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


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?'

"You're so excited. You've been waiting for this, looking towards it, for a long time: This chance. Everything seemed to be in place. And then it's over. Just … over. 

"That" - a brisk finger snap - "quick.

"The regular-season was amazing. We did so many good things, made so many important steps. But that's not the goal. That's not what you play for.

"The goal is a Stanley Cup. I mean, I've got a little President's Trophy at home, a miniature from the year we won it in St. Louis.

"It's nice to have, I guess.

"But it's not the miniature trophy you want.

"So right now there's one of two choices: You can feel bad for yourself or you can figure out how to get better, understand what it takes to do more and win in the playoffs.

"We're going to figure this out."

Making a deflating situation even tougher, the playoffs dominoes, at the moment, seem to be falling in all the right directions: Table-topping Tampa Bay long gone, playoff-built Winnipeg now ousted, too, and other series favourites teetering on the brink. Home-ice advantage, guaranteed through the first three rounds at the outside, would've bumped up to all four following the Lightning's elimination via sweep.

"None of that, all the 'what if?'s, don't matter much now," reasoned Conroy.


Video: "I believe in this group ... really good core here."


Calgary's five-game ouster by the Colorado Avalanche has set the wheels in motion for summer of contemplation, reflection and, ideally, of intense inner dissatisfaction.

"You think about it every day," said centre Mikael Backlund, taking a turn at the podium in the Ed Whalen Media Lounge. "I watched a little (playoff hockey Sunday) and I think about things I could've done better, the team could've done better.

"It's going to take awhile to reflect on this, to get over this. We all hoped for better. We had such a good a regular season we all expected more.

"You grow as a team and a person when you go through adversity."

"Anything you go through in life, your personal life, your job, whatever you do for a living, every day is an experience,'' said D-man Travis Hamonic. 

"Life's about learning. But you've got to want to learn. I think we've got a group here that does.

"We've got a special group. So fun to come to the rink every day.

"You want to go out and win for them, the team, the city. We're not where we want to be. We understand that. We've got learn from this and come back ready to go right from the start.

"You have so much faith in the team. It hurts, no matter when you go out this early. What sucks is you have to watch all these other teams play.

"I've said all season how much I trust this group. I've played many years now and on a lot of different teams but I don't I've ever played on a team where the camaraderie and relationships are as close as we have. The business is that I don't know if any NHL team has come back to training camp with the exact same group. Everyone's projects and personal decisions come into effect.

"But it's a group with some pretty good people inside that locker-room. You're not ready for it to end because you like coming to the rink and you like seeing the guys.

"You spend more time with these guys than with your own family. People forget that. So you really get to know each other and it's been easy in that way this year.

"Some special people here."


Video: "If this doesn't motivate you"


The pain from this playoff series loss will linger.

But as Conroy noted: That degree of hurt leaves you with one of two options.

"Right now,'' sighed Matthew Tkachuk, "you feel for everybody. 

"No matter how old you are, you don't know many chances you'll get like this.

"We put ourselves into a great spot going into the playoffs and didn't get the job done. You don't know many times you're going to be in that perfect situation.

"Hopefully next year we're back in a spot to rewrite the script."

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