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DEADLINE DEALINGS HAVE IGNITED FLAMES

Post-NHL Trade Deadline, the Flames are a confident group heading into their final stretch of games

by AARON VICKERS @AAVickers / CalgaryFlames.com

Buy or sell. 

Up to them.

It was the message Brad Treliving sent to his Flames in early February with the trade deadline fast approaching.

"I think a lot of what we do is going to be dependent on our play here in the next couple of weeks leading up into the deadline," Treliving said exactly three weeks back.  

"We're moving down a couple parallel paths." 

At the time, Calgary sat seven points back of the Edmonton Oilers for third in the Pacific Division, and trailed each of the Nashville Predators and Los Angeles Kings by a single point for each of the two wild card entries into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Western Conference.

Message sent. Message received.

The Flames took the feedback and posted a 6-1-1 record in the eight games they had to prove which path Treliving should take, leaving the GM with no choice but to build up his roster, not tear it down like he had to a year ago.

"We have to have belief in our dressing room and that's what we talked about coming off our tough stretch there in January," forward Matt Stajan said. "We have to believe in ourselves and we've been playing some good hockey since.

"We have confidence now.

"Everyone's meshing and we believe we can win every night. That's what you need. You have to have that belief otherwise there's no way you're going to win in this league."

Treliving showed that belief, too. 

He signed defenceman Matt Bartkowski to a try-out that transferred into a two-year, two-way contract and added Michael Stone, another rearguard, via a trade with the Arizona Coyotes in the week leading up to the deadline. 

His only deadline-day deal brought in forward Curtis Lazar and Mike Kostka in exchange for Jyrki Jokipakka and a 2017 second-round draft pick.  

Video: Lazar feeling confident heading into new chapter

Treliving's dealings delivered another message.

It's been received.

"It sends a clear message to our group," said captain Mark Giordano, whose Flames exit the deadline five points clear of the St. Louis Blues for the first wild card spot, and just two points back of the Anaheim Ducks for that third slot in the Pacific.  

"We made some moves earlier in the week. It sends a clear message that our organization believes we can win with this group.

"As players we get that message."

It's a much easier message to swallow than the one than presented Giordano's group 366 days ago.

Sitting 26-31-4 through 61 games in a disappointing 2015-16 season, Treliving had no choice but to be firmly fixed in selling-mode.

By day's end on Feb. 29, 2016, pending unrestricted free agents Kris Russell, David Jones, Jiri Hudler were shipped off in exchange for picks, prospects and potential.

"Last year we were a bit further out, obviously," Giordano said. "You sort of know guys who are UFAs and stuff like that, there's situations where you know guys are going to get moved.

"It was a lot different."

Not nearly as inspiring, either. 

"Last year was kind of tough," forward Michael Frolik said. "At this point we were kind of out of it and just played the rest of the season. It's great this year. It's a good mix here. You can feel the excitement in the room. We just have to keep doing what we're doing and we're getting better.

"So far it's working. We didn't need big changes. We just needed to add those few pieces. It seems like they fit pretty good, pretty quick. I think that's good for us. 

"Hopefully we can make the push."

It's what's expected.

The trade deadline made it clear. 

And the players are fine with that.

"It's obviously exciting to be in the situation we're in where you're pushing to the playoffs and trying to set yourself up for a little run here," Stajan said.

"It's a different situation for us. For me as an older guy and Gio and the guys who have been here a long time that's what we want. You don't want to be selling off at the deadline. 

"It was nice to see us be in the situation."

Energizing, too.

Coach Glen Gulutzan has already seen the boost his group has following Treliving's trade deadline dealings.

He sees a group ready to push, too.

"Our guys are excited," Gulutzan said. "I know that you can feel that on the ice. We have confidence. We have a bit of jump in our step here today. There's some good energy out there.

"That's one thing with the trade deadline being over it's a little bit of relief to the players, but also with what we did as an organization, I think it made our guys feel confident. We added a good, young player that we wanted to get. Everything else stayed relatively the same other than [Jokipakka] leaving. They understand that part.

"Our group, I think, is a little bit relieved today but also feels confident that management believes in this group."

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