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Giordano weighs in on team's newcomers, including Neal: "He battles. He gets in your face. He's relentless that way."

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

That shot. An emphatic flick of the wrists and zing! Unleashed with the torque of a wet towel snapped in a stiff breeze.

"He finds a way to get it off so quick and, what's as important, is really, really accurate with it,'' marvels Flames' captain Mark Giordano of new band-mate James Neal.

"That's a pretty dangerous combination.

"We've played against him a lot over the years and the way he shoots the puck is really what stands out for me. You can't give him any room out there.

"I also think one of his underrated qualities is that he's no picnic to play against.

"He battles. He gets in your face. He's relentless that way. He's not afraid to go to the net, plant himself in front and grind out goals. Which explains why he's been able to score 20-plus goals for so many years."

Adding consistently productive right-winger Neal as a UFA on Monday continues the re-shaping of the team, following in the wake of the signings/acquisitions of centre Derek Ryan, right-wing/centre Elias Lindholm and d-man Noah Hanifin from the Carolina Hurricanes, along with highly-regarded forward Austin Czarnik from the Boston Bruins' organization.

"Getting (Neal) is a big pick-up, a great fit for our team,'' says Giordano. "With the players we've added over the last number of days, weeks, it's become a pretty deep group.

"We don't play against the guys from Carolina much, or anyone out east, you only get 'em a couple times a year but with everything out there nowadays, social media, endless highlights, you are able to get a better feel for all the players and teams.

"In that way, the league seems a lot smaller than it used to. And I've heard lots of good things about all of our pick-ups."

With the departure of Dougie Hamilton to Carolina, there's a chance that Giordano and T.J. Brodie will be reunited as a defence pair, at least to kick things off in early October.

"Brodes and I had built a lot of chemistry,'' reminds Giordano. "We haven't played together for a couple of seasons but before that we were together for close to three years. We're good friends on and off the ice. We'll get used to each other again real quick if we're put together again, I'm sure."

The number of new faces slotted into key on-ice roles, married to the early days of a largely-revamped coaching staff headed up by Bill Peters, makes the meshing process even more critical.

"There's always a bit of anxiety when you undergo a lot of change,'' acknowledges Giordano. "But listen, we didn't get in. We weren't in the playoffs. We underachieved in our opinion and when that happens you understand there'll be change.

"We don't just have new players. There's a whole new system coming in. New coaches. So it'll be a process but it's also a clean slate for everyone. We all start fresh.

"The additions create a lot of different scenarios for our team up front, a lot of possibilities, but that's a good thing. 

"It's up to us to find the right combinations.

"We should be a team that competes and wins. As an older guy who's been around a while you know there's always optimism at the start of every season but after the moves we've made it seems there's even more heading into this one.

"Tre (GM Brad Treliving) has shown again that he's one of the hardest-working guys in the game. He's constantly trying to make us better.

"He's brought in some quality players, made us a deeper team.

"He's definitely done his job. So now it's on us, it's on the players, to do ours."

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