With the announcement of Cam Cunning and Matt Pelech on waivers for the Flames, we now get a real look at the players who have the final shot at making the team for the start of the regular season. Of course - this could all end up being thrown out depending on the injury status' of both Ales Kotalik and David Moss who were to be fixtures on the third line with Glencross.
Let's take a look at the roster as it stands, starting with the forwards:
Tanguay - Jokinen - Iginla
Hagman - Backlund - Bourque
Glencross - Moss - Kotalik
Sutter - Meyer (Conroy) - Jackman (Ivanans)
If Moss and Kotalik are good to go to start the season then I would guess it will be a battle between Sutter/Meyer/Conroy for two spots, with Ivanans playing the role of spare forward for tough games. I currently feel that Conroy would be the odd man out in this situation given the fact that he has been terrible all pre-season long, outside of penalty killing. He's slow, which makes him prone to bad penalties. Stefan Meyer and Brett Sutter are more than capable of filling 4th line roles and would provide more jump. Sutter is a penalty killing specialist and Meyer is a utility man, capable of playing many different roles. As for Raitis Ivanans, well, if it were my decision, he'd be gone already. He's an absolutely terrible hockey player. Fierce fighter, bad hockey player. I really don't see much room for those types in today's NHL. Tim Jackman is more than capable of playing a bruising role. However, if the Oilers are going to dress Steve McIntyre, then Ivanans will likely stay on the roster.
I've been very impressed with Mikael Backlund. He's a smart, two-way forward who might actually be best suited to play with Glencross on the third line. Backlund reminds me of Pavel Datsyuk the way he hunts down the opposition at all times on the ice and picks pockets. If he becomes half the offensive force of Pavel Datsyuk, the Flames have a centre with a great future. Provided he's given ample ice-time (12 min/game) I'd like to see him as a full-time NHLer.
Given the injury trouble and the small amount of cap relief the Flames have from long-term IR victims, I do think they may be a player in the next week. Possibly adding a forward from waivers (Brendan Morrison, perhaps? Wouldn't even be surprised at Kyle Wellwood...).
Regehr - White
Bouwmeester - Giordano
Pardy - Brodie
Staios - Sarich
Mark Giordano has separated himself from the pack as the best defenseman on the team capable of playing and excelling in any role. White/Regehr are steady and I think Pardy and Staios will make the team. That leaves two... TJ Brodie and Cory Sarich.
I really think that the Islanders and Flames are talking about Cory Sarich right now. My hunch is that the Flames would practically give him away but are probably asking for a 3rd round pick. This is all purely speculation based only on the fact that the Streit injury is devastating to the Isles and they need to fill out a roster. If Sarich is traded, then I see TJ Brodie making the team out of training camp and sticking around for a while to be tested. I doubt he stays on the club through Christmas, but he has a good chance. If Sarich is not traded, then I expect he'll be sent to Abbotsford (I shudder just thinking about what Jim Playfair will do to him).
Jay-Bo has been supremely disappointing to me, hardly scratching the surface of his value when compared to his price tag. A D-man making more than 4-5 mil needs to be able to play and be the best in all situations. Bouwmeester is simply a great skater who's slightly above average at everything else. I said when the Panthers were shopping him that some poor shmuck is going to overpay for him, and sure enough, it was "Cap Specialist" Darryl Sutter. Having said that, he's still a good defenseman but I'm not getting my hopes up for 15 goals. As for Staios, well, let's hope he can help mold Adam Pardy into a bigger, better, Steve Staois... other than that, I don't see much value in him either.
It's safe to say the Flames are more comfortable in goal than they've ever been since the late 80s - early 90s. Obviously, Karlsson will need to see regular season action before we know for sure what we have in him, but as of now, he looks to be steady. And, if Kipper (god forbid) were to ever go down, I think the Flames feel comfortable that Karlsson could step in and provide solid goaltending. A great trade by Darryl Sutter...
Injuries have made it difficult to project exactly what will happen with Calgary this year in terms of their roster, the cap and their performance. But I do feel that Cory Sarich is being shopped (finally) and that Craig Conroy is finished. It's time to let some of the youngsters and their intensity get a shot.
My thoughts on the Flames this preseason are about 60% positive. We saw a little bit of heart and hustle and some consistency, all of which had been lacking for some time. The W/L record doesn't mean anything but it's nice to see they were able to close out games. With Miikka looking great and a solid roster, I still peg the Flames as a 6th - 10th place finisher in the West with an outside chance of giving the Canucks a shot at the NW division crown.