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Progress, goalie among Flames' five questions

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- The Calgary Flames will look to continue the rebuild which began last season.

How the Flames are able to do so, and how Calgary defines its success in 2014-15, are among five questions they'll be looking to answer this season:

1. Can the Flames take positive steps forward? -- The Flames finished 27th in the NHL standings last season with 77 points, but there were plenty of reasons for optimism. In the first year of a rebuild, the Flames fielded a competitive team which tied an NHL record for games decided by one goal (49).

Though new general manager Brad Treliving isn't necessarily measuring success in wins and points, progress remains a necessity.

"The expectation every day is we come out and we get better and we work," he said. "I think the demands that our coaching staff puts on the players is the expectation to get better. This isn't something we can sit here and say, 'Well, it was a great story last year and we did a lot of good things and we all felt good.' The fact of the matter is, we have to get better. It wasn't good enough last year.

"The expectation that we've put on ourselves internally and the demands we're going to put on people internally is not going to allow us to stand still because ultimately in this business, if you're standing still, if you think you're maintaining, you're going backward. If you're not moving forward, you're slipping."

2. How will Calgary's new front office function during the season? -- The executive staff which will start this season for Calgary differs drastically from the one in place a year ago.

Gone are GM Jay Feaster and assistant GM John Weisbrod, who were let go in mid-December. President of hockey operations Brian Burke named Treliving the GM in late April. Treliving, in turn, appointed Craig Conroy and hired former Hockey Canada executive Brad Pascall as his assistants prior to the 2014 NHL Draft.

"It's been really good," he said. "It's a working group. The on-ice part when you're trying to mesh players and teams together, you have to do that off the ice as well. You have to calibrate your staff. The chemistry's been good. There's lots of enthusiasm. We know the job ahead of us. We've got a lot of work to do. The group is a working group. They're not afraid of the challenge."

3. Can Mark Giordano replicate his performance from last season? -- At 30 and in his seventh full season of NHL action, the defenceman set career marks in goals (14), assists (33), points (47), power-play goals (7) and game-winning goals (2). He did so despite missing 18 games with a broken ankle sustained in the opening month of the season.

Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators and Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks were the only two NHL defencemen to average more points-per-game than Giordano. Nine saw more ice time per game than Giordano, and among those, three had a better plus/minus.

What Calgary's captain brought to the Flames last season transcends statistics, Treliving said.

"The thing that I was really impressed with last year was not only the step he's taken as a player but just as a leader," the GM said. "You could tell this team had his DNA. He [dragged] this team along. You could tell that from the outside. You could tell he was the heartbeat of this group. The conversations that I've had with him since coming here, he's embraced that role.

"I can't say enough good things about Mark Giordano and I haven't even played a game with him yet. I'm really, really looking forward to working with him. He embodies everything we want to be about."

4. Which prospects will be ready to contribute? -- Last season, 18-year-old Sean Monahan bulled his way onto the Flames roster following training camp, earning one of four spots down the middle. Reigning Hobey Baker Award winner Johnny Gaudreau, and Sam Bennett, Calgary's top pick (No. 4) in the 2014 NHL Draft will look to do the same.

"Of that younger group, to me all that you can ask for as a player is opportunity," Treliving said. "There's opportunity here but it has to be earned. You're interested to see who is going to grab it. You're excited to see who comes in and grabs a hold of the opportunity. We'll see. The good news is we do have some candidates here.

"Now it's going to come down to what they've done in the summer and how much they're prepared to jump into the mix early."

5. Who will emerge as the No. 1 goalie? -- After the Flames traded goaltender Reto Berra to the Colorado Avalanche at the NHL Trade Deadline last April, it seemed to signal Karri Ramo would inherit the starting duties for 2014-15. However, Treliving signed veteran free-agent goalie Jonas Hiller from the Anaheim Ducks in the hopes of sparking a little competition.

"When you add Hiller, a veteran guy who has had success in the League, you're not conceding the net to anybody," Treliving said. "We've made the position stronger. You look at Karri now, there's a guy there to push who has had success. But even in Jonas' situation, he's coming off what could be considered down years for him. I don't think Karri's sitting here looking to surrender anything.

"I think we've created competition in the goal. It'll make the position better."

Author: Aaron Vickers | Correspondent

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