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A look back on the Flames' year and how they got to the post-season dance

by AARON VICKERS @aavickers /

A berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs was 82 games in the making.

But for the Flames, a return to the playoffs for a second time in the past three years started well before the puck dropped on the 2016-17 season in October.

So, with their 2017 Stanley Cup run starting Thursday, here's how the Flames arrived at Honda Center and a first-round date with the Anaheim Ducks:

June 17, 2016 - Flames hire Gulutzan

After dismissing coach Bob Hartley on May 3, Calgary general manager Brad Treliving ended the search for a replacement and announced Glen Gulutzan, an assistant with the Vancouver Canucks, as the new bench boss of the Flames in a press conference.

"As we did our homework, the one thing that kept coming back … we talked to all sorts of people that were around Glen in certain areas at certain times of his life, at certain stops, and it was not only the coach but the person who was drilled home," Treliving said. "A very special person; a very special coach."

June 24, 2016 - Flames draft Tkachuk

The Flames selected forward Matthew Tkachuk of the London Knights with the No. 6 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

 "He's a player that we really like," Treliving said. "The one thing about Matthew is that he's competitive. Brains and competiveness are two big attributes, and he's a guy that's real smart - he has played with really good players and can think and play with really good players - but to me he plays in the guts of the game. We were excited to say the least when he was there. It's a good day."

June 24, 2016 - Flames acquire Elliott

Treliving wasn't done on the first day of the draft, coughing up a second-round draft pick (No. 35) in 2016 and a conditional third-round pick in the 2018 draft to the St. Louis Blues to land goalie Brian Elliott. Elliott, acquired to bring stability to a position that saw Calgary finish last in save percentage at .898 in 2015-16, had the second-best save percentage since the start of the 2011-12 season at .925.

"I think the Calgary Flames saw that and jumped at the opportunity to get me," Elliott said. "Talking with Brad, I'm excited just because he's really happy to get me there and it's fun as a player to really be appreciated. You really want to play for an organization that wants you."

July 27, 2016 -- Flames acquire Chiasson

In a subtle move, Calgary swapped minor-league defenceman Patrick Sieloff for forward Alex Chiasson, who enjoyed success under Gulutzan when both were members of the Dallas Stars.

 "I'm looking forward for a new opportunity, a fresh start somewhere," Chiasson said. "I think I've gained a lot of experience in the past couple of years. This is a really critical time in my career. It's time for me to take my game to the next level and I think I'm ready for that and this is the opportunity I was looking for.

July 1, 2016 -- Flames sign Brouwer, Johnson

Dipping into the free-agent pool, Treliving jumped at signing unrestricted free-agent forward Troy Brouwer to a four-year contract. Beginning in 2009-10, the 6-foot-3 right wing had between 17 to 25 goals and 33 to 43 points each season. More impressively, Brouwer netted eight goals during a Blues run to the Western Conference final just a month prior. Calgary continued to bolster their crease with goaltender Chad Johnson, who sported an impressive 2.36 GAA and .920 save percentage with the Buffalo Sabres in 2015-16.

"There were times for me when I went to bed and your head is spinning because you're not really sure what team is going to be the best fit for you, who has the most interest in you, and you never really know until you get to today exactly what interest is going to turn into, to actual offers," Brouwer said. "There's always that period of uncertainty, but there were a few days where me and my wife looked at each other and were like, 'I don't know what would be the best fit.' We're really happy it turned out to be Calgary."

August 19, 2016 -- Flames sign Monahan

Treliving managed to check a big 'to-do' off his list in signing Monahan, a franchise centre, to a seven-year contract. Monahan was second on the Flames with 27 goals and 63 points in 81 games in 2015-16, tied for the team lead with 31 goals in 2014-15, and had back-to-back seasons of at least 60 points. He was 21 years old at the time of the signing.

"I'm so excited to be here," he said. "This is where I wanted to be and a seven-year commitment is huge. To play here is pretty special. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. This is a real exciting time for me. It's a special day. I don't want to play anywhere else. I signed as long as I could. We found a seven-year fit. It's fair for both of us. It's a good deal. That's how it worked out."

September 23, 2016 -- Flames open training camp

Calgary broke camp with a new coach and seven goaltenders, 19 defencemen and 26 forwards. They were missing one left-winger: Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau, a restricted free agent skating with Team North America at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, and the Flames hadn't yet come to terms on a contract.

