It's certainly a weird sight to see Engelland's name sandwiched in-between that of Brodie and Giordano. The only time Calgary's depth chart on the blue-line looks like that is when you list the names in alphabetical order.
But there is one other place where those three names come in that order. That's in the Flames dressing room where Engelland's stall is what separates the stalls belonging to Calgary's prolific top defence pairing.
It was here where a few days ago, I sat down with the personable defenceman one-on-one to discuss his pro hockey career so far, the adjustments faced this season in coming to a new team and new conference and in particular, his improved play in recent weeks.
Of course, the place to start would be the much criticized contract he signed on July 1 in which the unrestricted free agent signed a three-year/$8.7 million deal with the Flames.
Looking Back on July 1
"It was my first time ever (being a UFA) so it was a little nerve-wracking going into it," recalls Engelland. "The day of the signing, a couple hours felt like all day."
When the 32-year-old player went from an annual salary of $575,000 in 2013-14 to $3,000,000 for this season, it not only raised eyebrows league-wide but also raised the ire of a skeptical Flames fan base.
"It still hasn't completely sunk in," says Engelland of his big pay day. "I wasn't expecting that, going off what guys got in the years before. It was a little bit more than I thought but it just shows how much they wanted me and they wanted to make the decision very easy."
Last summer saw the NHL introduce a change to the UFA courting process, giving teams permission to contact players and vice versa during the week prior to July 1. Calgary wasted little time in letting Engelland know that they were interested in his services.
"I talked to Brian (Burke), Bob (Hartley) and Brad (Treliving) -- all within the first day of being able to talk to them," Engelland says. "To have all three of them call you shows that they have some interest in you and what they had to say to me and what they wanted from me, I thought it was a good fit."
Engelland takes a lot of heat for the value of the contract although if you think about it, it's not necessarily fair. He didn't offer the contract, he merely accepted it. Regardless, he knows there will be increased scrutiny on him this year as a result.
"Personally, when I have a bad game, it doesn't matter if I'm on this contract or making league minimum like last year, but it definitely puts some pressure on you," says Engelland. "Getting that raise, you want to raise your ability too but my style of game is what got me here and got me that contract so I've got to stick to that and just go out and try to keep pucks out of our net."
While his annual salary suddenly shot up 500 percent, he's still the same player with the Flames this fall as he was playing for Pittsburgh last spring.
"It never hurts to get a point here or there but that's not what I'm here for, that's not what they brought me in for, we have four guys that are doing a pretty good job of that," says Engelland, who is 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds. "My role is to bring that physical presence and toughness. We have a young, small team so just give them a little more room and confidence out there that nobody is going to take liberties on them."
New Team, New Coach, New System
When you've been in the same organization as long as Engelland had been -- seven years with the Penguins, there is going to be an adjustment period when you move on. It's unavoidable.
There's adapting to a new coach, a new defensive system and there's also the switch in conference from the East to the West.
"From day one, it's been a lot different. Probably the biggest change for me personally is the way we play rushes," says Engelland. "We have a lot of pressure from our forwards coming back. As defencemen, we back in and let them do the work. In Pittsburgh, we were playing the rush early and trying to create turnovers at the blueline."
He says it has taken some time to adjust but now he's feeling way more confident and at ease in Hartley's system.
"For me -- midway through the season now, I'm not thinking about what I'm supposed to be doing, it's just reaction. It's taken a little bit of time but I'm feeling more comfortable with it."
Playing His Best Hockey of the Year
Asked if he's playing his best hockey of the season right now, Engelland responds without hesitation.
"For sure, 100 percent," he says. "I felt like for the first 20 games, I played in the defensive zone the whole game, every game. Now, we're spending a little more time in their zone and less in ours and that's exactly what you want. To wear teams down by playing in their end and if Raffi (Diaz) and I can continue to do that, that's a good game for us."
Conventional statistics would back up Engelland too. In the last 10 games, he's only been on the ice for two even-strength goals against and both of those could be excusable given the circumstances.
For the first one, I did not have to remind him of when it was nor did I have to inform him that at the time of our conversation, it had been the only even-strength goal-against him in the last few weeks. He was well aware and he knew precisely what play it came on. It was on the first shot of the game by the Kings in the last game before Christmas -- a soft wrister from Trevor Lewis from the sideboards, viewed universally by anyone not in the Flames dressing room as an awful goal by Hiller, who simply didn't look ready and missed it with his trapper.
"Oh, I know exactly the goal that we were on for. It was kind of a lucky goal, I guess, a shot from a ways out that just dropped a foot on Hillsy. You take that out of there and it's been a pretty good stretch."
Engelland says it's no coincidence that his increased ice time over this period has correlated to his improved play. Where with Hartley, improved play leads to players getting more ice time. For Engelland, more ice time leads to improved play. It's the classic 'chicken and the egg' scenario.
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