The Calgary Flames had a second half collapse which has led them to yet another early exit in the NHL Playoffs, this time to the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks. After being ahead of the Northwest Division for most of the season, they collapse from the trade deadline on and completely set a tone for disappointment in the playoffs.
What needs to be done for the Flames, first and foremost, is to find out how to balance out their goaltending. Miikka Kiprusoff is a workhorse, but he seems to be wearing down after playing 70+ games a year. They either need to get a back-up who is experienced in playing a small amount of time and will not miss a beat in development or they need to gain more faith in their younger back-ups. While Curtis McElhinney isn't an awful goalie in general, the fact his development was stunted by sitting on the bench is why he's not a reliable option.
The offense was better than the past few in terms of scoring, but some questions mark remain when it comes to who will be back. It seems the search for a #1 center for Jarome Iginla was solved when Olli Jokinen was acquired from the Phoenix Coyotes and he'll have another year in Calgary to flourish. With that, you can bet that Mike Cammalleri is expendable and probably won't be re-signed in Calgary. You have to wonder if Daymond Langkow will be shopped if possible to free up some room or if he'll stay along. The future of Todd Bertuzzi should be up in the air, as well-- especially after the disappointing playoff performance by him. After a late-season push, I expect Jamie Lundmark to get a small deal in the off-season to keep him in the system.
The defense has seen better day. While Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regehr are premier players, they seem to lose some kind of luster during the season, which hurt the defensive minded Flames made teams realize they can be beaten. With the play of Adam Pardy, you can expect that Adrian Aucoin will not be re-signed and Rhett Warrener will finally be done in Calgary after a injury filled tenure in Calgary. Whether or not they will make a play for Jordan Leopold or if they'll let another young guy jump into the fold.
The Flames need a big confidence builder in the off-season in order for them to get off to a good start in the next season. However, the fans will not accept this loss easy and you can expect a big upraising to possible clean house in the front office and behind the bench. While Darryl Sutter has revitalized this team, there's only so much fans can take before enough is enough and they call for a change from the top down. Mike Keenan has done a decent job, but his words could have worn thin quickly with the Flames, thus the non-responsiveness of the club in the playoffs and another early exit.
They can only go on their miracle run in 2004 for so long and the expiration date is now up for it. Calgary will need to come out in a big way next year, make the playoffs without a doubt, and then finally get past the first round of the playoffs to make people believe they are a contender for the year. A great team on paper only means so much when you can't translate that to the ice, the Flames are a prime example of that right now.