- Associated Press - Thursday, September 29, 2011

CALGARY, ALBERTA (AP) - The Calgary Flames were experienced and expensive the past two seasons.

And it didn’t work. An older team at the top end of the salary cap missed the playoffs both years.

Calgary got younger and gained space under the cap in Jay Feaster’s first offseason as general manager. The former Tampa Bay Lighting GM had the interim tag removed from his title in May.

Feaster took over managing duties midway through last season, when Darryl Sutter was asked to resign and Calgary had a 16-18-3 record.

Calgary went on a 25-11-9 run to finish the year, falling three points short of a playoff berth in a tight Western Conference race.

A 41-29-12 record wasn’t enough to return to the postseason, but the way the Flames finished makes them optimistic.

“The main thing with us as a group is believing in ourselves,” defenseman Mark Giordano said. “We all do right now.”

The Flames open the regular season at home Oct. 8 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Calgary’s Stanley Cup win came in 1989. And the Flames lost in seven games to Tampa Bay in the 2004 final.

After the 2004-05 lockout, the Flames were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs four straight seasons before falling short in 2010 and 2011.

Was the departure of Darryl Sutter the difference in Calgary’s late surge last winter?

“It was pretty clear to everybody that we needed a philosophical adjustment,” Flames president Ken King said when Feaster was made full-fledged GM.

“One of the things Jay had said was he had never seen a team that liked winning less, or had enjoyed it less.”

Captain Jarome Iginla, 34, and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, who turns 35 in October, are the backbone of the Flames.

What’s concerning for Calgary to start this season is Iginla’s health. The franchise scoring leader experienced back spasms during his first skate of training camp and sat out a large portion of camp. Iginla skated Thursday for the first time since then. He skated for about 20 minutes, but took no contact.

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