"For us, the players that are in camp, we need to prepare and get ready for the season," captain Mark Giordano said. "I don't think we can do anything differently. We're all hoping it gets done sooner rather than later but you understand as a player in today's game, there is a process to these things sometimes and the bottom line is we're looking forward to having Johnny playing with us in the first season game."

October 10, 2016 -- Gaudreau signs

The wait ended. Gaudreau, who racked up 55 goals and 143 points in his first 160 career contests, signed a six-year contract with the Flames.

"As I have always said, I just want to play hockey," Gaudreau said via Twitter. "I want to be there for my teammates and for the fans of Calgary."

October 11, 2016 -- Flames sign Versteeg

After he attended training camp with the Edmonton Oilers, the Flames signed forward Kris Versteeg to a one-year contract.

"It's a huge part for me, being close to home with my family," said Versteeg, a Lethbridge native. "Being on a team that's on the verge of winning, too. They're a young team with a lot of great young talent. There's a lot of factors."

October 12, 2016 - Flames open 2016-17 season

It didn't go the way the visiting side wanted when the Flames opened the 2016-17 season with a 7-4 loss at the Edmonton Oilers. Alex Chiasson, Troy Brouwer, Michael Frolik and Dennis Wideman scored, and Brian Elliott made 22 saves for the Flames in the loss.

"We would've liked to have been a little further ahead than we showed tonight," Brouwer said. "It's always going to be a work in progress. We're not making excuses. Tonight, by far, was not good enough. But we do have guys in here that have the desire to get better, to work harder, to make sure that collectively we're getting better and moving forward."

November 3, 2016 - Tkachuk stays

Inching towards the 10-game threshold that would kickstart the first year of his entry-level contract, Tkachuk is told in the morning that he'll continue on as a member of the Flames. He promptly scored twice in a 3-2 win against the San Jose Sharks that night.

"I went to bed pretty late last night not expecting I was playing," Tkachuk said. "I woke up this morning also not really expecting I was playing. I got the news this morning and got fired up pretty quickly. I was running on adrenaline tonight, for sure."

November 12, 2016 -- Flames start 5-10-1

Calgary's slow roll continued through the opening month of the season with a 5-10-1 record and accumulated the second-least number of points, at 11, through the opening 30 days of the season. Only the Arizona Coyotes and Carolina Hurricanes, at 10, managed fewer. Both those teams had played two less games.

"Everybody's a good hockey player in here," Elliott said. "It's about coming together and playing as a team and not getting down. The key to confidence is keeping each other up and (if) things don't go your way, keep pushing. You keep pushing and you don't give up."

November 15, 2016 - Johnson turns Flames fortunes

Johnson kicks out all 27 shots he faces to record Calgary's first shutout of the season in a 1-0 win at the Minnesota Wild. The performance starts an 11-3-1 run for Calgary, and pulls them over .500 to 16-13-2.

"It's good to get us out of that skid," Brouwer said. "We've had a really good atmosphere in our room…maybe even fake smiles to make sure we're in the right mindset. We need to get some wins because we can't keep sliding down the leaderboard right now. We've got to get ourselves in a good playoff spot. Tonight we did a great job against a real stingy hockey team."

November 15, 2016 - Gaudreau breaks wrist

It's not all sunshine in a win over Minnesota. Gaudreau takes a chop in the third period from Wild forward Eric Staal, sidelining the all-star for 10 games.

"Do we probably chop good players? Yep, we probably whack them, too," Treliving said. "But the frustration is when that turns into that player being out for an extended period of time. When it wasn't the first one. This wasn't a unicorn that happened in the middle of the period. By our count, there were 11 chops on the guy that game. Okay, two, three, four…I get it. But maybe at nine we need to dial in here a little bit."


December 4, 2016 - Gaudreau returns

Initially expected out of the lineup for upwards of six weeks, Gaudreau returns in roughly half the time to record a goal and an assist in an 8-3 romp of the Anaheim Ducks.

"It's special," Gaudreau said. "It's exciting to come back in here and play with the guys. It's a long 10 games when you're watching them play. I think we did a great job. They started the homestand with two huge wins and then we got another one tonight."

January 24, 2017 - Gulutzan blasts Flames

After losing a third consecutive game by a four-goal margin, Gulutzan sounds off on his group on the tail end of a 5-1 drubbing by the Montreal Canadiens.

