‘What noise are you talking about?’ Flames refuse to blame latest losses on trade banter

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The Calgary Flames have been adamant about ‘blocking out the noise,’ which is locker-room speak for disregarding the rampant rumours and social-media speculation that will only grow louder between now and the March 8 trade deadline.

On Saturday afternoon, some noise was impossible to ignore.

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You couldn’t miss the loud thwack as stalwart netminder Jacob Markstrom slammed his CCM stick against the boards after an early hook.

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You couldn’t miss the chorus of boos from the Saddledome fans during the final minute of a 5-0 shellacking from Detroit Red Wings, the Flames’ sixth loss in their past seven outings at the Saddledome.

You couldn’t help but wonder if all that chatter, all that uncertainty, is starting to bother this bunch.

“What noise are you talking about?” Markstrom countered during a post-game media scrum. “Everyone here is professional, paid to play hockey. That’s all you can do. We have to keep doing it. We have been doing it all year, and you guys have been talking about it all year. We just have to play.”

On this afternoon, Markstrom played for just 26 minutes and 41 seconds. It’s the first time he has been yanked in a season where he has been the Flames’ undisputed team MVP.

The 34-year-old Markstrom stopped eight shots against the Red Wings. Four pucks, including two on the power-play and one that was deflected by one of his own defencemen, snuck past him.

So he was in no mood afterward to address the non-stop speculation about his own future. There were rumblings this past week he was nearly swapped to the New Jersey Devils. He has now joined his teammates Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev — both on the block because of their expiring contracts — on every trade-bait list.

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“Right now, I’m not thinking about it,” said Markstrom, who’d need to waive his no-movement clause to approve any change of address. “I just got pulled early in the second period, so it’s bad timing for that question.”

Nazem Kadri, James Reimer
Calgary Flames forward Nazem Kadri tries to get his stick on a puck rebounding off Detroit Red Wings goalie James Reimer at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024. Photo by Gavin Young /Postmedia

The Flames, understandably, are trying to shield their top trade chips from facing those sort of questions.

But it’s fair to wonder … Can a pair of lopsided home losses be blamed, even in small part, on the constant chatter that surrounds this retooling team?

Since returning from the road, you know their buddies, their neighbours, their barbers and car dealers have been asking for a behind-the-scenes scoop.

Was that a contributing factor in Thursday’s stinker against the lowly San Jose Sharks? Does that explain why, despite a strong start, they were bageled Saturday by Red Wings backup James Reimer, who racked up 38 saves.

This latest loss leaves the locals with a 12-13-1 record on home ice. There are only six teams with a lower point percentage in their own rink.

“I don’t think it’s the trade talk,” insisted Flames leading marksman Blake Coleman, refusing this excuse. “This group has done a good job of keeping the noise out and playing hard. It’s not a lack of effort or want to win. It’s just that we’re not executing and we’re not making confident plays. You know, every team in the league has trade talk right now, one way or the other. That’s what this time of year brings about, and you have to be a big boy and push that noise out and just play your game.”

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“I don’t think that’s an issue at all,” agreed Flames coach Ryan Huska. “We have some really good pros in the room. As much as I would love for them to stay right off social media and all that stuff, they’ve all been around and they understand this time of year. So it’s nothing new for them.”

They’ve been around, sure, but it’s different when your squad is front-and-centre, or when your own name in trending.

Between now and 1 p.m. MT on March 8, the volume will only increase, the noise will only be more and more difficult to tune out.

“Everyone comes in here every day ready to work,” said Flames captain Mikael Backlund. “We’re still all teammates here and we’re all excited to be together and play for each other. No one has showed anything. There’s been talk about a few guys here and they haven’t shown anything in the locker-room or anything like that. We’re coming in every day and trying to improve as a team.”

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Calgary Flames vs. Detroit Red Wings
Detroit Red Wings defencemen Moritz Seider and Calgary Flames forward Martin Pospisil jostle for control in front of Red Wings goalie James Reimer at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024. Photo by Gavin Young /Postmedia

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