It's the million-dollar question.
With a not-so-simple answer.
It appears, though, that a summer away with some lingering huff has led to an epiphany, of sorts, for Sean Monahan.
"Honestly," pondered the seventh-year pivot, "if we're asking ourselves how basically the same team can come in fix what didn't work in the playoffs last year, you're looking at it.
"It's on us.
"All of us, here.
"We know what we have in our group. You look at our team and we're DEEP. We've got the guys that can put up points, we've got an incredible group of defencemen, we've got great goaltending, and the guys that can step up and provide leadership in the locker-room - including the best captain in the league. ... In my eyes, we have it all."
The Flames enter the new season with plenty of motivation after scoring their first division title in 13 years.
The core of that same group returns this fall looking to reclaim its post at the Western summit.
It's no easy task with those around them now in chase mode, but this time around, they have some vital wisdom in tow.
"Experiences like last year, it's frustrating when you go out like that," Monahan said. "That's the kind of stuff that sticks with guys all summer and fuels your hunger.
"It certainly did with me.
"You grind through 82 games to not only make the playoffs, but to position yourself well as the top seed, clinching home ice all the way through, to leave what we did on the table showed every guy in that locker-room that we need to be better.
"And we will be, because we're more than capable of it."
Video: CGY@CHI: Monahan picks the corner for power-play goal
Monahan, a Lady Byng nominee who scored 34 goals and cracked the 80-point barrier for the first time in his career, still carries the weight of the disappointing spring exit.
In the immediate aftermath, he got right back to work and for the first time in at least three summers, was able to put in the sweat he so desperately wanted to - healthy, and hungry.
"Going into the off-season, you want to grow in different areas get stronger," he said. "In the past, I've been injured, had surgeries, and spent a good chunk of time recovering more than anything.
"This year, I was able to focus more on what I need to do to improve as a player.
"I didn't take a ton of time off. I was on the ice quite a bit - a lot of power skate and skill work, and obviously a lot of hours in the gym.
"I feel great.
"You never want to be out early, but I took full advantage of it and feel I'll be a threat right off the hop, which is always what you're aiming for."
Monahan is especially energized by the addition of Milan Lucic, who he feels will add a "presence," both on the ice and in the locker-room, where the 6-foot-3, 231-lb. winger - a consummate pro - is known for his leadership qualities.
"It's a huge addition," Monahan said. "He brings an element that we didn't have last year.
"We've talked quite a bit and he actually lives not too far from me here in Calgary. We'll get together when he's back in town and go over a few things. It's good to build relationships early so that when camp starts, you can hit the ground running."
From there, it's a months-long sprint to a critical checkpoint.
With no time to lay off the gas.
"You've got to peak at the right time in this league," Monahan said. "I mean, you've got to be ready every night and be at your best as consistently as possible, but we didn't like that little drop-off we had near the end of last year.
"We want to be playing our best and firing on all cylinders by the time April rolls around.
"We really learned from that experience and will all be better for it."