Flames' Jankowski knows team is capable of more despite recent struggles
If the late Lou Jankowski was still around, his grandson Mark has a pretty good idea what his advice would be through these difficult days for the 23-year-old NHL rookie and his Calgary Flames teammates.
"Just stick with it," the younger Jankowski said, prior to the Flames 2-1 shootout loss in Toronto against the Maple Leafs. "You have to believe in yourself, believe in your teammates, trust yourself and trust each other. We know we have a good team here."
The Flames are a good team, but not much has gone their way lately. After a punishing practice on Tuesday back in Calgary, the Flames appeared on the right track on Wednesday evening. But exactly what they worked on so diligently on Tuesday – their play in their own end – cost them late in the second period.
The Flames offensive leader, Johnny Gaudreau, was cheating in the middle instead of being near the right sideboards. When the puck was cleared to where Gaudreau should have been, Maple Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly cut off the puck to score the equalizer.
Slump wasn't supposed to happen
Calgary now has lost six of its last eight outings. A slump like this wasn't supposed to happen to the Flames this year. They added defenceman Travis Hamonic and goalie Mike Smith in the offseason. It was widely felt that the Flames had assembled the best blue line in the game and Smith was a big-time upgrade in the crease.
Smith has been as advertised. He's been Calgary's best player so far this fall, but the Flames have not piled up victories as expected. They have been inconsistent. Their penalty killing has been weak and their defensive zone play has been sloppy.
"We know we have to be better," Jankowski said. "We have it in this room to be a great team. We need to live up to our expectations."
The 6-foot-4, 202-pound Jankowski, a centre, has lived up to expectations in his first NHL season, second as a pro after four years at Providence College.
He played his minor hockey in nearby St. Catharines, Ont., and as a result, he had 40 friends and family watching him live at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday.
He comes from a hockey family. His Dad, Len, played at Cornell University. His uncle, Ryan, is the Buffalo Sabres director of amateur scouting. Grandfather Lou's first wife was the sister of Hockey Hall of Famer Red Kelly.
'I learned a lot about him'
Lou, who passed away at age 78 in March 2010, was born in Regina, Sask., and raised in Hamilton, Ont. He was a tough-as-nails forward who spent three of his 18 pro seasons in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks.
Lou enjoyed his best seasons as a pro when he was with the Calgary Stampede of the old WHL. He scored 57 goals in 69 games in 1960-61 to win the Leader Cup as the league's MVP.
Recently, Mark visited the old Stampede Corral where his grandfather played for the Stampeders as part of a television feature.
"It was really cool to be in that rink where he played a lot of games and scored a lot of goals," Jankowski said. "I learned a lot about him."
After his playing days, Lou was a long-time scout for the New York Rangers. It was always special when Lou would make his way east and drop by to watch Mark play in his AAA minor games.
"We were pretty close, even though I would only see him a few times a year," Mark said. "It was always more exciting when you knew he was at your games."