CALGARY, AB -- Satisfied, but not to the point he's prepared to call the 2013-14 season a success.
That was the message from president of hockey operations and interim general manager Brian Burke on garbage bag day after a 27th place finish from his Calgary Flames.
“First off, the conclusion of the season that does not include playoffs is a failure,” said Flames president of hockey operations and interim general manager Brian Burke. “We acknowledge that failure but it was not a lost or wasted season in any sense of the word. There were a lot of positive developments in this season that I’m proud of.”
“You miss the playoffs, your team failed. It means the whole organization failed, it’s that simple,” Burke continued. “The teams that are going on can say they had a successful season. It’s that simple.”
The Flames wrapped up the 2013-14 campaign with a 35-40-7 record. Their point total of 77 is the lowest over an 82-game schedule since the 75 accumulated in the 2002-03 campaign. It kept Calgary out of a playoff position for a fifth straight season.
One would think the numbers would make for a much gloomier garbage bag day Monday. Quite the opposite, in fact.
If anything, expectations are heightened following the first season of Calgary’s rebuilding process thanks in part to a new, established identity and the progression of an emerging core that included big steps forward from the likes of Mikael Backlund, Sean Monahan and TJ Brodie.
That’s fine with coach Bob Hartley, the man behind the bench who orchestrated the surprisingly competitive season that matched an NHL record with 49 one-goal games. He’s more than fine raising the bar in the second year of a rebuild and his third overall at behind the Flames bench.
“We know where we finished this year is not good enough,” he said. “If we go up two, three other ranks in the standings next year, it will still not be good enough. The passing grade in this league, because it's the best league in the world, is you need to be top-16.
“If you're not top-16, you can be happy about the progress, you can be happy about everything around, but the passing grade is we want to play hockey in late April, May and June and give our fans what they're cheering for.”
Calgary’s progress, though not necessarily reflective in the NHL standings, does lend towards optimism.
It’s also led to Hartley and Burke’s increased expectations for where the Flames should find themselves 12 months from now.
And that isn’t lost on the players tasked with making the marked improvement next year.
“Anytime, obviously, you don't make the playoffs, it's tough and it's going to be tough to watch over the next few months,” captain Mark Giordano said. “But I think there's a lot of positives in our season, a lot of areas where we improved in. Overall, our style of play is where we want it to be and we just have to build on that next year.
“There's only one way our team is going to be successful and that's with hard work and playing with detail. Next year has got to be a lot more of the same mentality, but hopefully we can take another step forward and get into that mix where you can start talking about us as a playoff team.”
Because Burke, self-admittedly, isn’t the most patient of gentlemen.
“I don’t want to be up here again next year explaining another non-playoff year,” he said. “Yes, the expectations go up. Yes, we expect the kids to do more. Yes, we expect to add personal in the offseason to make us bigger and better.
"Yes, go ahead and raise the bar, that’s fine with me. [When] expectations go up, that’s a good thing -- it means our team is getting better.”
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