Breaking down the stories and takeaways from the first day of Calgary Flames training camp

45 players have been invited to Calgary Flames training camp, which starts on the ice today. The lineup includes 26 forwards, 13 defenceman, six goaltenders, and is a good mix of veteran NHLers, young prospects, and guys trying to take the jump from the latter to the former.

GM Brad Treliving, Coach Geoff Ward, and Captain Mark Giordano all spoke on Sunday about the off-season, training camp, and what the season will look like. Here is what they said.

The roster

The Flames made the move to bring in 39 skaters and six goaltenders, however they will start with 36 skaters and five goalies. Connor Zary, Dustin Wolf, and Jakob Pelletier are still playing at the World Juniors in Edmonton, and will not be able to join the team until their time with their respective national teams comes to an end.

Oliver Kylington jut signed his contract with the Flames, but had some immigration issues which delayed his return to Canada. He still needs to finish his quarantine. Because teams can only have 36 skaters at camp, when these four players join the Flames, the team will need to assign some of their other players to Stockton or elsewhere.

Adding to their roster, the Flames have brought in two players on professional tryouts: goalie Garret Sparks and defenceman Michael Stone. Sparks spent last season in the Vegas Golden Knights system, putting up a 0.908 save percentage with the Chicago Bears in the AHL.

Stone played 33 games with the Flames last season, but spent most of the season as the seventh defenceman. He spent most of the off-season training in Calgary with the Flames, and is very familiar with the team’s systems. Treliving mentioned that with the tight season, the team will need lots of bodies. He specifically said they think they will need 10-11 NHL ready defencemen. With the number of young defencemen that the Flames have, Treliving noted that Stone brings coveted NHL experience.

Two players with NHL contracts will not be at training camp this year. Goaltender Tyler Parsons had ankle surgery last month and is still recovering from that. The bigger note was Martin Pospisil, who had a very successful loan stint with HC Kosice in Slovakia, was not invited to training camp. Ryan Pike of Flames Nation has since reported that the forward tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to stay in Slovakia to recover. We wish him all the best

Training camp

This will be a very quick training camp. Unlike previous years where the team had about a month to test and evaluate many of their younger players, this time they will have just over a week to determine who their best players can be. It wouldn’t be surprising to see cuts made swiftly, and the lineup to look like the opening night roster almost right away.

The team will be split into two groups: Team McDonald and Team Iginla. Regular NHL players will be split between the two squads to add some semblance of balance between the two sides. The team will play two intra-squad games on January 7th and January 11th at 7PM.

Treliving noted that each ice time will matter, especially for players on the bubble. While it will be difficult for guys on the bubble to crack the roster, he mentioned that if they can be impact players on the ice at training camp, they have a real shot of making the team.

Going into the season

The team will be going into the season with a regular maximum 23 man roster as well as a maximum six player taxi squad. The taxi squad must contain at least one goaltender. The players at camp will be fighting for one of the 29 available positions.

Treliving mentioned that he wanted the younger players to be playing meaningful games throughout the season. It likely does not make sense for younger players to be sitting on the sidelines for the season as it may not be beneficial for their development. Players that make the roster or the taxi squad will likely be playing regularly this season.

As for the players who do not make the Flames’ roster this year, they will likely begin the season with the Stockton Heat. It is expected that the AHL will start up the first week of February, but there are still numerous questions to be answers and logistics to be discussed.

The Flames are expecting to keep their affiliate in Stockton, which may complicate moving players back and forth from Calgary. Players who play in leagues that have not begun may be allowed to play in Stockton. This particularly impacts Zary and Wolf in the WHL, both of whom have signed their NHL contracts

As for the coaching staff, the same group will be back alongside Jason LaBarbera, who is the team’s new goalie coach. Treliving noted that the coaching staff got along quite well, and that the team still had a way to go to really implement the strategies that the coaches wanted to use. Ray Edwards, who was brought in as an assistant coach when the team promoted Geoff Ward, will return as well as an assistant coach. He will be handling the powerplay this season.

Personnel

Ward and especially Giordano both mentioned just how deep the team is. The Captain went so far as to say that this was one of the deepest teams he has played on, and that the team should be able to play five lines deep.

Specifically, Giordano referenced how many of the young guys could be ready. He mentioned just how good Connor Mackey was, and that he was almost NHL ready. Expect him to make a push for an NHL spot this season.

He also mentioned the difference of not playing with T.J. Brodie this season. He will likely be playing with a right handed defenceman like Chris Tanev or Rasmus Andersson. One thing that does is it allows him to pass the puck much harder, as it is easier to receive a pass on your forehand as opposed to on your backhand.

He specifically talked about Andersson, and his poise with the puck. “He is one of the best under pressure,” Gio noted, and that with him and Valimaki back this season, the defence corps is looking much stronger this season.

One of the big questions going into this season is whether Johnny Gaudreau could be in for a bounceback season. Ward mentioned that Gaudreau came into the season with a big smile on his face, and that he looked very well rested. “It looked like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders,” Ward mentioned. While the team still has not started playing, he noted that all signs point to a good season for the dynamic winger.

With how compressed the season is, the team will be relying on both David Rittich and Jacob Markstrom this season, and both Ward and Treliving mentioned the importance of having two guys who can win them games. While the team did go out and pick up a proven NHL starter in Markstrom, they can only play their starter so many nights in a row. With the baseball-like season that this season is shaping up to be, they will need both their goalies to be at their best.

Finally, Treliving noted the importance of starting the season well. The team needs to be prepared both mentally and physically for this season, and how different it is going to be. Health will be a hot commodity this season, and the team will need to adjust the way they handle practices and rest so as to get the most out of their guys. Expect training camp to set the tone for how this season will go.

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