Low-profile Albelin delivers in Calgary

Originally published on EuroReport.com in 1999

By Lucas Aykroyd

It seems like Tommy Albelin has spent his entire NHL career in the hockey backwaters, whichever way you look at it. After graduating from Djurgarden of the Swedish Elite League, he broke in with the now-defunct Quebec Nordiques in 1987-88 during one of the franchise’s worst spells. 1988-89 brought the 6-1, 194-pound defenseman to powerful but plodding New Jersey, where he would enjoy a Stanley Cup victory in 1994-95 with a squad consisting mostly of low-profile names after Martin Brodeur, Scott Stevens, and Claude Lemieux. But in 1995-96, Albelin was shipped to Calgary with Cale Hulse and Jocelyn Lemieux in exchange for Dan Keczmer and Phil Housley, and this year marks the Stockholm native’s fourth full season with the still-emerging Flames. Ironically, Housley is now Albelin’s partner on the Calgary blueline. EuroReport’s Lucas Aykroyd caught up with Albelin after Fred Brathwaite backstopped the Flames to a 2-0 shutout of the Vancouver Canucks at GM Place on 26 December, improving Calgary’s record to 6-2-3 in the last 11 games.

EuroReport: Your team’s had a great December. How do you feel about your contribution in recent games?

Tommy Albelin: I think as a team we’ve been playing really well, and when the team plays well, it’s easy to play well as individuals. That’s something I’ve benefited from. Team play is our total focus right now.

EuroReport: Do you see any differences in Brian Sutter’s coaching approach this season?

Albelin: No. It’s the same. But we’re a little more concerned about defense than last year, maybe. We’re taking better care of our own end, because we don’t have any big scorers, except for Val [Bure]. Last year we had Theoren Fleury and Andrew Cassels, guys who could put the puck in the net and dominate. But this season we came in saying we had to tighten up defensively, or else we won’t win too many games. That’s what we’ve done the last month.

EuroReport: How do you approach playing with an offensive defenseman like Phil Housley?

Albelin [chuckling]: I just do whatever he doesn’t do! He’s so good with the puck, so I let him handle the puck most of the time and cover for him. I try to stay open for him too.

EuroReport: You’ve got a lot of young players on this team, including defensemen like Robyn Regehr and Denis Gauthier. What do you try to teach the young guys based on your experience?

Albelin: Mostly, I tell them to hold on to the puck in certain situations, and also to stay aware of who they’re playing against. If it’s Alexander Mogilny, say, you’ve got to treat him differently than a lot of other guys, because he’s so fast. Small tips like that. How to play the puck, when to dump it in, and so on.

EuroReport: Right now, the world junior championships are taking place in your homeland. What are your memories from your first world juniors in Leningrad in 1983?

Albelin: There are always great memories. That was the first time we played against Canadians and Americans that went on to play in the NHL. It was a great test for us. It was fun to be there.

EuroReport: Vancouver fans are excited about Daniel and Henrik Sedin coming here next year. What are your impressions of the twins from watching them play?

Albelin: Actually, last summer we had a golf tournament up where they live. They were playing for MoDo at the time. They looked really good, even though it was still summer. I think they’re going to have a great impact on this Vancouver team next year.

EuroReport: Finally, what areas would you like to see your team improve in the second half in order to make the playoffs?

Albelin: I think we still have to make adjustments on defense, so we can play as a five-man unit. Sometimes we have breakdowns in our own zone. If we can eliminate those, we’re going to be fine.

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