With the start of training camp bringing a formal end to the NHL off-season, there is perhaps no organization that has altered its standing in the NHL more in the past year than the Calgary Flames.
The current buzz and optimism that surrounds the Flames seems almost incomprehensible for a franchise that is only one year removed from being considered, by most in the hockey community, to be in the middle stages of a full organizational re-build.
Entering the 2014-15 season, the tedious lose big and draft high strategy was finally beginning to payoff for the franchise, as back-to-back top-10 selections Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett gave the Flames two blue-chip prospects and represented the future face of the franchise. The Flames seemed like an organization that were a couple of years, and high draft selections, away from being able to compete for a playoff spot.
Oh, How Much Can Change in a Year.
The Flames meteoric rise throughout the 2014-15 season, saw them transition on the fly
from perennial bottom feeder to legitimate force to be reckoned with in the competitive Western Conference.
They defied the conventional wisdom one typically associates with a rebuilding franchise. Almost as if they read the first chapter, then skipped the middle sections until they go to the part where they began competing night in and night out with the NHL’s very best.
This was an accomplishment that no doubt poured extra salt in the wounds for fans of their provincial rival Edmonton Oilers, who have been stuck in rebuild purgatory for the better half of a decade now.
The Flames ascension to the top of the Western Conference was met with its fair share of doubt and skepticism. At almost every step of the way, the team was written off and their success against the “elite” franchises of the NHL were taken with a grain of salt, many considering the Flames to be nothing more than a flash in the pan.
Despite the skepticism, and an unfortunate sling of high-profile injuries that almost assuredly spelled the end of the teams Cinderella run, the Flames lived up to their name and remained red-hot on their way to securing the teams first playoff berth since the 08-09 season.
Wheeling and Dealing
After their second-round defeat to the Anaheim Ducks, the Flames continued to defy the conventional mould for a youth heavy franchise, when, at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft in Sunrise, Florida, they parted ways with multiple high draft picks: a first and two seconds, in a transaction that saw them acquire potential franchise defenceman Dougie Hamilton from the Boston Bruins.
In Hamilton, the Flames obtained one of the most coveted commodities in the NHL: a top-pairing defenceman with size and skill. His acquisition injects youth, size, and speed into what is already considered to be one of the deepest back ends and youth heavy organizations in the NHL. Not to mention that Hamilton, despite already having three years of NHL experience, is still only 22 years old, with his best years still very much ahead.
In the blink of an eye, the youth movement is Calgary has taken the NHL by storm. And the aggressive moves by management this offseason have made it clear to their fans, and the entire hockey community, that last year’s playoff run was not simply a one-off, but rather, the standard of what to expect moving forward.
Hockey is back in Calgary.