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Three players survived the Flames’ brief rebuild

The Calgary Flames are in the midst of their best season in decades. They clinched a playoff spot with 10 games remaining, and are in an ongoing battle for the Pacific Division crown. It’s a far cry from where the team was as recently as four seasons ago.

The last time the Flames were in legitimate divisional contention was 2005-06, when they captured the Northwest Division crown. During that campaign, 22-year-old minor league call-up Mark Giordano made his National Hockey League debut.

Following that season, the Flames entered into a gradual decline as their veteran core aged. The white flag was finally waved on March 27, 2013, when the club traded Jarome Iginla to the Pittsburgh Penguins and officially began their rebuild. Since that game, the Flames have dressed 109 different skaters and 13 different goalies with just three players remaining from the last Iginla game with the club: Giordano, Mikael Backlund and TJ Brodie. While the organization has cycled through dozens of different new pieces and tried to find good fits, that trio has been retained.

It’s been 13 seasons since the Flames last won a division title, a span of just over 1,000 regular season games. For context, Giordano has played in over 80% of those games, with Backlund and Brodie each suiting up for more than half. The trio came up as young depth players on some talented Flames teams, watched the talent age out and be sent away, watched the team slide through mediocrity, commit to a rebuild, and then come out the other side.

On Tuesday night, Giordano tied Robyn Regehr for the second-most games played with the franchise – the only player ahead of Giordano is Iginla. Backlund is ninth among games played leaders and Brodie is creeping towards the top 10. Each player came to be Flames property through some unique circumstances:

  • The Flames signed Giordano as an undrafted junior free agent because they needed to fill out minor league spots following their 2004 Cup Final loss.
  • The Flames only had the pick they used to select Backlund because they traded down to recoup a third round pick so they could draft John Negrin – Darryl Sutter had previously traded their second round pick to Colorado because he loved trading second round picks.
  • The Flames only had the pick they used to select Brodie because Brad Stuart didn’t re-sign with the club after a mid-season trade.

Despite joining the club under these odd circumstances, the trio has been part of the evolution of the team from also-ran to rebuilder to scrappy underdog to verging on a contender. They all dressed on the night Iginla became a Penguin. They were all part of the infamous Jan. 18, 2014 game in Vancouver that began with a line brawl, featured John Tortorella trying to fight Bob Hartley during the intermission, and ended with the trio setting career highs in ice time – with the shortened bench Giordano played 33 minutes, Brodie 36 and Backlund 27. They were part of emotional battles with the Los Angeles Kings in 2014-15 that pushed the Flames towards a playoff spot – and though Giordano missed that run due to a bicep injury, he was still around. Since they’ve been around for all the lean years, they seem to be appreciating the team’s upswing.

It’s easy to understand how fans can be so amped for how good the team appears to be. In a market where the Flames have been the biggest deal for decades – all due respect to the Stampeders – the team really hasn’t given its faithful a ton to be emotionally invested in. But Giordano, Backlund and Brodie have been part of the Flames for as long, if not longer, than many of the newest vintage of fans have been cheering for the team. If anything, they’re as excited as the fans are – if not more so.

After a recent Flames victory, Backlund joked about loving this time of year due to the lack of practice time and the importance of the games, but got a bit more introspective when noting the opportunity that’s before his team. Instead of battling for a playoff spot as they approach Game 82, they’ll be trying to lock down first spot in their division and conference.

“Being through some tough years, you really appreciate being in this spot,” said Backlund. “We want to make the most of it, for sure.”

The Stanley Cup playoffs begin on April 10. For just the fourth time in Giordano’s NHL career, and the third in Backlund’s and Brodie’s, the Flames will be part of the action.

  • Richard B. Rittich

    It would be pretty crazy if Gio has enough tread on the tires to catch Iginla’s games played as a Flame. If he stayed healthy, would need to play till 40 non?

  • Flamesforever

    I remember at the beginning of the McDavid draft year most “experts” projected we would be in the running of picking him, imagine what that would have done to this team? Everything happens for a reason. GFG 🔥

    • The Red Knight

      Theo fluery!! Remember him !! It seems every forgot how awesome of a player he was , I’d put him right up there with iginla for all time Flame greats ! He should have a banner up there too .

      • Albertabeef

        If he wasn’t such an A-hole back in the day he would be in the hall and the rafters already. Theo was a pretty solid player all around. Iggy may have been nicer but Theo was a better player. Only player to lead this team in goals, assists, points, and penalty minutes all in one season. One word, AWESOME!

  • Vinnsanity0412

    At the end of this season, if it appears the Flames are still a couple of years from true contention for the Cup, Tre may have to consider shipping both Brodie and Gio out for a established goalie and a forward. Our depth on D would allow the Flames to absorb such a hit. Gotta give something to get something! Gentlemen, start your trashes!

