Join TSN in a 30 teams in 30 days tour of the NHL in preparation for the upcoming season. This edition looks at the Calgary Flames. Get the lowdown on their off-season and the issues they face this season. And use the Your Call feature to give us your take on the Flames.
Change was good for the Calgary Flames last season. After dwelling in the cellar for much of the start of the year, GM Darryl Sutter stepped down and the team got into a winning groove. The team went on a 27-11-9 run the rest of the way and nearly snuck into the post-season.
Trying to continue that momentum into this year will be the task, but it won't be so easy. The Flames didn't make many moves in the off-season and will try to grind it out with an aging core that doesn't include mainstay Robyn Regehr on the blue line.
Here's a look at what's in store for this season.
Additions: RW Lee Stempniak, D Scott Hannan, C Paul Byron, D Chris Butler, LW/RW Pierre-Luc Letourneau-LeBlond.
Subtractions: C Daymond Langkow, D Robyn Regehr, D Adam Pardy, LW Fredrik Modin, RW Ales Kotalik.
Prospect Report: The Flames scooped up forward Sven Baertschi from the Portland Winterhawks in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. The 18-year-old from Switzerland is already considered the top prospect in the organization.
T.J. Brodie made the big club at the start of last season, but couldn't stick. He could be in position to be a regular this season, but there are a lot of names ahead of him on the depth chart (Giordano, Bouwmeester, Babchuk, Sarich, Hannan, Butler, Carson and Mikkelson).
Breakout Player To Watch: Mikael Backlund. Trying to find a skilled playmaker to make life easier for Jarome Iginla has been top priority for years - with little or no luck. The 22-year-old Backlund is pencilled into that duty this coming season. He finished with 10 goals and 15 assists as a rookie and his talents will get a chance to be showcased this season.
Marquee Matchup: Nov. 4 at Buffalo - The team will get their one and only look at long-time Flame Robyn Regehr, who was a cornerstone of Calgary's blue line for more than a decade.
Other Dates To Watch: Feb. 23 vs. Phoenix – It will be the first game against former Flame Langkow, who waived his no-trade clause to allow Calgary to deal him for Lee Stempniak.
Reason To Get Excited: The way it all ended last year. Sure, they didn't make the playoffs, but the GM change to eventually bring in Jay Feaster got Calgary back to playing a level of competitive hockey that was expected of them to start the year. That and watching Backlund fill the top line with Iginla should be a treat for Flames fans.
Home Hardware: It could be a long shot, but Jarome Iginla scored 43 goals last year and could be enough of a goal-scoring threat this season to challenge for another Rocket Richard Trophy.
Hot Seat: Jay Bouwmeester. The gift and the curse of talent is eventually reaching that potential. With Bouwmeester, he needs to tap into it for the Flames to be successful.
Your! Call: Do the Flames have enough to get back into the playoffs this year?
The Flames are banking on a lot of things working in their favour this season. They need Jarome Iginla to keep up his star status. They need Bouwmeester to move to the elite level on defence. They need Miikka Kiprusoff to be better and durable at the same time (he had 71 appearances last year).
More than anything else, they need their supporting cast to play at a consistent level all season long. Players like Alex Tanguay, Matt Stajan, Olli Jokinen and David Moss have to bring the effort every night and be productive.
Save for maybe Stempniak, Feaster did not add any impact players to the roster in the off-season.
So, unless he's got something in the works, he thinks this group can be just as competitive as the one that was among the NHL's best from January onwards. In the ultra-competitive Western Conference, that level of play all season might just have them in the playoffs.