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EYES ON THE PRIZE

The jump from junior to pro took some getting used to, but after a solid rookie season with the AHL Heat, Flames prospect Glenn Gawdin is hungry for more

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

In making the Boyz II Men transition, junior to pro, all the stock clichés are only too true.

"It's different," concedes Glenn Gawdin. "It's all different.

"It's a faster, heavier game. There are things you can get away with in junior that you just can't at the pro level. Less forgiving, I guess you could say.

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'THERE AREN'T ENOUGH LIKE BOBBY'

Flames alumni pay tribute to longtime friend and equipment manager, Bobby Stewart, who passed away at the age of 69

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

Lurking underneath that unassuming, content-in-the-shadows persona lay a dry, understated, yet rapier-sharp wit.

"I was just taking my dog for a walk and thinking about Bobby," former Flames equipment manager Gus Thorsen is reminiscing the morning after news of Bobby Stewart's passing. "If you didn't know Bobby, he'd be so quiet you'd never realize how quick and clever he actually was.

"Years ago, I remember Al MacInnis signing a big deal. At the time, a huge deal. I think for $475,000 a year - that's the number that sticks in my head - and somebody asked Bobby what he thought about it.

"And Bobby says: 'I think it's great. Between the two of us we now make darn near half-a-million dollars.'

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CAMEOS AND KEEPSAKES

Dillon Dube lived out a childhood dream by suiting up for his hometown Flames, but with a "feel-good" rookie campaign behind him, the Cochrane product is driven to become a difference-maker next year

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

Too many memory-album Kodak Moments to keep track of.

The time-stopping news that he would indeed be included in the Oct. 3 opening-night lineup at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. Representing his growing-up team of choice, no less, wearing a jersey he'd regarded back in the day as a sort of holy vestment.

So that first game, yes, most definitely.

Then three starts later, the first point, followed by the hard-to-come-by first goal following a month and a half of waiting.

But among the litany of never-to-be-replicated cameo keepsakes, Dillion Dube reckons Oct. 6 stands out above the rest. A rare Remember-Where-You-Were-When evening because he was there, in the moment, living it.

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'YOU CAN'T DEAL IN EMOTION'

Treliving taking a step back to 'unpack' and assess Flames' needs with draft and free agency around the corner

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

Early Saturday afternoon, hours before it became more advantageous to be an emperor penguin than an emperor of the ice lanes, Brad Treliving was busy at his other job.

The one measured in smiles and memories, not wins and losses.

"I'm on dad duty," reported the Flames' general manager, pre-customary late April/early May blizzard. "Best job in the world."

Still, the background television content only illustrates the pull of his other job, his public job. Old habits, after all, die hard.

"Well, I am watching a little bit of Dallas and St. Louis before we go out," confessed Treliving, with a weary, resigned sigh. "I got nothing else."

Hockey's like that.

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A STAR IS BORN

Juuso Valimaki had a rookie season that wasn't without challenges, however it's clear the sky's the limit for young blueliner

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

Some guys are content to play the tank towns, milk the easy applause, aspire to nothing grander than regional venues in half-filled houses.

For others, those with a voracious appetite for achievement, nothing less than Carnegie Hall (or, in this specific case, its local equivalent, the Scotiabank Saddledome) will do.

Jusso Valimaki is one of that number who actively seek the bright lights.

And nowhere, but nowhere, are those lights more intense, more star-making or pitilessly exposing, than in the intense glare of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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WHAT NOW?

Flames say answer is simple: Learn from what happened and strive to improve and get better going forward

by GEORGE JOHNSON @NHLFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

The sensation, Craig Conroy acknowledged, felt like unwittingly walking face-first into an outward-opening door.

And that first senses-sapping sensation of being knocked on the seat of your pants, of being blindsided, caught completely unaware, hadn't diminished whatever, even 72 hours later.

"It lasted 10 days," sighed the Flames' assistant GM, on the always-dreaded player interview/exit day at Scotiabank Saddledome. "And right now it seems like 10 minutes. 

"Honestly still hard to process. You're kind of dazed, like: 'What just happened here?'

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LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

Optimism should abound around Flames despite first-round loss

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

It's difficult, sifting through the immediate aftermath of an all-too-early playoff exit, to detect even a slivery shaft of sunshine through the gathering cloud cover.

No matter how hard you squint.

However painful the five-game post-season ouster by the Colorado Avalanche feels for the Flames and their fans at the moment, though, in terms of development, of progression towards the end game of being an annual viable title contender, the 2018-19 season, taken on the whole, should be regarded as a positive step forward.

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'IT'S SOUR RIGHT NOW'

Captain best sums up feelings of players after first-round series loss

by GEORGE JOHNSON @NHLFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

A feeling of hollowness, of dissatisfaction and disbelief, that raw ache, the dull, gnawing sensation of opportunity lost, will take some time to dissipate.

"It's going," admitted Mark Giordano softly, still looking a bit stunned by the sudden, irretrievable swiftness of it all, "to be a long summer.

"A tough one to swallow.

"It's sour right now.

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MIXING IT UP

Bennett will play alongside Johnny and Mony in Game 5 on new-look top line

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

The outside temperature's rising to a more seasonal level. 

No more windshield-scraping or puffs of breath hanging suspended like snow-doilies in the air. 

Spring is most definitely upon us.

Nevertheless, Sam Bennett is being asked to take his own unique set of booster cables out of the trunk to help jump-start Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.

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'WE STILL BELIEVE IN OURSELVES'

Tkachuk and Flames focusing on Game 5 and getting that victory under their belt

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

Their world, for all intents and purposes, has shrunken to 60 minutes of stop time.

Or 65. Or 70.

Sunday is the height of irrelevance at the moment. Big pictures are the luxury of others in more secure situations; horizons for landscape painters.

There is only this. The here-and-now. Smack dab in front of them.

Whatever it takes. However it happens.

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