When the Calgary Flames traded for Nikita Zadorov a few summers ago, the number of eye rolls per capita in the city of Calgary increased significantly. Just a few years later, you’d be safe to bet that most people regret that instant reaction.
After two seasons, Zadorov has turned himself into one of the highest minutes-per-game players on the team, and a true fan favourite. Although his defensive game has had some lapses, Zadorov has made up for it with his physical play and offensive production.
Going into his last year of his contract, and his public comments about wanting to stay with the team, many are hoping that Zadorov does not become one of the trade targets for the team.
After his radio hit on Wednesday afternoon with Pat Steinberg and Wes Gilbertson, many are really hoping that he doesn’t go anywhere.
Last season, this summer, and looking ahead
Starting off with how he felt about his offseason, his mindset entering the summer, and his experience with last season he was very open and transparent:
“Good, exciting, I mean it’s been a long summer. Obviously kind of don’t like really experiencing not making the playoffs that why you have to train a lot. It’s been long, but actually a quick summer and really excited to get back to Calgary and get going”Nikita Zadorov
“I think it definitely was disappointing last year. We should have made playoffs. We lost some games we shouldn’t lose and that’s what kind of stopped us. There is definitely unfinished business here for sure.”Nikita Zadorov
“Well personally I’m really motivated for sure. For me, main thing for me is to make playoffs. Individually, I have my own goals of what I want to achieve this year but its the team first for sure to make playoffs. There are lot of changes in the offseason, lots of uncertainty on the team. Either guys want to be here, don’t wanna be here, I don’t know what is going on I just got here too and talking to the guys I’m not sure. But I know for one thing I am going to go up there and everything to try and gonna try to…or not even try we are going to make the playoffs this year for sure.Nikita Zadorov
He also further added that this year needs to be different:
“Well I feel like last year didn’t happen because not everybody didn’t buy in. I think there was definitely some not happiness in the dressing room based on coaches and stuff and where the team goes. I think this year we need to put this aside before the puck drops…I think we need to figure that stuff out before that and everybody goes clear their heads going into the season and believe in each other. To play as a team, to make the playoffs, you have to believe in each other, you have to buy in, and you have to be 100%..that is what we were missing last year”Nikita Zadorov
Zadorov has confidence, and although the fanbase may not share that same sentiment, and that may just be what the team needs to will them into the post season.
On the coaching and organization changes
Zadorov is clearly excited about the new change in coaching and management, and gave some great insight into why he thinks the change is for the better:
“Obviously, more familiar with [Huska] he’s been the D coach for the past two years. Really intelligent, really smart coach, I think it’s going to be really good for us and something different than Darryl. I think a lot of guys are going to be more comfortable with him than last year, that helps. With Conny he was Brad’s assistant last year so definitely don’t know what is going on still since it’s something new for him being the first time he’s GM of an NHL team.”Nikita Zadorov
“Won’t be any problems x and o’s because he’s super smart and we trust him on that. The biggest difference on the old coach is going to be the feeling of going to the rink…I think it’s just going to be different, it’s going to be more exciting. Not that it wasn’t exciting with Darryl it was just different. It was different work, it’s always hard work, he was a little bit old school in that way…This is going to be a little bit looser in a good way. It’s going to be not too loose but not too straight forward. It’s going to be be big change for most guys going to be back playing hockey and being excited doing what they do”Nikita Zadorov
Despite his openness on a wide range of topics, he was extremely tight lipped on his pending free agency.
“I was waiting for offer, kinda didn’t go that way yet. We will see. That is all I can say so far.”Nikita Zadorov
Not completely surprising, but sounds eerily similar to Tyler Toffoli who thought he would get an offer and then asked for a trade.
On career year and how to push that forward
Despite the team not having much success last season, Zadorov had a career year in terms of offensive production. That being said, his focus is not to repeat that, rather continue to improve overall:
“Well I mean it definitely gives you confidence, I don’t think I am going to score 14 goals again cause it’s not my job. I mean my main focus is to be good top four defensemen on this team. I showed a lot last year I deserved it and I think I can do it for sure and just to be a good teammate as well. I think there is definitely a lot of learning process for me as well I am only 28 years old and I’m getting better every year I’m in the league. I am learning every year, I am learning from my teammates, and learning from my coaches.Nikita Zadorov
“You gotta know like i’m not a Cale Makar or Erik Karlsson who’s creating those chances. My teammates are creating those chances for me. When I get open, when I get a chance, when I get a chance I can put it in the back of the net. I have a decent shot I think, I can pick the corners, and can go through. It actually depends on my teammates if they are going to set me up good.”Nikita Zadorov
On the future captain
The talk of the captaincy has been widespread this summer, and despite rumors that the “C” may be headed to Rasmus Andersson, Zadorov gave his clear cut answer as to who he thinks should wear it:
“Really important. I feel like my opinion it’s only one guy in the room who should be capitan in here…i think it should be Mikael… He’s definitely our captain, has been our captain the last two years I have been here just a formal thing to put a C on his shoulder… That’s how simple it is.”Nikita Zadorov
On why he loves Calgary
Zadorov has been continuously open about his love for the city and team in Calgary, and he continued that on Wednesday when asked just why he loves it:
“I just enjoy it. It’s hard to explain what exactly I like, I just like it here. I mean I think people are just so grateful and so good to me my two years here. I just feel like home I just feel comfortable here.”Nikita Zadorov
For a team that has had so many players want out, it’s always lovely to hear a player who continuously hypes up the city.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire