January 18, 2013
Francis: Flames franchise at a crossroads

Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla's future in the Stampede City could very well hinge on how the team starts the season. Photo by Darren Makowichuk/Calgary Sun.

The Calgary Flames are about to embark on one of the most important seasons in franchise history.


Making the NHL playoffs for the first time in four years is crucial -- not simply to justify the hiring of a new coach but to prove things are in fact moving in the right direction for the first time in eons.

Most importantly, how the Flames fare this year will determine the future of its captain, who is not only the greatest player in franchise lore but also its most popular.

How the first 30 games unfold will help him decide whether the organization is positioned to succeed.

It puts huge pressure on newcomers like Roman Cervenka, Jiri Hudler, Sven Baertschi and Dennis Wideman -- if they live up to the hype, then perhaps they will provide the team with a solid core moving forward.

If so, then the 35-year-old Iginla will undoubtedly sign his routine US$7-million extension past this season.