Flames have positive outlook for next season
By Miranda Baker
Tuesday was a day no player looks forward to in the National Hockey League. Moving day - in a sense.
One-by-one the Calgary Flames cleaned out their stalls, had their medicals, wrapped up their meetings with coaches and said their goodbyes as they strolled out of the Pengrowth Saddledome.
Tuesday was when reality really hit home for each player, as they were swarmed by the media prior to their exit, and quizzed about what went wrong this season, what can change and what the future holds.
But each player took it in stride, although some more positive than others.
"I think as a team we're obviously disappointed with the way things turned out, but again I think we're a good team and we know we can do better," said Matthew Lombardi, who hit the 20-goal mark this season.
According to defenceman Roman Hamrlik, although he's disappointed with the outcome of the series against the Detroit Red Wings, it was a matter of them wanting to win more than the Flames. Their heart was in it more and their drive was more channeled.
"To be honest they wanted it more than us, they were more hungry, more desperate and were the better team," commented Hamrlik. "At home we played really well, but on the road we just couldn't find ways to win hockey games."
Rookie David Moss is grateful he was given the opportunity to play with the club through 41 regular season and six post season games and says the teams early exit is just something they will all learn from.
"I think ultimately it was a great experience," said Moss, who tallied 18 points, including 10 goals in the regular season.
"My first year, I don’t think you could ask for anything better, a great organization, great fans and overall it was a great experience for me, and I look forward to coming back next year."
But he also knows he can be better and plans on working on his skills in the off-season.
"I think I have to be a guy who’s physical and strong and good in front of the net and in the corners and the summer is the time to work on your strength and speed and that’s what I’ll do," added Moss.
While some players are concentrating on how to improve their game, others may have free agency on their minds.
A number of players, including Tony Amonte, Jeff Friesen, Brad Stuart, Wayne Primeau, Byron Ritchie and Roman Hamrlik, become unrestricted free agents this summer, so there's a good chance the Flames will have a different look for 2007-08.
"This team has made the playoffs for three straight years, which is an accomplishment. I think the team is still getting better," said captain Jarome Iginla.
"We’re not happy with how the season went, we’re not happy with where we are now, but it’s still getting better, and I’d love to be a part of that."
Forward Byron Ritchie feels the same way and hopes he's sporting the Flaming 'C' come fall.
"It’s been a tough year, especially the second half, not playing as much as you’d like to," said Ritchie.
"I love the guys on the team, I love the organization, the city and I thank Darryl (Sutter) for giving me the opportunity to be here, so we’ll see what happens."
Going forward, the players and coaching staff know what they have to take from the 2006-07 season and what they need to change if they want another chance at the coveted Cup.
According to Iginla, it's a combination of offensive and defensive talent and being able to jive game in and game out.
"In order to win you have to be a good offensive team and you have to be a good defensive team, it’s a combination," commented Iginla.
"But I think that it was a step in the right direction, being able to get better offensively."
"I think the goal is ultimately to get better, and you build on this season and come into next year with that in mind," added Lombardi "I think anything less would be disappointing."
Head coach Jim Playfair also met with the media.
"I think it comes down to being harder to play against and better without the puck. And that’s how I see it and that’s why I want to start the season tomorrow morning because I think that is a really good starting point to make the season better," said Playfair.
"I’m totally in the belief that we need to be a lot better in defending and keeping our goals against down and then our goal scoring will totally take care of itself, which wasn’t the case all the time this year."