    • The Beej

      We should be able to get a Goalie without moving Gio or any big names.

      Brodie could be moved for a forward though… or for picks and cap space.

      Could move Frolik for a Goalie to tandem with Rittich.

      Not sure why we would have to move Gio. Starting goalies have been had for much less recently.

  • Frunobulax

    I can’t read the first comments because ads are covering the screen on my phone. I can’t even delete the ad like I’ve been able to do in the past and then send notification to Google. Dang annoying. There is always something.

    GFG

  • Frunobulax

    I’ve been a Flames fan since they came to Calgary. Despite a few gaffes by Brody and Frolik’s manager, I believe these two look good in a Flames sweater. Brody may not play the body hard enough but his skating and play making is phenomenal. Frolik recently had proved he can finish plus make outstanding passes and plays. They get picked on by FN and their plays could be appreciated more. My two cents…

    • Meadowlark Lemon

      All the fans truly appreciate what Brodes and Fro have brought to this team over the years. Nobody is bigger than the team; not Jarome, not Gretz. If you want to avoid a ‘deep’ rebuild in the future you have to manage assets continuously.
      If anything, it is a compliment to them that other teams still covet their abilities.

    • The Red Knight

      I think Frolik s been a great signing and I love his emotion of late , I wish Frolik and Brodie would knock someone down once And a while a while but there big assets to the team . Brodie is jekle and Hyde but he just makes the most sense to trade in the off season, Valimaki and Klington own the AHL so there gonna be NHL regulars next season.

      • RealMcHockeyReturns

        Yes it’s about the salary cap (re both guys, such as affordability of Tkachuk) and letting good young and cheap D play regular minutes (Brodie).I do expect Brodie gone for a young prospect forward and draft choice, similar for Frolik. Then Flames get Zucker ($5.5M) in trade for Jankowski and more, Tkachuk gets 7.75M, Bennett gets 2.1M, Prout gone, Fantenberg back at $800K, Hathaway and Quine and Mangi all back at around $750–900K each. Lazar maybe back on 2-way deal, lots of minor leaguers re-signed or signed to fill out Stockton. If cap is $83M and above happens, Flames 2019-20 cap at about $81.5 to 82M. Tkachuk’s new deal and trade for Zucker make this scenario likely

    • Honkydonk

      It’s not about if these guys can play. It’s about a cap system and only so much money going around. Anderson, a Kylington, Valimaki these guys can all play and do so very well who knows some might be significantly better than Brodie’s ceiling. Frolik same thing for his type of money he’s a good guy and a good player but again we only have so much cap space

      • The Red Knight

        Yes I agree , Smith’s contract and who knows might beable to trade Stone on his last year of his contract I believe. There’s another 8 mill , I think we are better off than some think,Rittich will get a raise as well but I trust in Trevling that he has a plan in place and likely a plan B and C as well .

    • The Beej

      I kind of agree that Brodie and Frolik get picked on a little. But I think the chatter on trading them is because they do have value and have 1 year left on their contracts and their pending UFA status aligns with the need to resign Hamonic Anderson Kylington.

      But really.. ive had enough of it as well. Dozens of posts saying the same thing and offering no real new perspective. Enough trade talk… lets pack that up until June. Its playoff time!!!!

  • Purple Hazze

    “The last time the Flames were in legitimate divisional contention was 2005-06”

    I take issue with that statement, the last time they were in legitimate divisional contention was 2008-09. We were leading the division at the trade deadline but then had to go and “win” the TDL by adding Olli Jokinen, team chemistry aside, the cap implications of that trade alone, meant we couldn’t even ice a full-lineup down the stretch when injuries hit ultimately resulting in us failing to capture the division crown.

  • Dougiefred

    History of draft picks (recent article on The Athletic) indicates that “O” points were scored by Flames 2006 draft picks. Think most picks were traded by Sutter remainders were bust. This cannot ever happen again.

  • Day1-Cfan

    I will admit I was willing to trade Backs, Frolik, Brodie and Stone last year. It got some trashes but they are still here. Guess that is why I am an armchair Coach/GM.

  • Skeittari78

    Not really today’s topic, but I would still like to have your opinion on this guy – Oliwer Kaski. He’s a 23, an offensive-minded RD who broke through with a big bang this season in Finnish elite league. He finished 6th in scoring, 59gp, 19g 32a, 51pts and was chosen as MVP by hockey writers. I know were loaded on D but damn, this guy could turn into a gem. I’ve seen him play quite a few games and he’s got very good puck handling skills and a great shot. I’d love to see him in training camp for ’19-’20.

  • Hockeysense9393

    I know that I’m a little late on this post…but I want to comment on that pic! Real stellar work for sure!!
    You have the originals with a mid length contributor (frolik) along with one of the youngest guys (Tkachuk).
    Great recognition of the veteran core that keeps this team humble and hungry. Go Flames Go!!