In two years since Johnny Gaudreau's overtime magic, lots has changed for Flames and Stars

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It was one of the biggest goals in Calgary Flames history and, arguably, the high-water mark of the past 20 years for the club.

On May 15, 2022, Johnny Gaudreau fired a puck past Dallas Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger in overtime to send the Flames to the second round of the playoffs after a gruelling seven-game series.

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A lot has changed in the two years since that magical night at the Saddledome.

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Today, the Stars are one of the favourites for the Stanley Cup, while the Flames missed the playoffs for the second straight year this season and have seen a massive amount of roster turnover in the time since Gaudreau sent Calgary hockey fans into a state of ecstasy.

And now, it’s the team the Flames eliminated that night whose path they’re trying to follow as they try to build towards contention.

At his end-of-season media availability, Flames GM Craig Conroy talked openly about the “Dallas model” and how the Stars added stars through the draft while staying competitive. Flames scouts have a big task on their hands as they try to replicate an amazing Stars draft strategy that saw defenceman Miro Heiskanen, Oettinger and forward Jason Robertson all added in one swoop in 2017.

But it’s remarkable to look back and actually see how much change the Flames have undergone in the two years since Gaudreau’s overtime wizardry.

For the Stars, the loss was a setback. For the Flames, the win marked the end of an era in a lot of ways.

Johnny Gaudreau
Johnny Gaudreau celebrates his Game 7 overtime winner against the Dallas Stars in May 2022. A few months later, he left the Calgary Flames in free agency to join the Columbus Blue Jackets. Photo by Azin Ghaffari /Postmedia

It’s best not to linger too long on the Battle of Alberta that came in the second round of 2022, but the summer that followed saw Gaudreau leave for the Columbus Blue Jackets in free agency and fellow star forward Matthew Tkachuk traded to the Florida Panthers.

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That was just the beginning. They’re far from the only guys who are gone.

In fact, look back at the Flames’ roster from that night and you’ll see that only four of the 12 forwards who played in Game 7 are still with the team — Blake Coleman, Mikael Backlund, Andrew Mangiapane and Dillon Dube.

On the blue-line, only Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington remain.

Jacob Markstrom was between the pipes against the Stars, but there are a lot of people expecting to see him traded this summer.

The head coach that night was Darryl Sutter. He’s gone, replaced by Ryan Huska.

The Flames’ GM was Brad Treliving. He’s in Toronto trying to work through the mess of a Maple Leafs roster.

There’s change at the top of the Flames’ corporate structure, too, with this week’s announcement that John Bean is stepping down from his role as president/CEO of Calgary Sports and Entertainment Company, with Robert Hayes taking over those positions and Lorenzo DeCicco becoming the chief operating officer.

That’s a lot of change in two years, to put it as plainly as possible.

The Stars, meanwhile, continued on their upward trajectory and Flames fans may find themselves cheering for the team Gaudreau eliminated in 2022. If the Stars make the Stanley Cup final, the Flames get a third-round pick in the 2026 NHL Draft as one of the conditions of the trade that sent Chris Tanev to Dallas in March.

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Change is not necessarily a bad thing, of course. Since taking over as GM, Conroy has taken the required steps to make sure the Flames didn’t lose soon-to-be veteran free agents for nothing.

The team sacrificed some short-term pain, but they’re younger, have a treasure trove of draft picks over the next couple years, some salary cap flexibility and, speaking big picture, there’s a new arena on the way, too. It’s not all doom and gloom, by any measure.

The Stars weren’t built in a day. They drafted well, kept veterans around and made shrewd acquisitions to improve — Tanev included. Now, they’re reaping the rewards and could be on their way to hoisting the Stanley Cup in a month or two.

Two years ago, it felt like the Flames were in the same position.

Now, though, they look at the team they eliminated in 2022 and see a path they hope to follow.

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