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Questions surround Flames this offseason

by Aaron Vickers /

CALGARY – Three consecutive years without a playoff appearance leaves a lot of questions to be answered around Scotiabank Saddledome.

Despite eight consecutive campaigns with 90-plus points, the Calgary Flames are on the outside looking in yet again, prompting questions about the organization’s current ability to be a contender.

More so, Calgary's futility has prompted more discussion about more wide-sweeping changes than ever before.


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Flames general manager Jay Feaster will be the one responsible to address them as best he sees fit and, under a cloud of vagueness, attempted to do so publicly one final time this season.

"Clearly as a club and an organization," Feaster began, "We have a lot of work to do.

"We've missed the playoffs for three straight years. It's clear we have to make changes. We're going to have to do a number of things this offseason because this is not a situation I want to be in next year. I'll tell you that right now. I have no interest in standing here on April 10th next year and explaining why it is we've missed the playoffs."

There are plenty of question marks for Feaster to ponder this offseason.

Does this team enter a full rebuild? Is it time to consider shopping Jarome Iginla? Does Brent Sutter – whose contract is set to expire – return? Which, if any, of Calgary's six unrestricted free agents need to be retained? What should be done with the Flames' restricted free agents?

The intellectual honesty – a term used frequently this season by Feaster – starts with the captain and face of the franchise, though Feaster refused to comment on any plans for club's captain Tuesday. Iginla remains the most pressing question on Feaster's agenda as the immediate future of the Flames – and a possible rebuild – is debated.

And if a rebuild is in the debate, Iginla himself may not want to be part of the discussion.

"I don't know what direction everything is going," Iginla said after cleaning out his locker Monday. "If the team does choose go into a rebuild and goes really young, that's not for me. On the other side, I think we can still be a good team."

In a perfect world, he would like to be a part of a perennial playoff powerhouse in Calgary.

"That's probably my ideal situation," Iginla said. "I believed in it this year. I don't believe the teams that did make it are a lot better than we are. I may be wrong, but that's not what I believe.

"I don't want to put any pressure on (the organization) or anything. The ideal situation … that would be it."

Feaster may think he can accommodate the need for change and balance it with remaining competitive. That means bringing more of a re-tooling than a full on rebuild to the Calgary roster.

"I don't subscribe to that theory that you have to miss it for a couple years in a row," Feaster said. "I think there's some good pieces here and some good pieces coming. There are a number of ways to improve your hockey team and that isn't always just by acquiring draft picks. There are other ways, whether it's signing free agents or trading for players.

"We do need to make changes and yet at the same time, I don't want to be standing here with this same thing on April 10th next year."

With an influx of youthful exuberance into the lineup this season coupled with some contract and salary relief coming July 1st, Feaster believes a quick turnaround is possible.

"I think with the number of unrestricted free agents we have and where we sit relative to the cap that there is an opportunity to do a lot of different things," Feaster said. "There is a real opportunity to put a different look on things."

Sutter, whom Feaster will also have to make a decision on, expects Feaster to make the most of his opportunity to change the look of the Flames.

"You miss playoffs three years in a row with virtually the same group, you've got to expect that there is going to be some heavy discussions done and evaluations," Sutter said. "You've got to think there's certainly going to be some changes."

Whatever changes come, Sutter said he's ready, willing and able to return behind the bench for a fourth season.

"Would I? Absolutely," said Sutter, who has yet to talk contract extension with Feaster. "It's not my livelihood to coach in the NHL. I do it because I thoroughly enjoy it. I love coaching. I love the challenge of doing it at the highest level. I want to help an organization and a team have success and help players have success."

Whether it be a team on the verge of being a serious Stanley Cup contender or another just starting on that development path to becoming one, Sutter is game for the challenge.

"There's one side of it where, can you be a part of a team that's instant and it's right there and you can put them over the hump, or part of a building plan where you can build it and get there and seeing how it grows," Sutter said.

It remains to be seen if it is Sutter's job to grow Calgary next season.

Feaster, on the other hand, is immediately tasked with figuring out how to build the Flames into a contender once again.

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