This is the first blog I've ever written on the Calgary Flames, so please excuse any factual errors and if my grammar ain't so good.
After five consecutive years of spring hockey in Calgary, the last two seasons have ended prematurely. Many pundits and so-called experts are predicting the same disappointment for the Flames this coming season. However, those of us who watched every minute of every game last year think differently. We saw a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde team last year, but if not for their very slow start, the Flames would have been keeping their golf clubs in the garage for a least a couple weeks longer.
As you can tell by the blog title, I want to talk about three players that the Flames will need to have a great year in order to bring this team into the playoffs. I am not talking about guys like Iginla, Tanguay or Kiprusoff; we know they are going to have their usual consistent seasons. Iggy and Tangs will supply plenty of offense on our top line and Kipper is still a top goalkeeper. I also expect solid play by role players like Tom Kostopoulos, Tim Jackman, and Cory Sarich. But, in the excruciatingly tight Western Conference, the Flames are going to need much more than that. We'll need secondary scoring, consistent penalty killing, and reliable defense. In my opinion, the following three guys are the key to supplying these keys and bring the Flames back into the playoffs.
I already mentioned that the Flames were a Jekyll and Hyde team last year and no one exemplifies that better than Rene Bourque. At times he appeared dominant and unstoppable, while at other times appeared slow and disinterested. He finished with a respectable 50 points but was also a -17. It is absolutely mandatory that we get more consistency out of this guy. We need him to provide offense from our second line, to pitch in on the powerplay, to be an agitator, to limit the amount of bonehead penalties, and to provide a spark to the team. He can skate, pass, and shoot, and is well liked in the dressing room. He signed a multi-year contract because he wanted to be a Flame and management felt he could be a top winger in this league. Its time for him to show that the team was right and to help lead them to the playoffs.
He had a break-through season in 2009-2010 which led to him signing a multi-year contract. In his first year of the new contract, all he did was finish third in the league in blocked shots, was the Flames leading defensemen in every offensive category, and finished in the top 4 in PP goals, PIMs, assists and SOG on the whole team. I won't ask for anything more than that from Gio for this season; I just ask for something similar. With the loss of Robyn Regehr and the fact that it seems Jay Bouwmeester is not going to be the player he was for the Panthers, Giordano is now the Flames number one defenseman. He's in the top d-pairing and a regular fixture on both the PP and the PK. He's also the guy you will find on the ice in a 2-1 game with under a minute to play (notice I didn't say whether the Flames are winning or losing this 2-1 game, it doesn't matter). If he can be as good this year, then the Flames chances look bright.
He had a pretty good season last year. He was effective on the penalty kill, led the team in short handed goals, had a decent 43 points and 149 shots on goal, and was a Plus player. Similar numbers would be a great help to the Flames but there a few negative effects that Glencross needs to take out of his game. Firstly and most importantly, he needs to eliminate the meat head penalties. At least two moments from last season come to mind where an untimely penalty may have cost the Flames a game. Secondly, like Rene Bourque, he needs to be more consistent. He scored a few big goals and had some dominating games, but he needs to put in the effort to have more games like that. Thirdly, he needs to play HIS game. He can skate, can pitch in effectively on the second/third line, can kill penalties and can agitate the other teams players. When watching him, it appears he tries to do too much, which I suppose is better than doing too little, but in my opinion he should stick to what he does best.
So there you have it, my first blog ever. I would love to hear your comments, both positive and negative (Oilers fans need not comment). I look forward to writing again.