CALGARY, AB -- It’s difficult to stutter out the word success in a season that featured a 35-win, 77-point output.
But little of what was accomplished by the 27th place finish of the Calgary Flames can be found in the standings. No doubt, Year One of a rebuild was a rocky one from a statistical point of view, but the real progress made in Calgary transcends the numbers.
At least, according to defenceman Mark Giordano.
“I think we took a good step this year forward,” Giordano said after clearing out his locker Monday. “Our identity is where we want it to be, but we have to become obviously better and be a better team to get into the playoffs. There's a lot of areas where we could improve on. I think, though, that step we took this year was the right step.”
The right step, the first step, was establishing a new identity.
The Flames parted with two of their most identifiable faces in franchise history in just five months span; optioning longtime captain Jarome Iginla to the Pittsburgh Penguins in advance of last year’s trade deadline. Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff announced his retirement before the start of the season.
Giordano, who succeeded Iginla as captain, helped take that first step in developing Calgary’s new culture.
“I think we established a really good culture in the dressing room,” forward Matt Stajan said. “[Giordano] is, I think, one of the best leaders in the game and we're very lucky to have him her as captain and it starts with him.
“We lost a lot of key players last year and we knew coming in that to win games this year, we needed the whole team to buy in. That's something that maybe was missing before and we wanted to make sure going forward and from now everybody's on the same page.
“That's what we're trying to do here.”
It’s what the Flames accomplished.
Under Giordano’s lead, Calgary was able to reinvent themselves as a blue-collar, rag-tag group of overachievers that many expected would set a new club record for futility.
Instead the Flames found a way to stay competitive, skating in an NHL record-tying 49 one-goal games.
"You saw games this year we played against some of the best teams in the league and we were very good against them,” Lance Bouma said. “I’m pretty sure every team -- every player on that team -- thought that it was a hard game to play against us.
"We’ve just got to stay on the same track. We’ve done a good job this whole year. We’ve created an identity and we need to keep that going. If we keep working hard, we’ll be a tough team to play against. It’s a tough game to win against us, for sure."
It’s the formula Giordano hopes will carry the Flames to greater heights next year.
“We have to come in with the same mentality,” he said. “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.”
The Flames haven’t qualified for the playoffs in five straight seasons. That hasn’t stopped the optimistic bunch from uttering the word several times before breaking for the summer.
Among those pushing the ‘p’ word, but not limited to, is veteran Curtis Glencross.
“We’ve just taken one step right now and we’re going to have to take another step next year,” he said. “There’s always going to be lots of young guys and that’s always going to be a big job for the most part. In our [dressing] room, the guys are all on the same page -- we all strive on having good work ethic—we’re going to be hungry next year.
“We want to be a playoff team next year and that’s the bottom line.”
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