The most disappointing Calgary Flames season in recent memory is finally over.

In a best-of-times-worst-of-times way, the 2012-13 NHL campaign is exactly what this organization needed.

Now that the season is done with Friday's 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks, the Flames are now heading toward a key summer in the club's future.

The team's record (19-25-4) means a fourth consecutive season without the playoffs, which shouldn't be acceptable considering the Flames were big spenders in each of those years and constantly loading up on veteran players.

The good news from the disappointment is the long-needed realization it's time for a new era kicked off. The club spent the end of the season integrating prospects into the mix.

"We saw some good flashes," Flames head coach Bob Hartley said. "Can I say that one of those young players was outstanding to a point I felt every game he was one of our dominant players? I'm not ready to go to that extent, but we saw some good flashes.

"The biggest point we need to get in there is we put those kids in all kinds of situations wanting them to try to figure it out. (Thursday), they got to play against (St. Louis Blues captain David) Backes. (Friday night), it was to play against (Marian) Hossa, to play against (Jonathan) Toews, to play against Duncan Keith "¦ It's not every day you can have that taste."

Now, the Sea of Red can can await the most interesting off-season in an eternity as ownership and management begin to plot the next steps.

One of the first steps will be the 2013 NHL Draft, and Friday's results were a positive development in that regard.

The Calgary club's loss combined with the Edmonton Oilers' 6-1 beatdown of the Minnesota Wild pushed the Flames to 25th overall in the NHL standings.

Their odds of winning Monday's lottery for the first overall selection improved from 4.7% to 6.2%.

The Flames can still drop as many as two more spots.

They could use a Nashville Predators win Saturday over the Columbus Blue Jackets and/or the Carolina Hurricanes gaining a single point when they face the Pittsburgh Penguins, also Saturday.