A veteran of trade deadline deals, Wideman’s used to adjusting to new teams quickly
New Flames defenceman realizes he will have to acclimate in a hurry with shortened season
Getting acquainted with a bunch of strangers. Getting accustomed to the bark of a different boss.
To Dennis Wideman, this drill sounds familiar.
After all, twice he’s been dealt at the National Hockey League’s trade deadline — St. Louis to Boston, 2007; Florida to Washington, 2011 — so he knows how to fast-track.
And to his thinking, the Calgary Flames’ camp next week — with learning names around the dressing room, with comprehending orders from the freshly installed bosses — represents the same sort of challenge.
“You’ve got to approach it just like that,” said Wideman, “where you’re jumping into a new system and a new team real quick.”
Tuesday morning, Flames whip-crackers Bob Hartley, Jacques Cloutier, Martin Gelinas and Clint Malarchuk had been perched in the stands, watching players sweat through an informal session at the WinSport Ice Complex.
What then, starting Sunday morning at the Scotiabank Saddledome, will be the key to a brisk transition?
“Just listening,” said Wideman. “I think coaches do a really good job of explaining their system and what they’d like you to do pretty quick. Then it’s just up to me to get it and listen to what they’re saying.
“There’s usually a feeling-out process, but we’ve got, hopefully, seven days of camp where we’ll get some intrasquad games and game-like situations so we can get a feel for what he’s looking for.”
Delay or not, there was always going to be an adjustment for the defenceman.
The Flames are his latest employers. He joined the team, via trade (and immediate extension), this past summer. Since then, he’s been thinking about his debut — how it’s still in front of him.
“It’s been a long time,” said Wideman. “When I signed that contract . . . it seems like so long ago. I was really excited and I couldn’t wait to get things going. Now, with how long this (lockout) dragged on, it’s definitely taken away from that a little bit.
“Now I’m excited to get going.”
Wideman, during the off-season, never heard any discouraging words about the five-year contract that pays him $5.25 million per season. (Of his teammates, only Jarome Iginla, Michael Cammalleri, Jay Bouwmeester and Miikka Kiprusoff draw thicker paypackets.)
But detractors abound, always.
“No matter what, there’s going to be positives and negatives out there,” Wideman said of public reaction to his deal. “Unless you’re having an unbelievable year or you’re the best defenceman in the league, unless you’re Nick Lidstrom or something like that, there’s going to be some negatives out there. But that comes with the territory — it’s part of our job — and that’s going to happen.
“But what I have to do — what all of us have to do — is just get out there and play our hardest, play our best.”
Besides, without spending his days combing the Internet for contract critiques, it had been a busy enough summer for the 29-year-old.
Five days after signing with the Flames, he got married. Now he and wife Lindsay are looking for suitable rental accommodations in Calgary. Till they do, they are staying at the digs of Karl Alzner, a teammate last year with the Washington Capitals.
Time, however, is running short for the Widemans. Camp opens Sunday.
Already, the WinSport sessions have had a little more pizzazz. Monday featured more intensity in general. Tuesday? Actual body-banging along the boards.
“We’re starting to get some bumps out there,” said Wideman. “We’re trying to get some hitting in. We’re going to be coming in halfway through the year . . . and there’s quite a few players who have been playing, have been getting bumped. And the guys that haven’t, we haven’t been hit for eight months or something. We need to get that going . . . so you don’t get caught off-guard when the season starts.
“When they say, ‘game shape,’ a lot of that has to do with actually battling in the corner, getting hit, giving hits, pushing, shoving. When you’re just playing around in the summer, you’re not really hitting — everything is stick checking. It’s getting back into that, back into the pushing and the grinding . . . it takes a toll on you.”
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