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The Flames captain and his squad head into the season with heightened expectations

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

It's a century kinda thing.

"If you look, 100 points gets you into the playoffs,'' says Mark Giordano. "For sure. 

"That's gotta be our goal.

"Ninety-something is usually the cut-off. But 100 gets you in.

"We know that. Now we've gotta get there. That's got to be our mindset. Not to just want to sneak in. We want to be a solid team the whole way."

The Calgary Flames a 100-point entry?

That's certainly a highly do-able target.

At 45-33-4, weighed down by a feeling-out start to a new coaching regime, they flirted capriciously with the magical number a year ago.

They haven't collected that many in any season since 2005-06 (103) - way back in the days of Iginla and Kiprusoff, Sutter and Regehr and Phaneuf.

On a late-summer late morning that Travel Alberta would happily use in its brochures, the Italian Open is set to tee of out at Pinebrook Golf Club in support of a number of local charities.

As unseasonably, blissfully warm as this Monday is, though, September beckons. And its arrival heralds the return of the winter preoccupation of this hockey-mad city.

"We're excited,'' says tournament host Giordano, the skipper, recently back in town after a generally soggy summer out east.

"Every team's going to tell you the same thing. It's that fresh feeling every time you come into camp.

"But for sure, there's an urgency this year. As players, we have to push harder because our management, our coaches, our entire organization, have put us in a great position."

Video: The best of Giordano from the 2016-17 season

There's a buzz, an anticipation, around town. It's tangible.

Adding a bonafide top-four defenceman in Travis Hamonic at the NHL Draft, the revamped goaltending partnership of Mike Smith and Eddie Lack, the players' familiarity with coach Glen Gulutzan, his staff and system, a slew of both individual and collective positives to draw upon - Johnny and Monny, the 3M Line, Dougie Hamilton's emergence into the front-rank along the blueline, improved special teams, the upsides of Micheal Ferland, Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett - moving forward … they've combined to whet the imagination of the faithful and fire the ambition of the principals involved.

"We have to handle expectations in a positive way,'' gently lectures Giordano. "We can't let it beat us up, we can't get down, if things don't go the way we want them to, especially early in the season.

"Our expectations are to come out of the gate and have a great start, though. That's what every team is looking to do.

"We have to have a sharp camp, be really focused as players and then take it to the next step, come out of the gates and have a better start.

"Last year as a group I thought we came a long way. Over the course of the season we really stuck with it. We came out of it and should be proud of that.

"But, really, getting into the playoffs and being swept in four games stings. No matter how you spin it, it feels like a disappointment.

"We know we have more. We know we can go further this year."

Slotting Hamonic into the mix, most likely beside the ultra-smooth TJ Brodie to complement the Giordano-Hamilton pairing, provides the Flames with as solid a top-four as can be found anywhere.

"(Hamonic) comes in and that element, the edge, is huge for us,'' agrees Giordano. "But let's not take away from the other parts of his game - he can really skate, move the puck and contribute.

"I just think him and Brods, if they start together, are a good fit. Again, the league's sorta gone to the leftie-rightie pairings.

"They get together in camp, hopefully, and jell and go from there. I just think you're putting two great hockey players together so it should work out."

September beckons. Training camp nears.

Anticipation is keen. Expectations are high.

"The final goal,'' says Giordano, "is obviously to win. There's 30 teams thinking the same way.

"Now the slate's wiped clean. Everyone has that chance again.

"We liked the moves we've made. Filled some holes we needed to fill.

"Management has put us in a great position to success. So it's on the players. It's on us to go put the work in.

"Now it's time to play the game."

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