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The Calgary Flames have missed the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs (but there are reasons for optimism)

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
1 month ago
The 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs will begin on Saturday, Apr. 20.
For the second consecutive season, the Calgary Flames will not be participating. Their 5-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night officially put their dwindling playoff hopes on ice.
But as the Flames play out the string and prepare to transition towards their off-season, there are reasons for Flames fans to be optimistic.

They’re finally building the damn arena

If you’re a regular FlamesNation reader, you’ve probably been hearing me (and Kent Wilson) wax poetic about the damn new arena for the better part of a decade. (Remember CalgaryNEXT?) Well, as evidenced by the piles of dirt north of the Saddledome – and soon to be evidenced by a big hole and piles of dirt after the Stampede is over – it’s finally happening.
So not only can you tell your snooty relatives in Edmonton that they can quiet down about their nicer arena, but the constant existential fatigue that probably every person connected to the sport in Calgary felt is done. It’s happening. The merits of the deal’s details can be debated – and definitely should be debated – but we can all stop worrying about what’s going to happen. The arena is happening, and the Flames will be moving to it in 2027 (most likely).
And that brings us to…

They’re finally retooling (or whatever term you want to use)

Back when Jay Feaster was the Flames’ general manager, he introduced me to a really interesting term to hockey discourse: “intellectual honesty.” Essentially, you have to be honest about what you’re doing and where you are within that process… and stick to your guns in trusting your plan to get to where you want to go.
The Flames were a really good hockey team for stretches under Brad Treliving’s regime. Again, we can debate their lack of post-season success, but they won the Pacific Division twice (in 2018-19 and 2021-22) and a lot of the credit has to go to the GM for building a team that became an absolute (regular season) wagon.
But they lost Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau during the same off-season and they just haven’t been the same since. It certainly seemed like it was time to go in a new direction. And new GM Craig Conroy agreed with that notion. We’ve seen teams double-down on aging cores that couldn’t get it done in the playoffs by re-upping good players at less than palatable cap numbers. The Flames opted not to do that.
Conroy inherited seven pending UFAs. After exploring each situation, he opted to keep Mikael Backlund (and likely Oliver Kylington). Everybody else was traded for assets. And now, after two decades of Flames teams built under a specific vision of what a team should be, we get to see what Conroy wants to create.

The cupboards are much more full than when Treliving arrived

When Treliving was brought into the Flames organization in 2014, the farm system wasn’t amazing. The leading scorers of the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat were Max Reinhart and Ben Street. Their top goaltender was Joni Ortio. And while the Flames saw immediate dividends from 2013 first-rounder Sean Monahan – and college star Johnny Gaudreau had just made his NHL debut in the 2013-14 season finale – there wasn’t much help on the way behind them.
And while the current Flames prospect crop doesn’t necessarily contain anybody who’ll have the NHL impact of Monahan or Gaudreau, they have a lot of what prospect analysts call “B-plus” prospects. We’ve seen folks like Dustin Wolf, Matt Coronato, Connor Zary and Martin Pospisil contribute this season. And they have the likes of Jeremie Poirier, Jakob Pelletier, Sam Morton, Jaden Lipinski, Etienne Morin, Samuel Honzek, Hunter Brzustewicz, Aydar Suniev (and others) waiting in the wings.
And this ignores the quality of prospects the Flames are likely to get with their many, many draft selections this year. (And in the two years after that.)

They have a lot of draft picks and cap space going forward

The Flames have two picks in each of the first four rounds of this year’s entry draft. They have around $20 million in cap space. They have some big contracts that would be hard to move out, but for the most part they have a roster that has some decent pieces and some holes in their lineup that could be filled by their bevy of young players.
The process won’t be completed overnight. Yeah, there will probably be some long nights at the Saddledome (and other rinks) as the Flames figure themselves out. But if you were a fan that were a bit fed up by the club’s perpetual “just get into the playoffs and see what happens!” optimism, well, you’ve got your wish. They’re abandoning that idea, at least for a little while, in an effort to build something newer and better than they had before.
The white flag has been waved on the 2023-24 season. But the green flag has been waved on a process that will, if it works as they hope, potentially result in the Flames playing deep into the spring and summer with regularity.
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