When Kris Russell was picked up by the Calgary Flames on July 5, 2013 many didn’t know what to expect heading into the 2013/14 National Hockey League season.
Expectations weren’t high among many Flames fans for the former Columbus Blue Jackets and St Louis Blues defender, Russell would eventually form an important part of the Flames defensive core during the 2013/14 NHL season.
Russell would finish the season with 29 points from 68 games played, consisting of 7 goals and 22 assists. While his plus-minus rating would finish at -11, Russell would show plenty of promise throughout the season and should only improve once Russell continues to get more settled at the Saddledome.
Placed on waivers following the 2012/13 NHL season by St Louis, Russell was not believed to be in their top seven defencemen within the hockey club. After going unclaimed on waivers Russell would eventually be dealt to Calgary, for a fifth round selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
Russell had always defied the odds, discarded early in his hockey career due to his stature, the smaller and lighter Russell would initially have to go that extra mile to secure to a professional NHL contract, which he did with Columbus prior to the 2007/08 season.
Once in Calgary, Russell would equal or post career bests in all major categories, with goals, assists, points and plus minus getting better with his first season at the Calgary Flames.
Not only would Russell show improvement as a defender for Calgary, his passing out of the defensive zone would become a positive for the Flames during the NHL season and was highlighted by his career best season in assists.
It’s was this improvement that would see Russell given a two-year extension in February worth US$2.6 million per season, and at 26 years of age Russell is entering a period of his hockey life where any athlete across any sporting code begins to reach the prime of their career.
Fans of the Calgary Flames also seem to have warmed to Russell, a recent poll run by the Calgary Sun suggesting that supporters want to see Russell given more of an opportunity under Bob Hartley next season. I couldn’t agree more.
There is a common trait Kris Russell shares with some of his Calgary Flames teammates, he is a native of the province of Alberta, Canada.
Late in the Jay Feaster run era of the Calgary Flames, player acquisitions seemed to be favouring those who were Albertan natives, with Russell joining a list which includes players such as Joe Colborne, Corban Knight and TJ Galiardi among recent draftees.
Having local talent can often play an important role for a hockey club, players will find their environment comfortable, be familiar with the surroundings and display a passion for the jersey that they have grown up watching.
Whether or not this plays a part in the Kris Russell situation, we don’t know, we would have to ask Russell himself.
One thing we do know, Kris Russell’s homecoming has gone absolutely perfect so far.