First of all, I want to thank everyone for all of the comments recently and especially the kind words when I broke the news of the Curtis Glencross signing and terms on July 1st. I appreciate all of the support and love to see as many comments as possible. I will continue to give as much Flames analysis and insight this off-season.
I have addressed what I felt Sutter would do during the UFA period and he seems to be doing just that. And in following the happenings of the last few days, Sutter appears to be just about done for this off-season, with the possibility of signing a right-wing before it's all said and done. Sutter has been negotiating with Owen Nolan on a possible return to Calgary, but Nolan is entertaining other offers and by following Sutter's quotes in the Calgary Sun, he is only willing to offer Nolan a one-year contract. (Even though just a day earlier, the Sun was reporting Nolan was close to signing a two-year deal to finish his career in Calgary)
From the Calgary Sun's Randy Sportak...
Sutter said he and Nolan's agent "continue to talk" but he doesn't want to go beyond a one-year deal for a veteran player and is "not going to overpay to fill that spot."
Another interesting tidbit you'll find in that article is when Sutter addresses the trio of underachieving players from last season in Rhett Warrener, Marcus Nilson and Anders Eriksson...
Sutter also insisted the team will not buy out any of the contracts of Warrener, Nilson or Eriksson.
"They're gonna fight for spots to play on our team and they're all not gonna be here -- that's obvious," he said.
So, as it stands now, those gaudy contracts remain on our books and we can look forward to the threat of Eriksson dressing on any given night; just the mere thought of which already makes me red in the face.
However, the lack of major signings on Sutter's part isn't all bad. Albeit, the Flames have an over-abundance of C/LW and not much on the right side. That can and will be addressed before the start of the season. And hey, it could be worse, we could have been trying to land every big name and struck out like our Western Canada counterparts in Edmonton Oilers Kevin Lowe and the Vancouver Canucks Mike Gillis. (I should note that I feel the Oilers improved their team substantially and the playoffs won't be out of the question for them this season... but the Canucks... wow, didn't think they'd come out of this week worse off than they were before)
Let's take a look at the depth chart of our current Calgary Flames, and I'll explain why I'm not all that worried and, in fact, somewhat relieved.
Cammalleri - Langkow - Iginla
Bourque - Lombardi - Moss
Nystrom - Conroy - Primeau
Prust/Nilson - Boyd - Glencross (converted to RW unless Nolan is signed)
*David Van der Gulik, Grant Stevenson, Kyle Greentree, Mikael Backlund
Phaneuf - Aucoin
Regehr - Sarich
Giordano - Vandermeer
*Adam Pardy, Matt Pelech, John Negrin, Ryan Wilson
*Leland Irving, Matt Keetley
The big changes come on the 2nd line where the Flames will likely feature 3 new forwards, led by Matthew Lombardi, who's shown flashes of great offensive talent and will likely be given every shot to hang on to this spot. As for the wings, it's expected Bourque will be given the shot to start on LW although I think Glencross will steal that spot from him before training camp is over. And on the right side, David Moss slides in by default, being the only other RW on our roster. He scored 10 goals in 40 games as a rookie and after being hampered by injuries last season, he may be given a shot to return to that 20 goal potential.
The checking lines will be as good as we've had since 2004. The 3rd/4th lines got faster, stronger and younger with the exception of Nilson. I expect the Flames to go back to an overpowering forecheck, the same thing that was so productive during the Stanley Cup run. It's something that has been missing from our team the last 3 seasons. As much as Playfair/Keenan and even Sutter, tried to get Tanguay/Huselius to participate in the fast-paced, checking game... they absolutely refused and subsequently got caught in the offensive zone far too often.
With the new forward corps, we take a big hit on offensive production, and replace it with high-flying youth. I think these changes cut our defensive odd-man rushes in half which will help out the D, and in turn, Kipper.
If the blue-line depth chart looks familiar to anyone, that's because it's exactly the same as what we ended last season with. This is an issue. Not because I don't think our top 6 is capable of being very solid. But because with Warrener and Eriksson are not good enough to log minutes for a team that's trying to win the cup. If Keenan (Playfair) starts the top 6 as listed above, we'll be fine. Especially with the increased emphasis on the back check.
Another year under Dion's belt is scary for the NW division. He improved so much over last season and if he can do the same, I expect another Norris nomination for next season. He's the offensive leader of the rearguards and will be looking to add to his career-high point total from last season. Luckily for the Flames, Regehr is still able to dominate down low and can take the majority of the defensive pressure off Phaneuf.
In goal... it's all Kipper. Flames fans can hope for a bounce-back season from Miikka. His numbers have declined since the 04 season when he was nearly flawless. But I'm not sold on the big extension for Kipper due to his performance in the playoffs last season. I don't care what Daryl Sutter says, Kipper was horrible in the post-season against the Sharks. Had he even played an average series, we would have advanced to the 2nd round. Let's hope Kipper is focusing this off-season and will come back his old self.
Taking these things into account. I feel very strongly that Sutter has made a mistake in not letting go of Eriksson and Warrener. However, I support his move on the forward lines. I would like him to add some more scoring touch for the 2nd line, which he could do with the extra salary he'd get from our waiver trio, but I should remind Flames fans of Kristian Huselius before he came to the Flames. He was merely a talented player with the potential to score. He blossomed with the Flames and was now a top-tier UFA. Sutter has shown a touch for finding these players, and although I think he feels Rene Bourque may be that player, I disagree... Curtis Glencross will be the steal of the UFA market this season. He has everything that the Flames need in a player and he's had to work for everything he's gotten so far and I expect nothing less. I've said this before and I'll say it again, the Edmonton Oilers made a mistake in not bringing back Glencross... and mark my words, he will be a much more successful pro than Robert Nilsson.
We'll have to take a wait and see approach with this season, but the Flames have gone back to what worked in the past. A younger, faster and hard-checking team filled with home-grown Western Canadians. We may not score as many goals, but we'll be smarter defensively.
Let's just hope Sutter addresses the right side before the season starts.