Hartley finds his X factor for Calgary’s defence
Veteran Steve McCarthy, a favourite of new coach, has a shot to play with Flames
Steve McCarthy has played for three NHL teams, not including a preseason tryout in 2009 for the Anaheim Ducks. But the veteran found himself toiling in Switzerland under new Flames head coach Bob Hartley last season. He is looking to resurrect his NHL career.
Photograph by: Christian Petersen, Getty Images
With just 2.5 seconds left on the clock, the reliable, two-way defenceman scored the winning goal for the Zurich Lions in Game 7 of the championship final.
Five months later, player and coach are back together again — this time with the Abbotsford Heat, the No. 1 affiliate of the Calgary Flames.
When McCarthy, 31, failed to receive a job offer this summer in Switzerland, Hartley didn’t hesitate in talking with general manager Jay Feaster about offering the loyal soldier a professional tryout in Abbotsford.
“I know what he did for us in Atlanta, and I know what he did for us in Zurich last year,” says Hartley, the new head coach in Calgary. “I still can’t figure out why he was not in the Swiss league. For me, he was the best defenceman in that entire league last year.
“I don’t know. Maybe he was the best-kept secret.”
A first-round pick of the Chicago in 1999, McCarthy logged 302 NHL games through nine seasons with the Blackhawks, Vancouver Canucks and Atlanta Thrashers. His career totals: 17 goals, 55 points and 168 penalty minutes.
All of that came after he led the Kootenay Ice to the franchise’s first Memorial Cup berth in 2000 and captained Team Canada to a world junior bronze medal the same season.
In 27 games with Zurich last season, the six-foot-one, 198-pounder collected three goals and 10 points.
If he makes the team in Abbotsford, the Flames will rely on McCarthy to inject veteran savvy on the blueline and tutor the young defencemen both on and off the ice.
“Not only do you need to play, but you need to be a big brother for a young player coming out of college or junior,” Hartley said. “For the first time ever, he’ll have bills to pay. He’ll have to find a place. He might have to go out and buy his first car.
“For a guy like Steve McCarthy, what I appreciate is not only his talent on the ice — it’s his values as a dad and as a human being. For us in Zurich last year, he was basically like another assistant coach for us. We were giving him lots of jobs to go back in the room and help this kid and do this or do that. I felt he really grew on this.”
Like the other 44 players in Abbotsford camp, McCarthy has his initial sights set on securing a job in the AHL. But he hasn’t given up on his desire to return to the NHL.
“I’m just a little bit of everything,” he said. “If it’s a tight defensive game, I feel I can play that game. If you need to be thrown out on the power-play, I feel I can do a little bit of that. Same if it’s physical.
“I pride myself in doing a little bit of everything.
Hartley doesn’t deal with contracts — that’s Jay Feaster’s department, but the coach won’t rule anything out when it comes to the reliable Trail, B.C., native on the back end.
Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Giordano, Dennis Wideman and Cory Sarich are established veterans on the Calgary blueline. But Hartley isn’t yet sure whether McCarthy just might deserve a spot in the top-six or seven at the Saddledome.
Don’t rule it out.
“Maybe Steve McCarthy is better than what we have,” he said. “Maybe not. I don’t know. But an abundance of talent is never a problem.
“Especially for defencemen.”
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