When Bob Hartley was named head coach of the Calgary Flames, he insisted the team would play a more entertaining brand of hockey. The problem, said all the critics who watched the club miss the playoffs for a third straight season, was that the talent needed to be an exciting team was in short supply.
The Flames won't remind anybody of the 1980s Oilers, but by adding defenseman Dennis Wideman and forward Jiri Hudler, they certainly have more skill and the opportunity to score more goals for a fan base that has watched far too much dull and losing hockey the last few years.
"We feel as a group we need to be tougher against, but in terms of size, we feel we have to upgrade our skill," general manager Jay Feaster said.
A few days before the kickoff to the July 1 free agency frenzy, the Flames acquired Wideman's rights from the Washington Capitals for a minor-leaguer and a fifth-round draft choice and then signed him to a five-year, $26.25 million contract.
Hudler, who spent all of his NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings, was signed via free-agency to a four-year, $16 million contract.
When restricted free-agent Mikael Backlund is signed to a new contract -- although he's been the subject of trade rumors -- the Flames are looking at a pool of players that also includes Jarome Iginla, Michael Cammalleri, Alex Tanguay, Roman Cervenka, Curtis Glencross and top prospect Sven Baertschi for their top-six forward positions.
Meanwhile, Wideman's offensive skills, even if his defensive play can be questionable at times, should provide a greater attack, including on the power play.
Sure, it's not to the caliber you see on some of the NHL's top teams, but the Flames needed to add talent and did it.