Above the 49: Rebuild is the only option for Flames
By Daniel Fung, Sports Network Columnist
Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - The city of Calgary may be lamenting the fact there will be no NHL playoffs for a third consecutive spring for their beloved Flames, but their failure this season could turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
That is only, however, if the Flames use their latest setback as a catalyst to put in motion a much-needed rebuilding plan.
The Flames last made the postseason in 2008-09, boasting a roster that included a number of core players who still remain in those positions with the Flames - most notably the likes of forwards Jarome Iginla, Mike Cammalleri and Olli Jokinen along with goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.
It was a combination that didn't yield much success back then and in the time since has proven to be a failed formula time and over again.
To their credit, the Flames have spent the effort and money to try to build around that core group over the past three seasons, moves that even included bidding farewell to two of those members in Cammalleri and Jokinen only to bring them back at a later time.
But despite boasting the third largest payroll in the NHL over the past three seasons (only the Philadelphia Flyers and Vancouver Canucks have had higher payrolls in that time), they've taken several strides backward while watching divisional rivals such as the Canucks take their place among the league's elite and others such as the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche starting to reap the rewards from their own respective rebuilding processes.
Calgary's biggest task this summer should be focused on restocking its prospect pool, which starts with recouping some of the draft picks the Flames had dealt away previously in ill-fated attempts to get into the postseason. The Flames have their own first-round pick for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, but don't have a second-round selection either this year or next year.
The Flames have a number of high-profile players who could draw some interest around the league and help them with their goal at stockpiling some picks and prospects such as Iginla, Cammalleri and Kiprusoff as well as Alex Taguay, Matt Stajan and Jay Bouwmeester.
It's fair to suggest that at least one of those, if not more, won't be donning the flaming "C" come next season.
But for the Flames to truly signify the start of a new era, moving team captain and longtime face of the franchise Jarome Iginla is an essential step.
Iginla, even though he will be 35 when the puck drops on a new season, is still considered one of the league's elite players and would fetch a significant return despite the fact he has a cap hit of $7 million next season.
Iginla's future with the club will be just one of many critical, franchise- altering decisions that Flames general manager Jay Feaster will have to make this offseason. Feaster, the architect of the 2004 Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, also will have to wrestle with the choice of whether or not to bring back head coach Brent Sutter for a fourth campaign following three playoff-less years behind the bench.
One thing's for certain: the next few months will be eventful in Calgary even without any playoff hockey.
04/04 09:45:35 ET