CALGARY, AB -- New faces, including coach Glen Gulutzan, has captain Mark Giordano optimistic there will be a renewed spark behind the Calgary Flames this season.
The Flames qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and advanced to the Western Conference Second Round two seasons ago, then struggled under heightened expectations. Calgary was 35-40-7 last season, fifth in the Pacific Division and 10 points behind the Minnesota Wild for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference.
"I think any time when I've been around when a new coaching staff comes in or a new coach comes in, there are certain guys who are looking for a clean slate and looking for that fresh start," Giordano said Monday. "There are other guys who have to try to prove themselves to a new set of eyes. What it does create, from my experience, is that the energy goes a long way and can carry over.
"For all of us, it's going to be a fresh start and a clean slate. And yeah, any time the new coaches come in, the new players come in, there's that excitement and buzz around camp. Hopefully, we can carry that energy into the regular season."
Gulutzan was hired June 17 to replace Bob Hartley, who won the 2015 Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year after the Flames made their first playoff appearance since 2009 and won a series for the first time since 2004. Hartley, who was fired May 3, was 134-135-25 in four seasons with Calgary.
Gulutzan was 64-57-9 in two seasons as coach of the Dallas Stars.
"I've met [Gulutzan] a few times," Giordano said. "I spoke with him today, great conversations. He has a lot of ideas and insight. He's been great, just talking to him even on the phone a few times over the summer. It's been nothing but positive."
A new coach is one of many reasons for Giordano's optimism. New goaltenders are another.
The Flames did not re-sign any of the four goaltenders who played for them last season, when Karri Ramo, Jonas Hiller, Niklas Backstrom and Joni Ortio combined for an NHL-worst .898 save percentage; Calgary allowed a League-high 257 goals, 16 of which went into an empty net.
Calgary acquired Brian Elliott in a trade with the St. Louis Blues on June 24 and signed free agent Chad Johnson to a one-year contract on July 1.
Among NHL goalies with at least 50 games played since 2011-12, Elliott is first in GAA (2.01) and second in save percentage (.925; Cory Schneider of the New Jersey Devils leads at .926) and shutouts (25; Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings is first with 28).
"It's no secret … I think goaltending is a No. 1 area in the League and what drives most teams in the League," Giordano, a defenceman, said. "Playing against [Elliott], I think he's a really underrated guy to be honest. I think people don't give him the credit that he deserves. He's had a great career. In St. Louis, he was great last year. Looking at the numbers is one thing, but looking at how he plays and his style, he's going to help us out big time."
Calgary signed right wing Troy Brouwer to a four-year contract. Since 2009-10, he's had from 17 to 25 goals and 33 to 43 points each season, and has 150 goals and 294 points in 613 career NHL games.
"He's a big body (6-foot-3, 215 pounds)," Giordano said. "He demands a lot of respect out there and has been a solid player in the League for a lot of years. I think what separates him a lot from other players. … I've watched him in playoffs a bunch of times, and he's always a huge playoff performer."
With Brouwer, Elliott and Johnson in the fold, and Gulutzan behind the bench, Giordano said he is eager to get to training camp and erase the frustrations from last season.
"I think all the additions we've made, we're optimistic they'll work out and it's all positive," Giordano said.
"I think I'm more anxious than anything. After the way last year went, a lot of us were pretty disappointed in the way that season went. Our goal was to get back into the playoffs and compete and we were never there last year. We're really anxious to get the season going, get training camp going, really excited. We have some change with the new coaching staff. I'm just excited to get it going."
Author: Aaron Vickers | NHL.com Correspondent