CALGARY, AB -- Cleaning out their lockers in one final trip to Scotiabank Saddledome on Sunday, players emerged with two central themes.
The first was disappointment. The second was encouragement.
Watching, not participating in, the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fourth consecutive season left few without a sour taste on what is dubbed 'garbage bag day'.
Mike Cammalleri, part of Calgary's last playoff entry in 2008-09, is one that left unsatisfied.
"It was a bit disappointing," Cammalleri said. "I was traded back here halfway through last season to compete for playoffs and try and win. After a half season last year and a half season this year, it hasn’t been the case.
"It’s disappointing where we are. Everyone will I guess take their own piece of responsibility for it and move forward."
But with that frustration comes an optimism from Cammalleri and his teammates.
The strange blend comes off the heels of another early end to the season but also a sense of encouragement at the situation Calgary now find themselves moving forward.
In other words, discontent breeds change and change brings competition, according to Lee Stempniak.
"No one's satisfied," said Stempniak, who shared the team lead in points at 32 with Cammalleri. "The players aren't happy, the ownership's not happy, the management's not happy, the coaches aren't happy and anytime a situation like that happens, there's going to be change and competition. It'll just benefit us going forward next year."
Motivated, the Flames also have a few factors on their side.
Though the National Hockey League's salary cap is dropping from $70.2 million to $64.3 million next season, Calgary is in fine shape financially. The club also boasts three first round picks in the 2013 NHL Draft and already has seen a few youngsters emerge this season.
In other words, a re-tool need not be a lengthy process, according to Alex Tanguay.
"As far as I’m concerned that with the money that’s available in the summer time and with the capacities in this franchise I wouldn’t see why this team wouldn’t be competitive in the very new future," Tanguay said. "That’s my hope for this team and that’s what I think is very possible.
"There’s so much parity in this league. You look at a team like Montreal … (last year finished 28th). Now they’re battling in the playoffs."
Montreal's turnaround came after some shrewd free agent signings and the strong play of some of the team's budding prospects.
After auditioning some of the Flames' youngsters in the late stages of the season and the flexibility to make moves this offseason, Mark Giordano is confident about the team's prospects to end the playoff drought in Calgary.
"I think we did a good job of getting a lot of young guys looks in games," he said. "I think our team’s in a good position right now for the summer. We have some cap space. We have owners who are obviously always willing to spend right to the cap here in Calgary, so we’re fortunate as players to be here because it’s an organization that wants to win."
"You look around the league and you see teams that do it quickly and turn things around and I think to do that, you've got to have some good young players, which we have," he said. "It's adding the right pieces. You can't just spend recklessly but you have to find the right pieces that fit in.
"I really believe we've got a lot of the right pieces here now and if we can get a few more faces to compliment that and the young guys play well, there's no reason why we can't be in the playoffs next year."
Some postseason action is the mandate in Calgary.
They'll start that march in September when the Flames, in whatever form they take, hope to turn optimism into reality.
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