Flames Looking to Burn Opponents in 2014-15

Mark Giordano and the Flames look to improve this year (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHL via Getty Images)

Mark Giordano and the Flames look to improve this year (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHL via Getty Images)

The Calgary Flames’ rebuilding period officially began last season, and concluded with a 35-40-7 finish, 77 points and sixth place in the Pacific division. They finished 23rd in the league in goals scored, 24th in goals against, 24th in power play (15.7 percent) and 18th in penalty kill (81.7 percent).

That was good enough to land them the fourth-overall pick in this year’s draft, where they grabbed center Sam Bennett from the Western League’s Kingston Frontenacs. Bennett’s 91 points in 57 games with the Frontenacs last year are incredibly difficult to argue against.

Sam Bennett (photo : Agence QMI)

Sam Bennett (photo : Agence QMI)

He joins a group of prospects that also includes Hobey Baker-winner Johnny Gaudreau, Sven Baertschi, Tyler Wotherspoon and Markus Granlund, in addition to a top-10 pick the Flames can make a strong case for next season. Factor in other young core players such as Mikael Backlund, T.J. Brodie, Joe Colbourne, Mark Giordano and 2013’s sixth-overall pick Sean Monahan, and the Flames will have plenty of youth going forward.

In the 2013-14 campaign, 22 of 44 players that suited up for the Flames were 24-years-old or younger. Forty-nine of their games were decided by one goal — pretty competitive for a young team.

Between the pipes, Karri Ramo returns after a season that saw him post a 16-15-4 record, 2.65 GAA and .911 SP in 40 games. He is joined by free agent acquisition Jonas Hiller, who left Anaheim’s goalie carousel after the emergence of John Gibson and Frederik Andersen. It’s not crystal-clear who will earn the starting job, but both goalies could work well in a 1A/1B situation.

Karri Ramo will be a key for the Flames (Photograph by: Colleen De Neve Colleen De Neve , Calgary Herald)

Karri Ramo will be a key for the Flames (Photograph by: Colleen De Neve Colleen De Neve , Calgary Herald)

The Flames are also led by a brain trust that includes president of hockey operations Brian Burke, coach Bob Hartley and new GM Brad Treliving. Burke and Hartley have two Stanley Cups between them, while Treliving has served since 2003 in the Arizona Coyotes organization as assistant GM as well as GM of the San Antonio Rampage. While Burke’s tenure and rebuilding efforts in his latest job with Toronto were much-maligned, he has a prime chance to start over and implement his rebuild process with the young Flames.

In 11 seasons and 780 games behind an NHL bench, Hartley possesses a record of 383-291-61-45. His lone Cup win came with the star-studded 2000-01 Colorado Avalanche, and was fired mid-season just two seasons later. He didn’t have much to work with as coach of the small-market Atlanta Thrashers, but he’ll still have the chance to instill what he’s learned in his third season with the Flames.

The Fiery Bob Hartley (photo : Archives AFP )

The Fiery Bob Hartley (photo : Archives AFP
)

The biggest obstacle the Flames face in their rebuild is the Western Conference, and their own Pacific Division. With power teams such as Los Angeles, Chicago, St. Louis, Anaheim, San Jose and Minnesota, as well as burgeoning clubs like Colorado, Dallas and Arizona, the West is a difficult conference for any rebuilding franchise. With three teams from each division and two wild cards making the playoffs, the Flames have little-to-no shot at a playoff berth, but playing those tough Western clubs is helpful in the long term for a young, competitive club.

The past several seasons have been difficult for the Flames and their fans, with two consecutive losing seasons and a playoff drought since 2009. 2014-15 still won’t be easy, as the rebuild will only continue. While the Flames will leave much to be desired in the short term, if they continue to ice a competitive, young club, they’ll be on the path to contend in just a matter of seasons.

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