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Calgary Flames

Despite Turmoil, Flames Franchise Emerging From Heavy Times



There has been a lot of talk about what’s gone wrong with the Calgary Flames, but there is reason for optimism amid the constant state of chaos that the franchise has been in for more than a calendar year now.

A scorched earth approach seems to be something fans think they want. Although the appetite would almost certainly subside as the team piled up losses and found itself all but eliminated from the playoffs by the all-star break.

Little has been said, printed or posted about what the Calgary Flames franchise has gotten right during a second consecutive summer of turmoil. And there has been lots of that, too.

It may seem like just a slight shift in trajectory for a team that moved from Brad Treliving at general manager to his longtime assistant GM Craig Conroy. Another internal promotion at head coach after the firing of Darryl Sutter and promotion of assistant Ryan Huska. But these are big moves for an organization that, at its core, is still recovering from the departures of Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk a year ago, and the fallout from a season that felt heavy and dark in the months that followed.

Make no mistake, these Calgary Flames are in a rebuild. Granting trade requests for Tyler Toffoli, and soon Noah Hanfin, they’re not blowing it all up, but there is a renewed focus on youth, energy, and excitement. In the wake of some of veteran Milan Lucic’s not-too-surprising revelations that the age of the Saddledome, the Canadian cold, challenging travel schedule, and lack of exciting off-day opportunities in a city where the Flames get top billing on the event scene, the Flames franchise is doing its best to create a product on and off the ice that offers positivity and hope in the face of all those things.

The initial response to the Toffoli trade was cool, but there is upside, potential, and a character to Yegor Sharangovich that has warmed the reception. Who doesn’t love a little risk?

Conroy can be infectious. The ripple effect of the addition of Jarome Iginla to the front office is only just beginning its momentum with the next generation of NHL players. That was on display at last week’s Calgary Flames development camp. Huska may be the perfect coach to keep whatever positive vibes existed among the players while also somewhat radically changing the perception of the way they’ll play – with the offensive-minded additions of both Marc Savard and Dan Lambert to his staff clearly geared toward more excitement for fans craving goals.

They’re doing everything they can to get the best out of their $10-million man in Jonathan Huberdeau this year and beyond, and are trying to keep the all-important depth down the middle intact by being patient with offers for centres Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund, who may ultimately decide they don’t want to commit to Calgary long-term but have months before Conroy must make his own decisions on how to manage them as assets at the trade deadline.

Conroy said on the radio on Monday that Oliver Kylington is excited to be coming back this year, and that he’s talking extension with another younger player in local winger Dillon Dube.

The doom and gloom so many felt after the Flames missed the playoffs, lost their general manager and fired their head coach has lifted internally. It may take more time for outsiders, but the direction should be more palatable than it has been for years.

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