"We were pathetic," Gulutzan said. "It was a pathetic display. No biteback. No kickback. Accept it. Our top guys didn't do anything. We need somebody to step up. What bugs me most is we play when it's easy. We play when it's easy. We've got that mentality. We've got to fight out of it."

January 24, 2017 -- Train to Ottawa

Following the loss in Montreal, the Flames take an unorthodox route to visit the Ottawa Senators - via rail. En route, a candid conversation amongst coaches and players helped reignite the Flames. Calgary, then fifth in the Pacific Division and ninth in the West, responded with a 5-2-1 run in their next eight games to turn their season around.  

"After the game, we took the train from Montreal to Ottawa," Treliving told "Glen went back and spoke to the players, said we were going to figure this out. He had a direct meeting with the players the next day in Ottawa. They talked to each other. It was not a rip meeting. He went individually to each guy, said, 'Here's your ole, do you understand it and are there any questions?"

January 26, 2017 -- Flames snap skid

Gaudreau ends a 10-game goalless drought in scoring the overtime-winner to lift Calgary to a 3-2 victory against Ottawa to head into the NHL All-Star break.

"Our win was a big win here for our club," Monahan said. "We were coming in here to get two points, whether it was OT or a shootout. We found a way and we're happy."

February 15, 2017 - Flames bring Bartkowski in on PTO

Seeking help on the blue line, Treliving brings defenceman Matt Bartkowski to Calgary on a professional try-out. After spending the season in the American Hockey League, Bartkowski signs with the Flames soon thereafter. 

"It feels really good, "Bartkowski said. "It's what I came here to do and got a deal done and it's just good to be a part of the team and back in the NHL."

February 20, 2017 - Flames acquire Stone

Further shoring up the blue-line, Treliving acquires defenceman Michael Stone from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for a third round pick in 2017 and a conditional fifth-round pick in 2018.

"I know he's a defender that doesn't make a lot of mistakes," Gulutzan said. "He's a big guy. He's a guy who can give you some stability back there, play against the big teams. The one thing that you do know and it probably jumps out at everyone is that he has played with those mobile, top guys. Wherever that goes for us here, we'll decide in the next couple days ... to get a quality guy like that at this time of year is a boost for your hockey club."

March 1, 2017 - Flames acquire Lazar

In their sole deal at the NHL Trade Deadline, the Flames trade for forward Curtis Lazar and defenceman Mike Kostka from the Senators in exchange for Jyrki Jokipakka and Calgary's second-round pick in 2017.

"Our staff…Craig (Conroy), Brad (Pascall), our pro scouting staff, our amateur scouting staff in talking with them…this is a transaction we've done a lot of homework on for a number of weeks," Treliving said. "We feel the upside is there with Curtis. He's still a very young player. His ability to play multiple positions, centre or right wing, right shot…and he really fits in with our age group here. We're excited to add a guy like Curtis to the mix."

March 13, 2017 -- Flames win 10th straight

Calgary beats the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3, and the win matches a run of 10 straight victories set as the Atlanta Flames from Oct. 14 to Nov. 3, 1978. The Flames become the fourth team this season to have a winning streak of 10 or more games, a first in NHL history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Flames join the Columbus Blue Jackets (16 games), Minnesota Wild (12) and Philadelphia Flyers (10).

"They said it was seven, eight years before I was born," Versteeg said. "It's really cool to be a part of those things. Playoffs are our first goal but when you can accomplish things like that as you go on throughout the season it's really nice."

March 31, 2017 -- Flames clinch playoff berth

Calgary qualifies for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in three seasons with a 3-2 win against the San Jose Sharks.

"This doesn't come around that often," Chiasson said. "For me I've been fortunate to be in the playoffs, but I think this is a special group here. We've got a chance to do something special and the turnaround this year as a team has been fantastic."

April 13, 2017 -- Flames open playoffs at Anaheim

Calgary kicks off their postseason at Honda Center against the Pacific Division-champion Ducks.

"Certainly we're the underdog," Gulutzan said. "There's no question. But you look at how we've played the last 50 games…we certainly have made a big improvement from Nov. 15 until now. I think our record is around fifth-best in the National Hockey League since then. I think we're a confident group. We're certainly the underdog but that's not always a bad spot to be in. We've got some things to prove. We've got some seeds to plant here. We're going to be prepared."


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