NHL.com continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.
Mark Giordano's expectations for the Calgary Flames this season are simple. In fact, they're the same as the 29 other NHL teams.
"We want to make the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs," Giordano said. "Winning is everything in this League. We want to get into the playoffs and we want to go from there. With the parity in the League, if you get in … the goal is to get in. From there you can make some noise."
It'll take plenty, though, for the Flames to get into the postseason for the first time since a six-game, first-round loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009.
The Flames finished 13th in the Western Conference and 27th in the NHL last season, the first of a rebuilding process that started after the organization traded franchise cornerstones Jarome Iginla and Jay Bouwmeester at the NHL Trade Deadline in 2012 and saw Miikka Kiprusoff, who holds several club records among goaltenders, announce his retirement 12 months ago.
A 35-win, 77-point effort doesn't instill confidence for a postseason push this season. But Giordano feels there's plenty to build on.
"I think we took a good step last year," he said. "We were in a lot of one-goal games. Our mindset has to be getting points now, cashing in on a lot of those games. I think we learned how to win after Christmas last year. We were better. We cut down on some of the big mistakes we were making before then. Hopefully that will translate into getting more points."
After carrying a 14-20-6 record at December's end, the Flames finished the 2014 portion of their schedule on a 21-20-1 run. But it was after a game against the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 18, which featured a line brawl off the opening faceoff, that changed the Flames' fortunes; they were 19-14-1 from that point through the end of the season.
It's from that run that Giordano believes the Flames can draw inspiration heading into October.
"You try and just do the same things you were doing at the end of the year," he said. "In saying that, there's new players and it's a different year. You're not going to be able to carry any momentum over from last year, but I think a lot of us, especially for the young guys, it helped us gain experience down the stretch.
"We were feeling like we were in games and not cashing in. After the [December holiday] break we were cashing in on a lot of points there."
While the momentum from the Flames' final game in April has gone, Calgary hopes to replicate its winning formula.
Defense - CGY
GOALS: 14 | ASST: 33 | PTS: 47
SOG: 180 | +/-: 12
And while the club boasts five new pieces for the lineup in forwards Mason Raymond
, Devin Setoguchi
and Brandon Bollig
, defenseman Deryk Engelland
and goaltender Jonas Hiller
, Giordano believes the reputation the Flames were able to cast across the League has reached Calgary's new players.
"The reputation is out," Giordano said. "If you're not prepared, if you're not in shape coming into this camp, you won't make it through. It's going to be a tough camp. We're going to all be in great shape by the end of it.
"That's what helped us last year. We came out of the gates pretty strong."
Another start like last season's 3-0-2 will help any early-season talk of the playoffs. Giordano has raised the bar, but his teammates are helping him with the heavy lifting.
"Internally, yeah, for sure," he said. "We feel good about ourselves. We've made some nice additions in the offseason and we're starting fresh. Everyone is in the same boat right now.
"I think my job is always on the ice to lead by example and to perform. As far as raising the bar, we have to do that as a group. It doesn't come from one or two guys. Everyone has to expect to win. You don't want to get caught in a rut, especially as a franchise where you're not making the playoffs for long, long stretches. We have to cut this off pretty soon."