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Flames expect internal upside will sustain success

by Aaron Vickers continues its preview of the 2015-16 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout August.

CALGARY -- A 20-point increase in the NHL standings -- the biggest jump among teams in the Western Conference -- and a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in 2009 signifies progress, but the Calgary Flames aren't satisfied.

"What we're trying to be is a championship team," general manager Brad Treliving said. "We're trying to build a team that has a chance to have long-term success here. ... There's one team at the end of the year that's happy with what they've accomplished. The rest of us are still striving to take steps forward. That's the mode we're in.

"I don't really focus in on rebuilds and what stage of the rebuild. This is about getting better and becoming a good team on a regular basis for a long time. That's the challenge for us."

Treliving, who was hired in April 2014, saw steps last season from the Flames, who finished third in the Pacific Division and advanced beyond the first round for the first time since 2004. He said he expects the growth to continue after adding defenseman Dougie Hamilton and forward Michael Frolik.

Hamilton, 22, was acquired in June in a trade with the Boston Bruins for three draft picks, and later signed a six-year contract. In 178 NHL regular-season games, the 6-foot-5, 212-pound defenseman has 22 goals and 83 points. He set NHL career highs in goals (10), assists (32) and points (42) in 2014-15.

"Dougie obviously helps and gives us more depth on the blue line," Treliving said. "Right shot, big body, skates, can do a lot of different things, but it's a good player that to me joins a good group of players on the blue line. Any time you can add to that, you can add a good player, it opens up different opportunities for the coaches, gives you more depth, and gives you more options. It helps us become deeper."

A day after Hamilton signed, Frolik signed a five-year contract. He had 19 goals and 42 points in 82 games with the Winnipeg Jets last season, and won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013.

"Michael gives us experience, a guy who's won a Stanley Cup, who's been in the playoffs and can do multiple things," Treliving said. "He's a tremendous penalty-killer, he brings us speed, tenaciously, work ethic. How that all translates and what it does it terms of lines and pairings, that's for the coaches, and that will get sorted out in the wash.

"Ultimately they bring two good players that can help us."

Treliving isn't pinning improvement on two players.

"There's two ways to make yourself better: That's add people from outside, which we've done, but also internal growth from your team," Treliving said. "What excites me about our team is I think we've got depth at all positions, I think we've strengthened our team with the additions we've made from outside with Hamilton and Frolik, and then we've got, in my mind, lots of room to grow in terms of our development and growth of our younger players being a year older, this group being together for a year, the experiences they went through last year."

Center Sean Monahan, a 20-year-old in his second NHL season, had 31 goals and 31 assists. Rookie Johnny Gaudreau, 22, had 24 goals and 64 points and was a Calder Trophy finalist. Defenseman TJ Brodie (41 points) and forward Lance Bouma (34 points), each 25, had career years.

Forward Jiri Hudler had an NHL career-high 31 goals and 76 points. Captain Mark Giordano had a career-best 48 points despite missing 21 games. Defensemen Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell also eclipsed previous offensive highs.

"It's important for all of our players to take a step," Treliving said. "The encouraging thing for us is we've got a lot of players that we feel haven't hit their ceiling yet. [Monahan is] a big part of our team and still a very young player. It's somewhat strange when you talk about how important and how big of a role he has at such a young age, but like all players the challenge for him is to take another step forward. The challenge for Johnny is to take another step forward. But the list goes on.

"It's really for all of our players. For us to have any type of success, everybody's got to take their fair share. Everybody has to take their step forward."

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