After five straight playoff appearances starting with a run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2004, the Flames have now missed the postseason in back-to-back seasons. Last year, Calgary rallied in the second half of the season with a 27-11-9 mark after Christmas to make a run at the playoff spot, but came up three points short. The Flames didn't make a lot of moves this summer other than re-signing a number of their own free agents, as they are obviously banking on that late run carrying over to this season and the core in place being strong enough to get Calgary back in the postseason.
2010-11 Record: 41-29-12, 94 points (2nd Northwest Division; 10th Western Conference; did not qualify for playoffs)
Bruins record vs. Flames: Boston leads the all-time series 53-32-10-1, and the Bruins won the only meeting last year 3-1 in Calgary on Feb. 22 as Milan Lucic scored twice and Tim Thomas made 28 saves.
When to watch: The Bruins host Calgary on Thursday, Jan. 5 in the only matchup between the clubs this season.
Familiar faces: Calgary signed forward Ben Walter this summer. A fifth-round pick by the Bruins in 2004, Walter played 10 games in Boston in 2005-06 and 2006-07 but did not score a point. The Flames also drafted Bill Arnold (Needham, Mass./Boston College) in the fourth round in 2010, and this summer hired Massachusetts native and former Boston Globe Red Sox beat writer Chris Snow as director of video analysis. Former Bruin Steve Leach is also a pro scout for Calgary.
Key additions: D Chris Butler (trade with Buffalo); F Paul Byron (trade with Buffalo); F Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond (trade with New Jersey); D Scott Hannan (free agent); F Guillaume Desbiens (free agent); F Carter Bancks (free agent); F Ben Walter (free agent); D Derek Smith (free agent); D Jordan Henry (trade with Florida); D Clay Wilson (free agent); D Joe Piskala (free agent); F Roman Horak (trade with NY Rangers)
Key losses: D Robyn Regehr (traded to Buffalo); F Ales Kotalik (traded to Buffalo); F Fredrik Modin (retired); D Steve Staios (free agent); D Adam Pardy (signed with Dallas); D Keith Seabrook (traded to Florida); D Tim Erixon (traded to NY Rangers); F Craig Conroy (retired)
Burning question: Can the Flames' aging stars carry Calgary deep into the postseason?
The Flames didn't make any major moves to shake up their roster this offseason, putting faith in a core group that is aging quickly. They were still effective last year, with Jarome Iginla, 34, Alex Tanguay, 31, and Olli Jokinen, 32, finishing as the club's top three scorers, but their best days are likely behind them. The same can be said for center Brendan Morrison, 36, who could miss the start of the season after knee surgery, and goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, 34, who managed just a 2.63 GAA and .906 save percentage last year. Those players are still capable of being significant contributors, but it would certainly help Calgary's cause if it could inject some youthful legs to help take some of the pressure off that core group.
2011-12 outlook: The Flames will still be counting on Iginla, who topped the 40-goal mark for the first time since 2007-08 with 43-43-86 totals last year. Tanguay (22-47-69) and Jokinen (17-37-54) both had reasonably successful returns to Calgary last years as well, while Rene Bourque (27-23-50) remains one of the more underrated performers in the league and Curtis Glencross (24-19-43) enjoyed a breakthrough season. The defense will have to overcome the loss of Robyn Regehr, who was traded to Buffalo, and Kiprusoff will be counted upon for another heavy workload after starting 70-plus games in each of the last six seasons.
Did you know? Dion Phaneuf hasn't lived up to lofty expectations raised by his 20-goal rookie season in 2005-06, but the defenseman has been a solid contributor in Toronto, where he now wears the captain's C. The deal that sent him to Toronto is one that will haunt the Flames for some time. Not only did Calgary give up the best player in the deal in Phaneuf, the Flames also sent promising Keith Aulie, a physical, 6-foot-5 defenseman already emerging as a force on the Leafs blue line. In return, the Flames received defenseman Ian White, who lasted 43 games in Calgary and has since moved on to Carolina, San Jose and now Detroit, tough guy Jamal Mayers, who played 27 games before moving on to San Jose and now Chicago, Niklas Hagman, who has 16 goals in 98 games in Calgary and was placed on waivers and went unclaimed last February, and Matt Stajan, who has managed nine goals in 103 games and still managed to get a four-year, $14 million extension before last season.
With the bulk of the offseason moves complete and the start of another NHL season inching closer, NESN.com Bruins beat writer Douglas Flynn will be previewing one team from each conference every day through August 26.
Tuesday, August 23: Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche