The Calgary Flames punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup playoffs last night, qualifying for the post-season for the first time since 2009. The team is a much, much different group than the last line-up that made the playoffs – having only injured captain Mark Giordano in common, and he was injured in 2009, too.
Here are five men who played the most important parts in Calgary’s leap back up the NHL standings. And by coincidence, none of the four were on the ice for Calgary’s game with Los Angeles that clinched their playoff berth.
WHO: Calgary’s head amateur scout, having served in that capacity since 2001.
HIS IMPACT: As head of the Flames’ scouting team, Button runs the department and arguably has the biggest influence on Calgary’s drafting list. While Calgary hasn’t had a great record in the early rounds traditionally – they had awful luck in the early ’00s particularly – the team has enjoyed late-round success in recent years and overall success even more recently.
The current Flames roster boasts 10 of the team’s own draft products, representing the 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 drafts. A draft team that used to struggle to find players that could become productive pros has now begun to produce NHL players consistently. (Heck, all five players selected by the team in 2011 have seen time on NHL rosters this season.)
WHO: Calgary’s sixth general manager, serving from December 2010 until December 2013.
HIS IMPACT: Feaster claimed at the time that he didn’t want to be known as the man who traded away Jarome Iginla, but that’s ultimately what he’ll be best-known for. But his impact on the 2014-15 Flames is enormous.
- Traded for Kris Russell.
- Traded for Dennis Wideman.
- Traded for Karri Ramo.
- Drafted Johnny Gaudreau.
- Drafted Sean Monahan.
- Signed Josh Jooris, the team’s biggest individual surprise, as a college free agent.
WHO: Calgary’s captain, taking the post last season.
HIS IMPACT: Once a player merely signed under the Darryl Sutter regime to fill out the team’s shared AHL affiliate in Lowell, Giordano has evolved from an unknown OHL graduate into a player renowned for his work ethic, feared by oppositions for his ability to jump into the rush, and respected by players and coaches throughout the league. Since he became captain to open the 2013-14 captain, the Flames team has taken on the best qualities of their captain – including his work ethic and never-say-die attitude.
WHO: Calgary’s head coach, taking the post at the beginning of the 2012-13 season.
HIS IMPACT: When Bob Hartley came into Calgary, it was perceived as general manager Jay Feaster’s last attempt to maximize his aging roster by bringing in a veteran coach with a Stanley Cup ring. When things went south and the rebuild began, Hartley turned out to be the ideal man to guide the organization’s youngsters through their formative years – equal parts a jokester and a drill sergeant. The team has embraced Hartley’s tight-checking, counter-punch playing system and since the January 18, 2014 line brawl in Vancouver – widely seen as the team’s bellwether moment – the team has played playoff-like hockey and won at a playoff pace.
WHO: Calgary’s now-retired amateur scout in the Ontario Hockey League.
HIS IMPACT: Names that came out of the OHL ranks that currently grace Calgary’s roster: T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett. He’s retired now, but Webster’s influence is likely to be felt for several seasons to come.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.