CALGARY -- Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving cautioned his team about complacency in final exit meetings Tuesday.
The Flames lost to the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Second Round in five games, and being one of the final eight teams remaining in the Stanley Cup Playoffs wasn't enough.
"We talked about a quote that I think is something we need to live by: 'Champions behave like champions long before they are champions,'" Treliving said. "For us to grow, it's a mindset, it's a lifestyle. You have to live like a champion before you are a champion. The things that we've done in the past, we have to do it better. We have to get stronger, we have to get better conditioned, we have to grow from the process we went through. There's a lot to look back on, a lot to be proud of, but a lot yet to achieve."
Under coach Bob Hartley, the Flames improved 20 points in the standings from 2013-14 (77 points to 97), the most among Western Conference teams and third-highest in the NHL.
In Calgary's first playoff appearance since 2009, it defeated the Vancouver Canucks in the first round for its first series win since 2004, the last time the Flames made the Stanley Cup Final.
Hartley said there's no guarantee the success and experience of this season will carry over into next season.
"We talked about complacency this morning with our players," Hartley said. "We were a team with no expectations from the outside last year. This year, it's going to be a different thing. A 3-foot putt on the practice green and a 3-foot putt to win the Masters [are] two different putts; same distance, but two totally different putts.
"We put ourselves in a situation to move forward again next year but there are no guarantees. … We'll have to keep battling and keep working hard."
The players understand and agree.
"We can't automatically go home and come next season expect to make the playoffs," center Matt Stajan said. "A lot of good teams didn't make the playoffs this year and are going to be hungry, and we've got to come back with that same edge where we want to do it again. I think no one can be satisfied here. Experience is great and it makes you want it even more, but you can't take it for granted. We've got to make sure we're working and do whatever we can to put ourselves in a good spot come next spring."
Despite exceeding expectations in 2014-15, there was little sense of satisfaction amongst the players, Hartley said.
"We're a young team still learning our way but the refreshing part of this is even today, two days after our elimination, most of them coming in on 1-on-1 meetings, there was no smile," Hartley said. "They were sad because they knew we had a great thing going and they wanted to keep going. It's nothing surprising. They were the image they gave us all year, the never-quit mentality, always wanting more. That's where we're going to keep building."
Treliving said replicating the success isn't automatic and allows for no sense of accomplishment to set in.
"As an organization, it starts from myself, the coaches to the players: we need to be better," Treliving said. "The League will be better. The conference will be better. It's so, so hard to get into the playoffs. That will hold true again. What we did this year, as good as it was, it might not be enough next year so we have to find a way to improve.
"The message to the guys is what we did this year means nothing when training camp starts next year in terms of qualifying. Just do the math. There's 14 teams and only eight get in. No different what we said this year. To make the playoffs you've got to knock somebody out. We're going to be one of those teams that teams look to knock out. That's the business you're in. You're either getting better or you're going the other way."