Throughout the 1990's many a prankster would suggest the burning "C" on emblazoned on the chest of a Calgary hockey player stood for "choke" and not Calgary.
As the 90's turned to a new millennium a more apt "C" word would likely be "clubs" as the team failed to make the playoffs for seven straight seasons, spending more time on the golf course than in the post season.
Of late, however, the Calgary "C" has stood firmly for the word change.
Change off the ice where the team ushered in it's third regime change in four years, and change on the ice where the team has continued to roll over it's roster at a furious pace.
The only player left on the current roster that started the 1999-2000 season - Al Coates last season at the helm - is Jarome Iginla. That's one player on a roster of 23 players or a miniscule 4.3%. Oh sure midseason call ups added Denis Gauthier and Robyn Regehr to the fold that campaign, but other than that only two other current players made an appearance that season; Chris Clark and Oleg Saprykin.
But forget all that ... it's just history, and an era that shouldn't be reviewed if at all possible.
There's more important change to analyze - that of the Calgary Flames that completed the 2002-03 season and the Calgary Flames of today
A look at the expanded Flames roster (players that had spent a significant amount of time in Calgary, which comes to roughly 25 players) one notices a lot of change from mid April to late July.
Darryl Sutter has moved out no fewer than eight faces, and through trades, promotions and free agent signings has added eight to replace them (Dean McAmmond is considered a new face for this analysis as he didn't suite up after his deal to Calgary at the trade deadline).
And he may not be done.
Seven players out of a group of 25 amounts to a 32% roster turn over in just over three off-season months.
Change for the sake of change seems to a be a pattern in this organization, but will this summer's frenzy actually result in a step forward for on ice product? Will the Flames be better? Worse? Bigger? Smaller? Faster? Slower? More entertaining? Less entertaining?
All good questions, but most difficult to answer at this point.
We can, however, take a look at some interesting statistics for the 2003-04 Calgary Flames - a starting point in identifying if Sutter has indeed established that new identity he has sought since taking over the job.
Most statistical analysis of NHL size looks at each club's average height (say 6'0") and average weight (say 200 pounds).
The 2002-03 Calgary Flames averaged six feet and one third inch in height and weighed in at 196.5 pounds, according to our source (and I say source since each web site seems to have slightly different numbers).
The team that has been built to suite up this fall has grown to just over 6'1" in height and has an average weight of 201 pounds - a gain of very close to an inch, and just about five pounds per player.
To put that in more intriguing terms the Flames have added a total (not average, but the total of all players) of 20 inches in height (across 25 players) and 85 pounds - roughly the size of a brand new Theoren Fleury in his prime.
They are clearly a much bigger club.
With few exceptions, most of the off season moves made by Sutter seem to have shipped out elder statesman and shipped in much younger hockey players.
The tale of the tape seems to support that claim.
The 25 man 2003 roster for the Flames had an average age of 27.6, compared to that of the current roster that sits 1.4 years down the totem poll at 26.2.
If we look at that change in the more broad summation sense, the Flames have shaved a total of 31 years off their hockey club from April to July through transactions.
We've established that the Calgary Flames are much younger, but what effect has getting younger had on the club's overall experience?
The roster that completed the 2002-03 season in Calgary had a total of 8,412 games of NHL experience as of April 15th, 2003. That works out to an average of 366 games for each of the 25 roster players.
The team that is set to take the ice this fall has 6,629 games under their belts - a whopping 1,783 less games played (78 games per player) than the team they could or would have had without all the summer player movement. The total of 6,629 games works out to a per player average of 288 games.
Experience tends to win in the National Hockey League, suggesting a 28% hit in terms of experience could be the largest obstacle that the Flames need to over come.
The simple truth of the matter is that the above number is somewhat overstated. A better comparison would be to analyse that same end of season roster in before season terms (as each player went on to add between 1 and 82 games of experience to their totals through the season). That way you get a season opening to season opening comparison.
The 2003 roster had played a total of 7,535 games or 301 per player before the start of the 2002-03 campaign. That's a diminished difference of 906 games or 36 games per player.
The club had better hop on a very quick learning curve.
Better or Worse?
That is indeed the question.
We've established that are bigger, heavier, and much younger, but has the organization taken a step forward over the summer? That of course, won't be solved in this or any other opinion piece before the puck is dropped. Changes on paper are rarely the same as how the actual changes play out on the ice.
We can however, take a look at certain production benchmarks to get a feel for the advantages or challenges that these changes have created.
Big, fast and young may make for exciting hockey to some extent, but nothing within those three adjectives suggests an increase in goal lights being lit behind enemy goaltenders.
The Calgary Flames squad that finished the season last year had a lot of experience and with that production. The 23 skaters amassed a total of 1,189 career goals and 1,634 assists for a total of 2,823 career points. That works out to an average of 52 goals and 71 assists per man.
The 23 skaters most likely to kick off the 2003-04 campaign in Calgary have amassed 1,029 career goals, 1,441 assists and a total of 2,470 career points - or 353 less than the previous edition of the club. On average, the 23 skates have 44 career goals, 63 career assists and a total of 107 career points.
A step back? Sure. But is it really? With less games played it's only natural to see a drop off in career production, therefore the only true measuring stick would come in the form of a goal or point per game average.
The 2002-03 season ending chapter of the Calgary Flames had a combined goals per game average of 0.141 over the careers of all 23 skaters. The group had a 0.336 combined points per game average.
This year's club has a 0.155 goals per game average and a 0.373 points per game mark, an increase of 0.098 and 0.110 respectively. Over an 82 game schedule that suggests an increase of eight goals, all other things being held equal. Should the add youth take positive steps forward - something a lot more possible with a younger player than an established veteran - the number could rise even more.
Let the Games Begin
Training camps open across the National Hockey League in less than six weeks. The month of August is traditionally quite quiet, but within four weeks a lot of talk will begin to surface around the new season upon us.
The Calgary Flames are a dramatically different hockey club, that much has been established.
Will the difference in roster lead to a difference in outcome? Can this team finally put the kibosh on a horrid run that has seen them miss the playoffs for the majority of a decade?
That remains to be seen.
Regardless of the total in the points column for the upcoming season, the team does look to have made some strides toward a brighter future, and a hockey mad city is hoping that future is now.