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Flames, with Glen Gulutzan, aim for playoff return

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames surprised many two seasons ago when they not only qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but reached the Western Conference Second Round.

But the Flames took a step back in 2015-16, finishing fifth in the Pacific Division and failing to make the playoffs. It cost coach Bob Hartley his job on May 3.

After an extensive search for a replacement, Glen Gulutzan was hired on June 17. Gulutzan spent the past three seasons as an assistant coach with the Vancouver Canucks and was coach of the Dallas Stars from 2011-13.

Gulutzan won't be the only fresh face in Calgary; the Flames have a new No. 1 goaltender after acquiring Brian Elliott from the St. Louis Blues at the 2016 NHL Draft, and signed power forward Troy Brouwer as an unrestricted free agent July 1.

Here is what the Flames look like today:

KEY ARRIVALS: Brian Elliott, G: The Flames secured a No. 1 goaltender at the draft when they acquired Elliott from St. Louis for two draft picks. Elliott, 31, went 23-8-6 with a 2.07 GAA and a .930 save percentage last season. … Troy Brouwer, F: Brouwer had 18 goals and 21 assists in 82 games for the Blues last season after spending the previous four seasons with the Washington Capitals. Brouwer signed a four-year contract with the Flames July 1. … Chad Johnson, G: The Flames secured a backup goalie July 1 when Johnson signed a one-year contract. Johnson played a career-high 45 games last season when he went 22-16-4 with a 2.36 GAA and a .920 save percentage for the Buffalo Sabres.

KEY DEPARTURES: Jonas Hiller, G: Hiller is returning to his native Switzerland after signing a three-year contract with EHC Biel-Bienne in April. Hiller spent the past two seasons with Calgary after playing seven seasons with the Anaheim Ducks. … Joe Colborne, F: The Flames declined to give Colborne a qualifying offer, and he opted to sign with the Colorado Avalanche as an unrestricted free agent July 1. Colborne scored a career-high 19 goals in 73 games for the Flames last season.

ON THE CUSP: Matthew Tkachuk, F: The son of former NHL power forward Keith Tkachuk, the Flames' first round pick (No. 6) at this year's draft had 30 goals and 77 assists in 57 games last season for London of the Ontario Hockey League. The Flames might opt to send Tkachuk back to London for more seasoning, but expect the 18-year-old to make a push in training camp. … Emile Poirier, F: Calgary's first round pick (No. 22) at the 2013 NHL Draft is coming off his second season in the American Hockey League, where he had 12 goals and 17 assists in 60 games for Stockton in 2015-16. … Rasmus Andersson, D: A second round pick (No. 53) in 2015, the 6-foot, 210-pound defenceman had 60 points and a plus-34 rating in 64 games for Barrie in the OHL last season.

WHAT THEY STILL NEED: Brouwer was a nice signing and will provide leadership and some punch on the power play, but the Flames could still use another top-six forward to help solidify their chances of returning to the playoffs. Left wing Hunter Shinkaruk shows promise (he had 27 goals in 62 AHL games last season), but it may be asking a lot for the 21-year-old to step in and play on the second line this fall.

PETE JENSEN'S FANTASY FOCUS: The Flames missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2015-16, but Johnny Gaudreau, 22, improved on his strong rookie point total (64) with 78 points in 79 games. The 2011 fourth round pick continued his meteoric fantasy rise, finishing 33rd in Yahoo's year-end rankings based on standard-category performance. Now, with stable goaltending with Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson, the Flames could become a more efficient team. Gaudreau was one of five forwards with at least 75 points, 20 power play points and 200 shots on goal last season, and is worthy of selection in the late first or early second round of fantasy drafts depending on league size.

Author: Brian Compton | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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