Johnson: Switch back to old stick helps Glencross end untimely scoring slump
Flames winger scored a big goal in Calgary’s win over Washington on Saturday
Raising his arms exultantly, with exaggerated slowness, as if somehow willing the moment to continue, Curtis Glencross tilted his head and gazed towards the heavens (or at least the slope-backed ceiling of the Saddledome). He could’ve been a man who’d remembered to order the wife’s wedding anniversary flower arrangement at the very last minute or found out that, yes, insurance would in fact cover the hail damage to his car.
Relief was writ large across his face.
“It was . . . huge,” acknowledged the Calgary Flames’ left winger. “Obviously I’ve had chances the last two games and it just hasn’t gone in, and you start double-thinking things and all that kinda stuff.
“Staje put it on a tee for me.”
Caught in the throes of a six-game goalless outage, Glencross switched back to his old trusty Easton cue on Sunday night against the Washington Capitals, and it proved to be his own Jaws of Life, helped cut him out of his funk.
It was if he’d visited Ollivanders from the Harry Potter books. It’s amazing just how magical a new, or even in this case a trusty old, wand can be.
“I got my old sticks out,” said Glencross, “two new pairs of hockey gloves — the other ones went right it the garbage — and it worked.”
Voila! Nothing to it.
Wiring a shot from the middle of the ice off a setup from Matt Stajan at 14:28 of the third period past Washington netminder Michal Neuwirth, Glencross counted his third goal of the season and first since Oct. 9th versus the Canadiens. Important from a collective results point of view. Vital from a personal momentum point of view.
“I’m harder on myself than anyone is,” said Glencross. “It’s great to see these kids but I’m a veteran guy in here, so I want to produce.”
Watching Sunday’s practice at Flames Fest, before the new third jerseys were trotted out for analysis, assistant to the GM Craig Conroy, a former teammate, pondered the Glencross enigma.
“It’s different, now, for Glennie,” he reasoned. “In the past, Jarome (Iginla) usually got off to a slow start and everyone would be on him, crowding around him, asking ‘What’s wrong?’ and nobody really went after Glennie if things weren’t going well. Jarome gave a lot of guys a free pass early in seasons because of the way he’d start. And he’d stand in there, do the media, all that. I remember Cammy (Michael Cammalleri) his first year. He ended up scoring 39 that season but was going through a tough stretch at the beginning and I remember him saying to me: ‘Geez, I’m surprised they’re not on me more.’ And I said: ‘Well, they’re on Jarome. So count your blessings.’
“Now, Jarome’s gone. Glennie’s one of the top guys. The veterans. The leaders. Wearing an ‘A’. And the scrutiny’s on him.”
When aroused, when cantankerous, when a little bit out in left field, slightly unpredictable, Curtis Glencross is a dangerous man to fall afoul of. The orneriness, edginess, that in-your-face style that epitomizes him at his most effective, though, has been an on-again, off-again thing this last season and a half.
The passing of the years, the comfort level involved with being a fixture in the lineup, the growing stature of having established your name and credentials, all combines in a gradual tapering off of the belligerence level.
Earlier on this season, Glencross couldn’t help but hear the whispers that the Philadelphia Flyers were tracking his every move. The speculation was everywhere. Despite a no-trade clause in his contact, the sobering belief that Flames might actually want to unload him, even if it was fuelled nothing more than speculation, couldn’t help but weigh on his mind.
“You can say ‘It doesn’t bother me’ all you want,” agreed Conroy sympathetically. “That’s the politically correct answer. But if you hear it every day . . . I talked to Glennie, Jay (Feaster) talked to Glennie. But if you’re still hearing it every day . . .
“Hopefully it didn’t affect him. But it’s probably, even with the no-trade, in the back of your mind. Has to be. If you’re on Glennie, on Glennie, on Glennie, he doesn’t always respond. That’s counter-productive. He needs a little love, a little positive reinforcement. That’s when he gets the most out of himself.
“So it was good to see him score (Saturday). Good to see him feeling good about himself again. You want him to have fun, to build off that.”
For boss Bob Hartley, Saturday’s Glencross goal couldn’t have come soon enough. He’s stubbornly stuck with No. 20 through more than a few ineffectual nights of late, despite the repeated mantra of reward for performance, waiting for his truculent left winger to spark and ignite.
“There’s always situations,” reminded Hartley, “where you need a boost. Last night, a big goal in a big game, and especially in front of our fans . . . the building was electric and the way he celebrated, that was a big goal for Glennie.
“We need him. He’s a big part of our team.”
Even approaching 31, with six full NHL seasons and over 400 regular-season starts on the books, Glencross admits the self-doubt, the nagging frustration of a scoring slump, is a fitful companion.
“It’s still the same. Everyone goes through them. You’re struggling. You’re battling the puck. You aren’t getting the right bounce here, it’s hitting something there. Then all of a sudden you go on a roll, maybe get one off a butt somewhere. It comes and goes.
“It’s mostly up in your head. A mental thing.”
The look on his face, the relief, when Matt Stajan put the puck on a tee for him Saturday night, when he raised his arms exultantly, with exaggerated slowness, gazing towards the heavens, as if wanting the moment to continue, is something to draw on.
It’s a moment he knows. He savours.
A moment he wants to replicate as often as possible.
“Hopefully,” said Curtis Glencross, “now I’ll get back rolling. That one felt like the first one of the season again, the first one of your career. Things weren’t quite going for me. A monkey off my back, for sure.”
And, it’s safe to assume, he’ll be out there with the familiar Easton cue again Wednesday, when the Toronto Maple Leafs come a’ callin’, trying to weave new magic out of the old wand.
“Yes,” he replied evenly. “Yes, I will.”
George Johnson is the Herald’s sports columnist. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH
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