They may still in their rebuilding phase but last season, the Calgary Flames have proven that they belong on the same echelon as their rivals from Tinseltown. The Los Angeles Kings were 2-2-1 against the Flames last season, losing both their regulation games on home ice in the final minute of said games. But the Flames are a team on the rise and are determined to prove to the Stanley Cup champions that last season was no fluke.
Arguably the Kings' biggest problem last season in regards to the Flames was dealing with a former teammate of their own in Mike Cammalleri. But, after signing in New Jersey this summer, Cammalleri is gone, as is TJ Galiardi and tough guy Shane O'Brien. But joining the Flames are some familiar foes, including former Anaheim netminder Jonas Hiller and former Blackhawk Brandon Bollig - both of whom have had a fair deal of recent success against the Kings.
With Brian Burke already in tow, the Flames brought in Brad Treliving as their new GM this past off-season and aside from the Hiller and Bollig signings, the new boss went out and signed forward Mason Raymond and defenseman Deryk Engelland. Plus, no one can ignore the assets the Flames already have like Sean Monahan, who had a solid rookie campaign last year and defenseman Mark Giordano who is coming off a career year. Hot, young prospects like Max Reinhart and Markus Granlund are also waiting in the wings should the Flames need some fresh talent.
The Kings may not have to worry about the Flames like they would about Chicago or St. Louis as far as playoff threats go but the boys from Southern Alberta will not be making this year an easy one for the Kings.
Mikael Backlund, coming off career highs in goals (18), assists (21) and points (39) last year, will be counted on, along with the aforementioned Monahan, to be an instrumental force in his team's growth.
"That's part of it. We need people that take steps forward and that's the message I've given to young guys," Treliving told NHL.com. "Joe Colborne's a young guy (24), but he has to take a step forward. Brandon Bollig, there's an opportunity for him, the Monahans, the Backlunds."
Sean Monahan is okay with that.
"Obviously it was my first year last year and I didn't know what to expect, but it was a good learning experience for myself," he told NHL.com. "From my own standpoint, I think I've got a lot better to offer.
"As a team, we do too. This year, with some of the guys we've brought in, I think they'll be a big help and we're moving in the right direction.
"I think last year, every day we had something to build on. This year, we'll be even better. We're a hard-working group and a very tight team. That's big for success and something that will really help us down the road."
Playoff team or not, the Los Angeles Kings will have their hands full with the Calgary Flames this season. Don't expect a cakewalk.