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One question every Flames player must answer after playoff exit

4 1 0
20.04.2019

CALGARY – The handshakes with the Avalanche had almost concluded and the crowd awaited the Flames salute for a season that had been brilliant, until spring.

As Mike Smith joined the sullen group standing on their blue line, the chant that peppered their final game returned.

"Smit-ty, Smit-ty, Smit-ty."

From goat to hero in five playoff games, it will be fascinating to see where the curious path of Mike Smith goes next.

Asked after the game if he wanted to return to the Flames next year, the pending unrestricted free agent was non-committal.

"This is a great group in here," he said.

"We’ve got a good group of guys that care. It just didn’t pan out this year."

Read into that what you’d like, but keep in mind how frustrating the 37-year-old found coach Bill Peters’ handling of him throughout an up and down season.

After being wildly unpopular here the bulk of the last two years with irrational treatment by a critical fan base, can a five-game run change his or the team’s mind about a possible return?

"I think for everything that has gone on in the season, where I’ve been and where I’ve got to, it obviously feels good in a disappointing game," he said of the season-ending chants of support for him.

"The fans showing support like that is a nice sendoff."

Have Flames fans indeed seen the last of Smith in red and gold?

It’s just one of the many questions surrounding a team that will look at every single player to determine what lies ahead.

A glimpse at the questions to be asked of every player moving forward:

MIKE SMITH

Will the Flames consider bringing him back?

At 37 years of age, and with a recent history of injuries, it appeared through Smith’s early-season struggles that his days in the NHL (and certainly Calgary) were numbered.

However, his playoff brilliance turned the table on fan sentiment and kept the door open for a return to a league where he could serve as a mentor to a young goalie (like David Rittich perhaps) while also being capable of playing 40 games for a couple million dollars.

Given the payday due Matthew Tkachuk, can the Flames afford anything other than Rittich and a discounted Smith again? Or........

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