In a season that has been filled with uncertainty for the Calgary Flames, one thing that those around the league did not expect was the compete level that this young team would bring heading into the 2013-2014 season. Starting off the season with a record of 3-1-2 in their first six games, the Flames had many turning their heads and wondering if their assumptions of the team may be wrong coming into the season. Projected to finish at the bottom of the totem pole, many saw Calgary as a team that would lack motivation and leadership, and struggle in a season filled with such a young core of players. And despite sitting at a record of 21-28-7 past the mid-way point of the season, Flames coach Bob Hartley has found a way to motivate his players to “buy-in” to his system, and compete every game.
The Flames have been involved in 33 one-goal games this season, meaning the outcome could’ve went either way, and although they have become a write-off for the post season, the Flames have kept their dignity and showed heart and determination each and every night. One cannot knock the Calgary Flames for lack of effort this season, as they enter the first year of a rebuild.
And after losing their franchise players in Jarome Iginla, as well as Miikka Kiprusoff at the end of last season, not to mention moving defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, the team was willing to give young players the chance to shine. With rookie 2014 1st Round selection, Sean Monahan having a solid first year, as well as Lance Bouma having a breakout season for the Flames, no one has been more talked about recently than Mikael Backlund.
Backlund, the 24-year-old Swede, has had himself a career year to date after the previous five seasons plagued with injuries, and underperforming to the expectations of fans and management. This seems to be the year that Backlund has finally found his confidence, and is turning things around in terms of production. In 55 games so far this season, Backlund has put up 13 goals and 14 assists for 27 points, marking the highest numbers of his career. He is emerging as a player Flames fans hoped to see when he was drafted 24th overall in 2007. With three shorthanded tallies, as well as three game-winning goals, Backlund has been a key part in leading the team offensively this season.
Shifting from the focus on offensive production, the Flames defense has also showed some great improvement this season and have built a solid core, lead first by captain Mark Giordano. The newly named captain recently was holding a nine game point streak, being the longest point-streak by a Flames defenceman in two decades, and has been red-hot ever since returning from his injury. But it doesn’t stop there. The Flames are the second highest team in blocked shots this season, only behind the Montreal Canadiens, and have three defensemen in the top 10 for blocked shots; those being Kris Russell, Ladislav Smid and Chris Butler.
With all of these positives, it seems as though the Flames have a lot to look forward to as they continue their rebuild. Their success may not be shown in the Win-Loss column this season, but it can sure be shown in their efforts on the ice throughout each and every game to date. One thing is for certain, and that is that Flames fans sure have a lot to look forward to in the future, and with their continued effort should not be disappointed.
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