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Flames' rebuild ready for next important step

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- The Calgary Flames took the first step in their rebuilding process last season.

The success of the next step, being evaluated by new general manager Brad Treliving, may not be measured in the standings for a team that finished 27th in the NHL last season.

"Ultimately, we need to continue to take that step forward," said Treliving, who was named to his position April 28. "The simplest way is looking at point totals from one year to the next. I don't think that tells the entire story when you look at a team that's growing. We want to continue to take a step forward. We want to continue to grow as an organization.

"We want to identify players that we feel can be with us as we go forward long-term. To me, that's a big part of, as we move forward, a big thing we're looking at is that we've collectively and individually have taken a positive step forward."

Sean Monahan was an important piece in the first step of Calgary's rebuild. After being selected No. 6 in the 2013 NHL Draft, the forward stepped into the Flames lineup at 18 years old and had 22 goals and 34 points in 75 games.

The soon-to-be sophomore has a more tangible measuring stick for progress: the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I think our goal right now is to be in a playoff position and be able to compete in the playoffs," Monahan said. "It's something we're striving for as a team and something I'm looking forward to be a part of.

"I don't think there's anybody in the League that doesn't want to play in the playoffs. That's everyone's goal and that's what we're working toward."

Monahan and the Flames may be in tough, though.

Gone is forward Mike Cammalleri and his team-leading 26 goals, and wing TJ Galiardi and defenceman Chris Butler departed via free agency.

Forward Mason Raymond, defenceman Deryk Engelland and goalie Jonas Hiller, signed with Calgary when free agency opened July 1.

Those signings not only addressed organizational needs but offered an option of bolstering an identity which helped the Flames stay competitive, evidenced by tying an NHL record with 49 one-goal games last season.

"All three have great character; they're veteran guys," Treliving said. "With Mason, one of the areas we wanted to look at was we wanted to increase the foot speed of our team. Mason does that. We're not a deep team in terms of offense. He gives us some offense.

"Deryk, we wanted to add some size to our blue line. Deryk adds a bit of weight and some size (6-fot2, 215 pounds) and we wanted to make our crease a bit more difficult place to play. He'll do that.

"And when you add Hiller, a veteran guy who has had success in the League, you're not conceding the net to anybody. I think we've created competition in the goal. I think we've brought in a goaltender who has had success in this League. It'll make the position better."

Calgary also acquired forward Brandon Bollig in a draft-day trade which sent a third-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks. In 125 games during three seasons with the Blackhawks, Bollig has seven goals, 14 points and 201 minutes in penalties.

"Brandon's a big, physical guy (6-2, 223) but we think there's more game there," Treliving said. "We looked throughout the League. Are there maybe some people who fit the profile in wanting to add a bit more size and juice up front, but given an earned opportunity, more responsibility, more ice time, could his role and game grow? We think there is with him."

The expectation is Calgary's new players will help the emerging core continue to take steps in the proper direction.

Defenceman Mark Giordano had a career year in his first season after inheriting the captaincy from Jarome Iginla. Forwards Mikael Backlund, Monahan and Joe Colborne have been challenged by Treliving to help with the growth.

Backlund recorded his highest totals in goals (18), assists (21) and points, and Colborne and Monahan asserted themselves as NHL regulars in their rookie seasons.

"That's part of it. We need people that take steps forward and that's the message I've given to young guys," Treliving said. "Joe Colborne's a young guy (24), but he has to take a step forward. Brandon Bollig, there's an opportunity for him, the Monahans, the Backlunds."

That suits Monahan.

"Obviously it was my first year last year and I didn't know what to expect, but it was a good learning experience for myself," he said. "From my own standpoint, I think I've got a lot better to offer.

"As a team, we do too. This year, with some of the guys we've brought in, I think they'll be a big help and we're moving in the right direction.

"I think last year, every day we had something to build on. This year, we'll be even better. We're a hard-working group and a very tight team. That's big for success and something that will really help us down the road."


2013-14 record: 35-40-7, 77 points. Sixth in Pacific Division, 13th in Western Conference

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Did not qualify

Additions: G Jonas Hiller, D Deryk Engelland, LW Mason Raymond, LW Brandon Bollig

Subtractions: G Joey MacDonald, D Shane O'Brien, D Chris Butler, D Derek Smith, LW TJ Galiardi, LW Mike Cammalleri, C Blair Jones, C Ben Street

Pending free agents: C Lance Bouma (RFA)

Promotion candidates: D Tyler Wotherspoon, D Mark Cundari, LW Johnny Gaudreau, LW David Wolf, C Markus Granlund, C Max Reinhart

Top 2014 NHL Draft picks: C Sam Bennett (No. 4), G Mason McDonald (No. 34), RW Hunter Smith (No. 54)

Author: Aaron Vickers | Correspondent

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