Expectations higher for Calgary Flames after surprising run last season

CALGARY — Going into training camp a year ago, no one knew what to make of the Calgary Flames. There were too many unknowns to consider them a potential playoff team.

Expectations of the hockey club have swung 180 degrees heading into 2015-’16 after a 45-30-7 record and a season that lasted into the second round of playoffs.

The Flames said they had confidence inside their locker-room last season that they could be a playoff team. Now they’ve proven it, so there’s belief outside it as well.

But forward Joe Colborne says the Flames would do well to continue to ignore their own press, lest they start to believe it.

“It’s going to (be) a challenge to make sure we don’t listen to much to it, just like we didn’t listen when they said we were going to be bad last year,” the 25-year-old winger said.

“It’s going to be a battle I think right up until the end of the season again to see who gets in the playoffs. You can’t afford to have a slow start. The start of the season is going to be huge for us.”

The Flames reported Thursday to WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Centre for medical and fitness testing. Main camp gets underway Friday. Their first pre-season game is a split-squad contest with the Edmonton Oilers on Monday.

The addition of defencemen Dougie Hamilton and forward Michael Frolik in the off-season, a healthy Mark Giordano, the continued advancement of young forwards Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett and the buy-in head coach Bob Hartley has from his team points to a promising run for the Flames.

“On paper today, if you look at our roster, we do look like a deeper, better team than last year, but we have to as players bring that now and prove it on the ice,” said Giordano, the team captain.

One crucial issue to be sorted out at training camp is Calgary’s goaltending situation. The Flames have three goalies on one-way contracts — Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo and Joni Ortio.

Hiller started the majority of games in the regular season, but was supplanted by Ramo in the post-season. Ortio had a successful call-up midway through the season.

“I don’t think it’s any more challenging than it was last year or the year before that,” Ramo said. “There’s a lot of goalies and you do your best and the best one plays. It’s really simple. I don’t look at it any other way.

“It’s not our job to make the decisions. It’s our job to stop the puck and do the best we can every day.”

Calgary’s defencemen were a major contributor to the end of a five-year playoff drought. Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman had the green light to jump into the play and generate offensive pressure from the back end.

The addition of 22-year-old Hamilton — Calgary gave up their first three picks in June’s entry draft for his rights — adds depth and another dimension to what was already a formidable blue-line.

Giordano and Brodie were Calgary’s top defensive pairing until the captain’s torn biceps ended his season in February. Finding the right defensive partner for Hamilton is another subplot of training camp.

“Dougie comes in and he’s going to have to fit in with someone,” Giordano said. “We’re going to learn how to play with a lot of different guys this year in different situations.

“I’m sure the coaches are going to mix and match here throughout the pre-season. Looking forward to getting some reps in this camp with a lot of different guys and seeing how it goes.”

Notes: Colborne underwent wrist surgery over the summer and will wear a brace to start the season, but he expects to fully participate in training camp … Defenceman Ladislav Smid (neck) has yet to be cleared for contact.

 

 

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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