FlamesForum readers welcome back! A new season is finally upon us and regardless of where you sit on the collective bargaining debacle if you have any ounce of interest in hockey then you’re sure to be curious about this year’s Calgary Flames.

Pundits have put the Flames at the bottom of the heap. Perhaps it’s the hometown rose-coloured glasses, but we have a hard time seeing the Flames as the 3rd least likely team to win the cup (as per Vegas odds). Calgary is a better team than the one that missed the post-season last season finishing in 9th. The problem? So is everyone else.

Apart from the likes of Columbus, there are few teams in the Western Conference that could be slated as cakewalks. Perhaps the likes of Detroit will taper off after the off-season losses of Lindstrom (and Hudler). Maybe St Louis won’t be as dangerous? Maybe Colorado will put it all together? Maybe Vancouver did little to improve after their first round playoff exit?

There’s a lot of questions out there, but fact remains, the Flames need to find a lot of answers in the tinkered team they’ve got. Quite a few ‘what ifs’ plague the team, that if they prove to work in Calgary’s favour may end up being the lynchpin to the whole operation. But how many seasons have fans heard about the ‘magic’ piece that would fix all of our post-season problems?

Management has certainly stated their commitment to build a winning team with the pieces they’ve got. Admittedly, Feaster and company have done well to re-stock the prospect cupboards with exciting players who are, let’s face it, 3-4 years away from the NHL.

In the meantime we have a team trying desperately to find their mojo, assuming there’s one to be had. Starting at the top, Jarome Iginla is in his final year of his current contract, and although he’s saying the right things, one has to wonder if he’d like to contend with another team to improve his chances of winning the elusive Cup.

We can bank that Iginla will post up another 30 goals this season, and perhaps even rejuvenate his play with the one of the wild card additions–the coach.

Bob Hartley could be the answer to the inconsistent play. Heck, anything is better than a Sutter at this point, but remember what everyone was saying when Brent Sutter and his pedigree showed up to camp some three odd years ago…. One wonders what a new coaching staff from top to bottom will offer. We have high hopes, however. A new system that showcases the team’s skill (or lack thereof) is something the franchise hasn’t seen since, well, the glory days in the 80s. Whether or not we have the personal to accomplish the task–that’s a different story.

Certainly, there’s more firepower in the lineup, but again, with new hope comes new question marks. Is Roman Cervenka really that good? Will Sven Baertschi even make the club? and if he does will he be outmuscled in the fast paced shortened season? Can Mike Cammalleri find a 30 goal form? Will Alex Tanguay put up career points? Is this the year the Mikael Backlund performs to expectations? Does the team have more grit? Who’s going to backup Kipper? And will Kipper post career numbers?

We know for certain we’re better in every way, but to what extent? For this reason we can’t wait for puck drop at home Sunday, January 20th against SJ (a great test).

One thing is for sure, if we were the betting types, we’d put a $10 spot on the Flames to go all the way. The odds certainly don’t match the talent on the ice. Maybe this is another 2004 where the ‘underdog’ Flames put together a run (maybe Matt Stajan is the hero????)

We won’t have to wait long to see how the experiments work out–how the dreams vs. reality will pan out. Time will tell.