Calgary Flames Season Preview
Calgary Flames Season Preview
For many Flames fans, January”s trade that shipped away a franchise cornerstone in Dion Phaneuf for a collection of aging role players from Toronto marked the beginning of the end. GM Darryl Sutter bringing back not one but two former Flames””both far past their primes””didn”t do much to placate the team”s supporters: pairing Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen with Jarome Iginla once again in the hopes of some type of resurgence is unlikely to pay off for the Sutter clan, and it”s difficult to envision the Flames putting together anything better than a mediocre season in 2010-11.
The lack of young talent on the squad is perhaps the primary reason Calgary will struggle to improve on last season”s record this coming year. There are big names on the Flames” roster, but for most of these players, their best hockey is behind them, and none of them are getting any younger.
Iginla”s point production dropped dramatically in 2009-10, but fans can expect the veteran winger to bounce back this season, although recapturing the success of three years ago is probably out of the question. Jay Bouwmeester begins the second term of a five-year contract, and Head Coach Brent Sutter is hoping that his prized defender will be able to produce more than the paltry 29 points he managed last season.
If Bouwmeester can return to the levels of play he exhibited in Florida, the Flames” defensive corps should in fact be quite solid. Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff posted an impressive .920 save percentage between the pipes, en route to his best statistical season in four years. If healthy and in shape, Kiprusoff can be a very effective netminder for Calgary.
While the Flames might be able to contain their opponents defensively, their lack of offensive firepower could ultimately prove to be the team”s undoing. Rene Bourque belongs on the second line, and outside of Iginla, the squad doesn”t boast too many scoring threats. Tanguay”s experience cannot be discounted, and the left winger looked sharp in Calgary”s preseason opener against Vancouver, setting up two goals, including an Iginla game-winner. It”s hard to imagine Tanguay playing worse for Calgary than he did for Tampa Bay last year, but Flames fans and management alike might be asking too much if they expect the 30-year-old to be better than a 50-point player this season.
With the team”s current personnel, the Flames can expect to linger on the playoff bubble for a year or two more. Ultimately, though, Darryl Sutter will have to reconcile himself to the fact that the team needs to rebuild with youth””not big-name veterans””in order to compete with the likes of Vancouver, Colorado, and soon enough, Edmonton. Calgary fans are understandably unsure about what to expect from their squad this season after some questionable front office decisions. The best case scenario for the Flames is a gutsy late season run to sneak into the eighth spot of the playoffs; the worst case scenario is faltering early and battling to stay out of the Northwest Division cellar.
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