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Who is the X-factor for the Calgary Flames?

The Flames will no doubt be looking to avenge last season’s dismal performance with some success this season. That much is certain. But the question becomes who is the player to help guide the team in the right direction in 2014-15?

The Flames have a number of talented players on their roster they can lean on, but many of them are just too young. Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and (if he makes the team) Sam Bennett are cornerstones for the future, but relying on them to right the ship this early in their careers could prove harmful.

Then there are the veterans – guys like Curtis Glencross, Jiri Hudler and Mason Raymond among others. But while the former two could help off the ice, their play on the ice isn’t, or at least hasn’t been enough to make a huge difference. And expecting Raymond to be the resolution in his first season isn’t very realistic.

There are also a number of defensemen who could help turn things around this season, but not in the drastic fashion needed. So just who is the X-factor for the Calgary Flames? The answer has to be Jonas Hiller.

While the team is employing a plethora of experienced defensemen – which will help the overall defensive picture – the forward group, overall, lacks experience. That’s where Hiller can come in handy: he has shown in the past that he can steal games, which will come in handy in 2014.

This was on display no more so than at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. To say he single-handedly carried the Swiss national team would be a gross understatement. Switzerland made it only as far as the qualification play-off, but not for lack of effort on Hiller’s part: The Swiss finished 2-1 in the preliminary round, scoring a combined two goals while allowing just one.

By the time they got to the aforementioned qualification play-off, however, Hiller had run out of gas and Switzerland fell to Latvia by a 3-1 final. It’s because of this experience at the Olympics that Hiller knows how to handle being the last line of defense on a team with an anemic offence.

And offence was an issue that plagued Calgary last year as they finished 23rd in the league in goals for. While the additions of Devin Setoguchi and Mason Raymond in the offseason are significant, that may not be enough to fix the team’s offence. That means Hiller will more than likely have to stand on his head on a nightly basis just to give his team a fighting chance at a win.

Fortunately for the Flames he knows just how to do that, which, by the end of the season, could give the team an extra 5-10 wins. That, coupled with an offense that can put the puck in the net a little more than it did last season, could give the team a better finish in the standings by season’s end.

Andrew DiRienzo
Andrew is a die hard sports fan who follows any and all sports. When he realized a career as an athlete wasn't in the cards he decided to venture into the world of sports writing. Born and raised in Canada's capital, Ottawa, Andrew has a journalism diploma from Algonquin College and an Honours Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Ottawa. In addition to covering college athletics while at Algonquin, he has also covered the Women's World Hockey Championships (2013) and junior hockey.
Andrew DiRienzo
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