CALGARY, AB -- Training camp doesn’t break for another three weeks.
But that hasn’t stopped veteran Matt Stajan from getting excited at the thought of what the 2016-17 season could bring for the Calgary Flames.
Especially with the changes summer has brought.
“It’s exciting,” started Stajan. “We have a lot of guys already in town and it’s the end of August. The excitement is here. Everybody is looking forward to having a new coach in and learning a new system. I think we’ll be an energetic group, to say the least. I think we’ve made some good additions. We just want to be a team that’s competitive and can take it to the next level and get to the playoffs and try and win that Stanley Cup, obviously, is the ultimate goal.”
The number of transactions made by Flames general manager Brad Treliving isn’t significant.
Where he’s made the changes is.
Treliving has reshaped Calgary’s crease, acquiring Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson to replace the foursome of Karri Ramo, Jonas Hiller, Joni Ortio and Niklas Backstrom, who combined for an NHL-worst .898 save percentage and allowed a League-high 257 non-shootout goals against.
Among NHL goalies with at least 50 games played since 2011-12, Elliott is first in GAA at 2.01, and second in save percentage, at .925, and shutouts, with 25.
Treliving also brought in right wing Troy Brouwer, who has had between 17 to 25 goals and 33 to 43 points each season since 2009-10.
He also hired Glen Gulutzan to replace Bob Hartley as head coach. Hartley won the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year in 2015. Hartley was 134-135-25 in four seasons with the Flames, and led Calgary to their first playoff appearance since 2009.
But after guiding the Flames to a 35-40-7 record and missing the playoffs by 10 points, Hartley was let go on May 3.
“I think we have something to prove as a team that two years ago wasn’t a fluke,” Stajan said. “I think we want to bounce back from last season because it didn’t go the way we wanted it to. Guys coming back have something to prove. We’ve had some nice additions coming in that are going to want to make a difference and that’ll be great for our hockey club.
“Everybody is excited this time of year. We have a good group here. We’ve got to put it all together. It’s going to take a lot of work but we have the pieces here to do it. Now we have to put it all together.”
Stajan is looking forward to bouncing back on a personal level, too.
Statistically, 2015-16 was Stajan’s least productive season after amassing six goals and 17 points in 80 games.
The 32-year-old is hoping to rebound under Gulutzan.
“As any player in this league, and I’ve played for a while, anytime you have a fresh voice coming in you have something to prove,” Stajan said. “You want to get the confidence of the coach and show that you can be a player that can be relied on. That’s going to be the same mindset for every single guy on our team. It never ends. You’ve got to prove yourself every single day at this level. That’s what you should do. You strive to be the best, and that’s what makes your team the best.
“Ultimately we’re one big group. We’re all part of this team. It’s going to take everyone to succeed here. I think the dialogue we’ve had in getting to know each other and what it’s going to take, it’s a very open-minded relationship so far. That’s the way this coach goes about things, which is nice. To be honest, that’s what you need. You need input from everybody and everybody has to do their part.”