The Calgary Flames are a veteran club that finished just out of the playoffs last year. But the team has little depth at centre and their aging superstar, Jarome Iginla, is on the final year of his contract. Time is running out for this team to make a run at Lord Stanely's mug.
Are these the final days of Jarome Iginla?
Though he was originally drafted by the Dallas Stars, Iginla has played all 1,188 of his NHL regular-season games for Calgary. But Iginla is on an expiring contract and though his stated goal is to remain with the Flames for the rest of his playing career, he is also adamant that he wants to win. If the Flames go backward rather than forward this season, Iginla will have a difficult personal choice to make.
How does the Bob Hartley era unfold?
Hartley has won wherever he's coached – in junior, minor pro, Europe and the NHL – which is something they crave in Calgary, a team that has won a playoff round in just a single year (2004) since the 1989 Stanley Cup championship. Philosophically, Hartley's willingness to play a more attacking style will resonate in the Flames dressing room, as will his 'we are family' refrain.
Who plugs the hole in the middle?
Calgary signed free-agent Roman Cervenka out of the KHL to replace Olli Jokinen, but Cervenka is currently sidelined with blot clots in his leg and needs to be cleared by a hematologist before he can play. It leaves the Flames paper thin down the middle and for now anyway, means left winger Alex Tanguay will fill in as the team's top centre.
Can Miikka Kiprusoff play all 48 games?
Seems unlikely and yet, Calgary's record with Kiprusoff between the pipes is significantly better than without him (last year's backups combined for a 2-7-5 record) so they may need to squeeze every last ounce of production from him. Kiprusoff is a workhorse and every year, coaches pay lip service to giving him more time off, but in the heat of the battle, it is difficult for them to turn away from someone still playing an elite level of goal.
How good is Sven Baertschi really?
In a five-game cameo last year, the rookie from Switzerland scored three goals and showed the sniper's touch around the net that Calgary hasn't seen in ages. But there is a difference between scoring 94 points in 47 junior games (which he did last year in Portland) and producing offence regularly in the NHL. The 20-year-old may need time to find his way.