith said.
Stone and Eddie Lack replace the tandem of Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson, who spent just one season in Calgary.
In contrast to last year’s training camp, when the Flames juggled change and flux on multiple fronts, adapting to another duo in net is their one big chore to open 2017-18.
The Flames aren’t dealing with a new coaching staff as they were in 2016, when head coach Glen Gulutzan and assistants Paul Jerrard and Dave Cameron were in hurry-up mode implementing systems.
All players are signed and reported to camp in contrast to a year ago when forwards Johnny Gaudreau, Michael Frolik and Mikael Backlund were away for the World Cup of Hockey.
Gaudreau also missed all of training camp in a contract dispute.
Captain Mark Giordano expects a smooth transition to Smith and Lack because the Flames aren’t overloaded with other changes.
“We know our system. We’ve got our system down,” the defenceman said. “Last year was sort of a combination of everything new.
“With two, new great goalies coming in, we’ll game plan a little bit around Smitty being able to play the puck so well.
“There’s a lot to learn, but we feel we’re ahead of last year for sure with knowing the systems, being more familiar with the coaching staff.”
Elliott was pivotal in getting the Flames into last season’s playoffs. But a few soft goals contributed to Calgary’s quick elimination in four straight games at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks.
So Flames general manager Brad Treliving went shopping for yet another solution in net.
He dealt Johnson, a prospect and a conditional third-round pick to the Coyotes for the 35-year-old Smith, who has two years left on a contract counting $4.25 million annually against the cap.
Lack, 29, came from the Carolina Hurricanes for a prospect, a draft pick and defenceman Ryan Murphy, whose contract was immediately bought out.
But Carolina retained half of Lack’s salary, so Calgary got him for $1.375 million.
The two goalies have been getting to know each other and the Flames during informal skates the last two weeks. But the real work starts Friday when main camp opens at Scotiabank Saddledome.
The Flames open the pre-season Monday with split-squad games against the Edmonton Oilers.
“I think the biggest adjustment will be the puck-handling part of it, but I think that comes fairly quickly and the guys will get used to it,” Smith said.
“We have a few weeks before the season starts to get really dialled in as far as where everyone needs to be when the puck gets behind the net.”
The six-foot-four 215-pound Smith, from Kingston, Ont., brings a track record of previous success both internationally for Canada and with the Coyotes.
He was the starter for Canada’s 10-0 team that won the 2015 men’s world championship and backstopped the Coyotes to a conference final appearance in 2012.
But the Coyotes have missed the playoffs the last five seasons.
“I’m rejuvenated to be honest,” Smith said. “There’s expectation here to do well.
“That as an older player is all you can ask for. You want to be on a winning team and a winning franchise. It’s exciting to be part of a Canadian team that is expected to do well.”