Pride was etched onto Bob Hartley's face and evident in his voice.
The coach of the Calgary Flames had spent the better part of 2 1-2 hours watching his team play spoiler to the New Jersey Devils' playoff hopes, winning a 1-0 game at the Prudential Center on April 7.
"I love this group," Hartley said. "It's just a hard-working group. We're going to fight until the last second."
Calgary's work ethic was a key component last season. A significantly under-talented squad played hard and finished with a 35-40-7 record despite competing in the tough Pacific Division.
Before the Flames open their 2014-15 campaign at home against Vancouver on Oct. 8, here are some things to consider:
FROSH FLAMES: A little more than a year after embarking on an organizational-wide rebuilding project, it is too soon to state the Flames possess more talent their pipeline. But what they do possess makes for an intriguing foundation. Sean Monahan, the sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft, played 75 games for Calgary last season and finished with 34 points (22 goals and 12 assists). He could be joined this year by the offensively gifted Johnny Gaudreau, 2014 fourth overall pick Sam Bennett and Sven Baertschi, who recorded 11 points in 26 games last season with Calgary.
CONTENTIOUS CALGARY: One of the hot topics in hockey is the role of fighting in the game. The Flames, who finished tied for 11th in the league with 32 bouts last season, believe it has a role, especially as it pertains to their young players taking care of themselves on the ice. Calgary brought in former AHL pugilist Serge Roberge into training camp to teach their prospects about fighting. "What's our job as a coaching staff, as an organization?" Hartley rhetorically asked reporters when the subject was brought up. "To try and protect our assets.
"It was about doing the right things in order to teach them to protect themselves."
GUIDEPOSTS: By and large, NHL organizations are loathe to throw their prospects in too deep. Instead, teams us veterans to show them the ropes. To that end, Calgary added established NHLers Mason Raymond, Deryk Engelland and Jonas Hiller in free agency, and traded for Brandon Bollig.
BLUELINE BREAKOUT: Consider the 2013-14 season Mark Giordano's coming out party. Calgary's top-pair defenceman set career highs in goals (14), points (47), average time on ice per game (25:14) and finished 10th in Norris Trophy voting. Now the challenge is to repeat the feat, as he will be counted to stabilize Calgary's back end.
SET IN NET?: Karri Ramo acquitted himself well in 2013-14, compiling a 17-15-4 mark with a 2.65 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 40 games. Yet he enters training camp challenging for the No. 1 job as the Flames signed Hiller to a two-year, $9 million deal in free agency. In 326 NHL games all with Western Conference rival Anaheim, Hiller had a 162-110-32 record with a .916 save percentage and 2.51 goals-against average.