By Sonny Sachdeva, May 14 2015 —
The Calgary Flames’ playoff run may have ended in a disappointing overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks, but the season as a whole remains a definite success.
While most predicted the Flames would fail to qualify for a playoff berth, the young group forged a never-say-die identity that took them to the second round of the postseason, ranking them as one of the final eight teams in the quest for the Stanley Cup.
After bowing out to a Ducks squad that looks poised to challenge for the championship, many will claim the Flames are a group who rode a series of unlikely circumstances to play beyond their capabilities.
That may not be a fair assessment. While the Flames’ success certainly appears unsustainable, the strength of their roster can’t be denied.
The team’s league-leading number of NHL Award nominations displays the elite balance of the organization. Calgary’s four nominations are the most of any NHL club, and they’d likely boast one more if not for a late-season injury.
Rookie forward Johnny Gaudreau leads the pack with a nomination for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s best rookie. The promising winger has a good chance to capture the award after tying for the lead in scoring among all rookies with 64 points this season.
Head coach Bob Hartley will also have an excellent chance to bring home some hardware after being nominated for the Jack Adams Award as top coach. The respected bench-boss was crucial in guiding the young Flames to their successful finish.
A pair of Flames veterans earned awards nominations as well. Leading scorer Jiri Hudler was tabbed for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, given to the player judged to be the most sportsmanlike while performing at an exceptional level. As well, Captain Mark Giordano was nominated for the NHL Foundation Player Award, highlighting his commitment to Calgary’s community.
But Giordano’s presence at the awards ceremony comes with a caveat. If not for a torn bicep tendon that ended the veteran defenceman’s season after 61 games, Giordano could have earned a chance at one of the league’s most prestigious awards — the James Norris Memorial Trophy, awarded to the league’s top defenceman.
Through the first three quarters of the season, Giordano established himself as the best defender in the league, leading all blue-liners in scoring while remaining a reliable defensive force and unrivalled leader. He emerged as the favourite to claim the Norris before injuries derailed his chances.
Giordano will still enter next season as one of the most respected blue-liners in the league. As we’ve seen from Calgary’s numerous other nominations, he’ll play next season under the tutelage of one of the sport’s best coaches and behind perhaps the most promising group of young forwards.
With other young stars Sean Monahan (who finished among the league’s top fifteen goal-scorers with 31 tallies this season), T.J. Brodie (who formed what was widely considered the NHL’s best defensive pairing alongside Giordano) and Sam Bennett (who excelled during the playoffs and could vie for the Calder next season) on the roster as well, it’s clear Calgary’s breakout season was more than a lucky break.
Calgary’s young roster heads into the 2015-16 season with the invaluable experience of a two-round playoff run, establishing themselves as one of the Western conference elite, with the best surely yet to come.