McKenzie: It's playoffs or bust for Flames under Hartley

Bob McKenzie

1/8/2013 8:15:28 PM

TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie gets you set for the NHL season with a look at all seven Canadian teams. Next up, the Calgary Flames.

There will be no make the playoffs "guarantee" this year from Calgary Flames' general manager Jay Feaster, like there was prior to last season, but actions speak far louder than words anyway and it's safe to say the goal in Cowtown remains unchanged: it's playoffs or bust.
While some have wondered for years why the Flames don't embark on a full-scale tear-down, trade Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff and rebuild, last summer's free agency spree in Calgary leaves no doubt the mindset of Feaster and new head coach Bob Hartley.
You don't trade for Mike Cammalleri or sign Jiri Hudler or defenceman Dennis Wideman if you're rebuilding.

The Flames have a burning desire to get into the top eight in the West and will likely go as far as a top line of veterans Iginla, Cammalleri and Alex Tanguay up front and stalwart netminder Kiprusoff take them.

Hartley is a coach who isn't afraid to go to the whip and Calgary's best players will be rolled out and rolled out often.

That isn't to say the Flames' future is going up in smoke. The prospects cupboard, slowly but surely, is being re-stocked with not-quite-yet-ready talent such as John Gaudreau, Tyler Wotherspoon, Patrick Sieloff, Markus Granlund and Mark Jankowski but the crown jewel of the franchise's young guns is first-year pro Sven Baertschi, who will be given a chance to show he can play in the Flames top six up front. He could be a rookie of the year candidate if healthy, after coming off a neck injury that kept him out a month.
Calgary also needs Jaromir Jagr's old running mate from the KHL - centre Roman Cervenka - to be a player who can contribute offensively along with Hudler, who's had some injury problems this season but looks ready to go now.
The Flames will try to backfill with Curtis Glencross, Matt Stajan, Mikael Backlund and Lee Stempniak as potential Top 9 guys and there's no shortage of depth bodies such as Blair Jones, Tim Jackman, Blake Comeau, Roman Horak, Paul Byron, Ben Street and even old warhorse Steve Begin, who's in on a professional tryout.

If Mark Giordano, Jay Bouwmeester and Wideman play to potential, Calgary's blueline can be solid, with Chris Butler, Derek Smith, vet Cory Sarich, Anton Babchuk and Brett Carson providing depth. Hartley favourite Steve McCarthy will get a look on a professional tryout and youngsters T.J. Brodie and Chris Breen could challenge.
Goaltending is a strength and self explanatory. Kiprusoff will play almost all the games and Henrik Karlsson will be there when relief is required.
If things go well, the Flames hope to compete for a playoff spot. If things go poorly, they'll have to reconcile, one more time, why they shouldn't trade Iginla and/or Kiprusoff before the deadline.