While hockey fans in Calgary may be scratching their heads over a strange series of off-season moves that has seen the team bring back banished players Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay into the fold, there is real reason for optimism.
The bright light at the end of the tunnel comes in the form of 21-year old Mikael Backlund who the Flames feel is a future cornerstone of the franchise.
After a year of bouncing back and forth between Calgary and their AHL affiliate in Abbottsford (with a short stopover in Germany for the World Hockey Championship for good measure), Backlund is ready to make a permanent home in Calgary, something that his coach in Abbotsford believes that he is ready for.
"He really worked hard to give himself a chance to come play in Calgary," said Heat head coach Jim Playfair, in town watching several of his players compete at Flames' prospect camp. "He did very well when he played here. He came back to Abbotsford for a long road trip and you could tell that he was a different player."
Most within the Flames organization credit Backlund's maturity and positive attitude when they discuss reasons that they believe that the slick Swede will be a key player for Calgary this upcoming season.