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Calgary Flames

Committed Flames Answering Questions After Big Summer Changes



Nazem Kadri, NHL, Calgary Flames
Steve Macfarlane, CHN

If the Calgary Flames have proven anything during the first couple of weeks of the NHL season, it’s that they’re a damn good team.

They’ve shown it with the franchise’s hottest start to a season in modern franchise history.

And that’s despite the fact they had a post-season that ended in bitter disappointment and an offseason littered with change.

A lot of questions have been answered.

Will the new guys fit in?

Nazem Kadri has four goals and nine points in his first six games in a Calgary Flames jersey.

Jonathan Huberdeau scored his first on Tuesday and has five points through his opening half-dozen contests here.

MacKenzie Weegar is on pace for 40-point season. And he will probably see his offensive production ramp up after he gets more accustomed to the defensive details under head coach Darryl Sutter.

Will the core players be able to step up their games?

Rasmus Andersson, who turned 26 on Thursday, is reaching new heights with a confident start to his fifth full NHL season. The defenceman leads the team with six assists so far and his seven points are on par with Norris winners Cale Makar, Victor Hedman and Adam Fox.

Dillon Dube (1-3-4) has never looked more confident and comfortable to start a season. The 24-year-old is thriving on a line with Kadri and Andrew Mangiapane which has easily been the team’s best at five-on-five so far.

Veteran Tyler Toffoli is rocking on special teams and although the Mikael Backlund, Blake Coleman combo hasn’t lit it up much they’re playing solid hockey and creating lots of chances.

Imagine what things could look like when Elias LIndholm gets going, too.

Can Jacob Markstrom move past the negative narrative?

Markstrom is unaffected by any outside noise about his rough finish in the playoffs, inauspicious first periods so far, and questions about whether or not Sutter is better off starting Dan Vladar in all the games against the Edmonton Oilers.

He’s getting things done when he has to.

“I’ve seen a goalie that wins his games,” Sutter said of his starter, who is tied with a bunch for second in NHL wins so far with four in five starts.

“You’ve got to make saves to win games. That’s the biggest thing we needed.”

Can the Calgary Flames get to the next level?

But maybe the most impressive part of this year’s Calgary Flames is their commitment. That covers both their in-game attitude never to quit, as well as their dedication to improvement despite their impressive record.

The players know they still haven’t played anywhere near their best.

“It’s no secret we need to get better five-on-five so that’s what we were trying to work on today,” defenceman Chris Tanev said after what was reportedly an extremely tough practice. “You’ve got to get better, right? When you don’t play for three, four days at a time, it’s tough. You’ve got to go out there and simulate game things and be sharp.”

The Calgary Flames face their Oilers nemesis on Saturday after three full days of practice. They’re coming off a big win over the Pittsburgh Penuins on Tuesday but Sutter says the lull means keeping up the conditioning the players have worked so hard to establish.

“Our conditioning — put a lot of work in. You don’t want to take a step back in it,” Sutter said. “Guys have done a real good job the last summer and a half for our team, and you just want to maintain that as much as you can during the practice.”

Considering how committed this group is to winning, there were no complaints.

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