The countdown is on for the upcoming hockey season by both players and fans alike.
Last fall I went to one of the early season games of the Calgary Flames with my brother-in-law Brian. Of course, the word around was that 2014-15 was another in a long line of rebuilding projects to the Flames. A lot of young players, veteran cast offs, and rookies were going to be seeing more ice time with the Flames, than they would if they were with another team.
We sat up high in the bleachers and watched Calgary who hadn't won much, play a Carolina Hurricanes team - who were winless. What we saw was just a prelude to a very exciting season that proved so much more than a year of remake for Calgary.
They completely dominated and I turned to Brian and excitedly exclaimed that once again they would make the playoffs. I carried that excitement for a few days, claiming that the Flames would indeed make the greatest show on earth, the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Of course, I met way more naysayers than believers who would look at me like I had a horn growing out of my head and ask what made me think this young team could do so.
Well, what I saw was what the rest of the NHL would soon learn. This team of youngsters was exciting. They worked hard and they passed with a purpose and accuracy that I hadn't seen in the Flames in many years.
Fast forward to the playoffs and the Flames made it. And they made notice that they had talent, drive, determination, and stamina. And they did it with key injuries to their captain, Mark Giordano, arguably last season's best defenseman.
The question that most pundits posed was “can the Flames keep it up?” The ‘experts’ last year said “no way”. Those same experts are sure that Calgary will falter this year. No way that they can repeat their success for so many reasons.
The statistics say they can't - they didn't control the puck enough. Their leaders performed better than expected - many had their best year last year and how do you repeat that? The rookies are sure to falter - the infamous ‘sophomore jinx’. And of course the standard, the rest of the league has improved. And on and on it goes.
The other side is not often mentioned by the pundits. They didn't control the puck as much as others, but were one of the best on scoring percentage. The leaders had career years, but none too far outside their norms. The ‘jinx’ is a thing of the past today. Many young players just keep getting better. And finally although others have improved, so have the Flames.
With the addition of Dougie Hamilton and the return of Giordano, Don Cherry said the Flames have the best defensive core in the league. Their young players proved they wouldn't collapse under pressure in the playoffs, so why would they come the new season.
This should be a great season for this team and if you want to see a team to get excited about, follow the #Flames.