NHL.com continues its preview of the 2013-14 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.
The 2013-14 season figures to be a rebuilding campaign for the Calgary Flames, who haven't made the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2009. The Flames finished 13th in the Western Conference last season and have seen Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff, the last two links to the 2004 team that came within one victory of winning the Stanley Cup, leave in the past six months.
Here are three key issues the Flames face at training camp as they prepare for the new season:
1. Who replaces Miikka Kiprusoff? -- Now that Kiprusoff officially has retired, the No. 1 goaltending job is wide open. The Flames gave Karri Ramo a two-year, $5.5 million contract this summer after the former Tampa Bay Lightning goalie excelled during four seasons in Russia. He'll battle veteran Joey MacDonald, who played well enough after being claimed on waivers last season to earn a one-year deal, Swiss rookie Reto Berra and 2009 sixth-round pick Joni Ortio, who turned heads with his play during the Young Stars Tournament prior to the start of training camp.
MacDonald has the most NHL experience. Ramo has the biggest salary and is the only one with a multi-year contract. He, Berra and Ortio played well overseas and showed they could handle a starter's workload.
Coach Bob Hartley said he will audition everyone during the preseason as he tries to find a successor to the winningest goaltender in franchise history.
"Nobody expects anybody to fill his shoes, to be a new [Kiprusoff]," Ramo said. "Everybody has to be themselves and see how it's going to play out. It's going to be a tough challenge."
2. Who steps into Jarome Iginla's skates as team leader? -- Not only is Iginla the leading goal-scorer in franchise history, he became the face of the franchise and was one of the NHL's most respected leaders during the 10 years he served as captain in Calgary. His departure via a late-season trade left a hole in the dressing room as well as on the ice.
Among the likeliest candidates to replace him as captain are forwards Mike Cammalleri and Curtis Glencross, as well as defenseman Mark Giordano; the latter two served as alternate captains last season.
Hartley told the media as camp opened that he's decided on a new captain, but didn't want to name him yet. At the same time, he hinted that things would be different than it was when Iginla was the club's unquestioned leader.
"The No. 1 quality of a captain, you have to be a great individual and that goes with the choice that we made," he said. "At the same time, it's added responsibilities, but this year it's about being a team. We don't have that one or two big names on our team. We're going to have to be a very tight family whether we're on the ice, off the ice, in the gym."
3. Are Sven Baertschi and Sean Monahan ready for prime time? -- Baertschi, the Flames' first-round pick (No. 13) in 2011, triggered "Svenmania" when he scored three goals during a five-game emergency recall cameo in 2011-12. He had 17 points in 19 games last season for the Flames' American Hockey League, the Abbotsford Heat, before a neck injury knocked him out of the lineup for six weeks, then struggled through a hip flexor injury before finishing the season with three goals and nine points in Calgary's final seven games. The Flames need the 20-year-old to build on that strong finish.
They're also hoping Monahan, the first of their three first-round picks and the sixth player taken in the 2013 NHL Draft, will be ready to fill one of the vacancies at center. Monahan has added size and strength since being drafted at the end of June; he's up to 200 pounds, which should help him cope with the demands of NHL play should the Flames decide he's ready for it.
"Right now I'm not looking to go back to junior," he said. "If that happens it'll be a disappointment, but something I'll deal with."
Monahan also will face big expectations, a situation Baertschi knows all about.
"You're a first-round pick, you go into Calgary, a hockey town, and you're supposed to bring something," he said. "That's the challenge that he has in front of him. I had that challenge."
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