For the first time since 2003, the Flames failed to make the playoffs last spring. But even during their postseason streak, they weren't exactly missing much time on the golf course, as they failed to advance out of the opening round in each of the previous four seasons. Failing to make the playoffs last year may actually prove beneficial to Calgary: the Flames should now know they have to shake things up instead of continuing their path to mediocrity.
2009-10 Record: 40-32-10, 90 points (third in Northwest Division; 10th in Western Conference; did not qualify for playoffs)
Bruins record vs. Flames: Boston leads the all-time series 52-32-10-1, and the Bruins won the only meeting last year 5-0 at the Garden on March 27. Tim Thomas earned the shutout with 31 saves, and the Bruins' power play enjoyed a rare breakout with three goals on four opportunities.
When to watch: The Bruins go to Calgary on Wednesday, Feb. 23, but the Flames will not pay a visit to the Garden this year.
Familiar faces: Defenseman Steve Staois made his NHL debut with the Bruins after being acquired for Steve Leach in 1996. He lasted just 66 games in Black and Gold, but has gone on to carve out an impressive career as a stay-at-home defender, logging 897 career games with Boston, Vancouver, Atlanta, Edmonton and Calgary. The Flames also drafted Bill Arnold (Needham, Mass.) in the fourth round in June, but he's headed to Boston College before beginning his pro career.
Key additions: F Olli Jokinen (free agent); F Alex Tanguay (free agent); F Raitis Ivanans (free agent); F Tim Jackman (free agent); F Stefan Meyer (free agent); F Ryan Stone (free agent)
Key losses: F Jamal Mayers (signed with San Jose); F Eric Nystrom (signed with Minnesota); F Ales Kotalik (waived); F Nigel Dawes (buyout); F Chris Higgins (signed with Florida); G Vesa Toskala (free agent); F Brian McGrattan (free agent); F Criag Conroy (free agent)
Burning question: Is Darryl Sutter crazy like a fox, or just crazy?
No general manager's moves raised more eyebrows this summer than the surprising spending spree Calgary boss Darryl Sutter went on to start free agency. It wasn't that Flames fans didn't know what to expect from Sutter's imports; it was that they knew all too well. Sutter brought back both Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay as his big prizes in the offseason overhaul. That's the same Jokinen and Tanguay who each underwhelmed Calgary fans in their first go-rounds with the team.
Jokinen was acquired at the 2009 trade deadline for Matthew Lombardi, Brandon Prust and a first-rounder, then dealt to the Rangers less than a year later along with the re-acquired Prust for Ales Kotalik and Chris Higgins. Kotalik was waived this summer after scoring five points in 26 games for Calgary, and Higgins (three points in 12 games) signed with Florida. Jokinen, 31, has seen his point totals decline for three straight years from a career-high 91 in 2006-07 to 71 to 57 to 50 last season, his lowest total since 2001-02.
Tanguay, 30, who played two seasons in Calgary before being traded to Montreal in 2008, has also dropped from 81 points with Calgary in 2006-07 to 58 to 41 to 37. Yet Sutter is confident bringing both back will solve Calgary's offensive woes after finishing 29th in the league with 201 goals last year.
2010-11 outlook: The Flames have undergone a radical makeover in the past year, with the seven-player blockbuster deal with Toronto in January that sent Dion Phaneuf to the Leafs and brought Ian White, Matt Stajan and Niklas Hagman to Calgary, followed by this summer's bevy of free-agent moves. But despite all the turnover, it's hard to argue that the Flames are actually improved. They still have Jarome Iginla to lead the offense and Mikka Kiprusoff in goal, but both of those stars have begun the downward arc of their careers. The supporting cast doesn't appear strong enough to pick up the slack, though a team both run and coached by Sutters (Brent Sutter begins his second year behind the bench this season) certainly won't be a fun club to play against.
Did you know? Flames defenseman Robyn Regehr is just the second player in NHL history who was born in Brazil. He follows goalie Mike Greenlay, who played two games for Edmonton in 1989-90. Greenlay was born in Victoria, Brazil, but grew up in Calgary. Regehr was born in Recife, Brazil, and also lived in Indonesia, where his brother and former Flames defenseman Richie Regehr was born, before his family settled in Saskatchewan when he was 7.
Next: We'll head back to the States on Sunday and check out how Colorado will look to build off their surprising season.