FLAMES SEASON PREVIEW
Someone asked me how I thought the Flames would do this year. That is hard to predict, because there are so many factors involved this season. The main problem I have with the Flames is the same old problem - not enough scoring. We have several forwards, but in all honesty, we have just too many third and fourth liners. I feel the Flames have five top-6 forward spots locked in. Do I dare ask who is going to be the other top-6 forward?
Every season, I hear the same thing over and over. The Flames need a first-line center. This statement really confuses me; why is there no respect for Daymond Langkow? First of all, he has had two straight 30-goal seasons for the Flames. Secondly, he has had his two best years in Calgary. Thirdly, he was the center who set up Iginila for most of his goals last season. Langkow will have a career year with Iginila and Bertuzzi as his wings.
Sutter hinted that Bertuzzi is going to be with Iginla. Sutter never came out and said so, but he sure implied it. The worry here is - will Todd Bertuzzi be able to get back to where he once was? I do feel that Todd has a lot left in the tank. The only question is, can he play all season and stay healthy? Todd has not played in 80 games in a year since the 05-06 season in Vancouver. That year, Todd had 25 goals and 71 points. That is only three years ago, and it is vital to the Flames' success that Todd returns to those numbers again. I feel that Todd will get 60 points with Iginla and Langkow.
Jarome had a career year point wise. He was mister everything last year. It was his second 50-goal season in his career. Jarome will be even more dangerous with Bertuzzi, who will give Iginla more room to skate, because of Bertuzzi's size. The extra space will give Jarome more scoring chances. With that comes a career year and his third 50-goal season.
Obviously, Michael's strength is his speed. He can cause havoc in the opposition's defensive zone. He is a powerplay specialist, and will be on the Flames' number one powerplay unit. Michael will give the Flames'powerplay unit a boost. So why will he be a good winger for Lombardi? Simply put, Lombardi will have a winger who can keep up with him, giving Lombardi a target to pass to. He has a great shot, and needs a change of scenery to shine. Being on the powerplay and second line, Michael will get 70-80 points.
Matthew will be given a chance this season as the Flames second line forward. This year will be a make-or-break year for Matthew. Lombardi will have to go to back to his form in the 06-07 when he scored 20 goals. Lombardi has never been given a real chance until this season. With Cammalleri, Lombardi will have a talented forward to work with for the first time in his career. If everything goes right, he could get between 50 and 60 points.
So who is going to be the last top 6 forward? The next forward has to be a speedster who can score and handle the puck. He will have to keep up with Lombardi and Cammalleri. He will be fast on his feet, ready for any kind of passes from anywhere. So who do I think will be the mystery forward? Here are the best options I feel for the the other forward.
Dustin is a young terrific forward, who has shown major improvements over the last two years. He is quick enough to match the speed of Cammalleri and Lombardi. The question with Dustin is, will be able to make the necessary adjustments to play the wing? Because I have no doubt Lombardi is the second line center. I feel that with his speed and his offensive ability, he is a good option for the second line roster spot.
David Moss is a gutsy young forward who can score. He has a lot of heart, and has a surprising quick shot with some mustard on it. His first year part time in Calgary, he scored 10 goals. He has worked well with the big names in the past. He might be the answer to the question of Calgary's top 6 forward. Last year, his stats were down, but that could easily be accounted to injuries, as he was held to only 4 goals. Could Moss be the answer? Perhaps he could be an option to play with Lombardi and Cammalleri.
I like Rene's speed. He would be a good match for the other two forwards. The main problem here is that his best year in the NHL he had 16 goals. Bourque has never played on a second line before. Last year, he got 10 goals and 14 assists in 62 games, with the Hawks. One interesting stat is that he scored half his goals last year shorthanded. The chances are, Bourque has the inside track on being the second line forward.
THE BEST OF THE REST THIRD FOURTH LINE WINGERS
If there is a player who defines leadership, Craig Conroy is that guy. Craig has more heart than most of the players will ever have. He is one of the most respected players on the team. He leads by example and will do everything that is asked of him and more. He will not ask any of the players to do anything he has not done. I suspect Craig will be the third line center and he will chip in with goals and assists.
The biggest Flames killer. If you can't beat him, sign him. In my opinion, he is the perfect third liner. He scored 15 goals last season. I am sure he got 14 goals against the Flames. I do like his game; he was plus 8 with the Blue Jackets and the Oil last season. Having a plus 3 with the Blue Jackets was very impressive. He brings tons of grit. I think he is capable of matching his last year totals. The problem is that Curtis will have to match his last year's totals for the Flames sake.
Eric is a fast young forward with great speed. Again, he adds to the grit and determination. He has a solid defensive game and is a good grinder. The Flames will ask more out of Eric this season, at least if he wants to be on the third line. He will have to produce more offensively. His work ethic and defensive game are there, he just has to work on his offensive skills. Eric has a lot of potential, and I am going out on a limb - I predict 30-40 points for Eric.
Due to the length of the blog I could not mention every forward for the Flames. The Flames have told the players that everyone has to earn a spot this year. Mike Keenan loves competition. Iron Mike has it. I could have named four or five more players in my blog. Think I am lying? Well, here are the player's names then: Kyle Greentree, Wayne Primeau, Brendon Prust, Andre Roy, Marcus Nilson, Jamie Lundmark - all of those players have been told they will have shot at the club.
Dion will be traded before the end of the season. (Oh relax, you know I don't mean it.) Seriously, Dion is probably in the top 10 in the League. Some may say he is in the top 5. He has an explosive shot, and is one of the best power play quarterbacks in the League. He hits like a ton of bricks. Man, sometimes I think he could break a truck. The only negative I see is that once in a while, Dion gets caught cheating in the offensive zone. Dion will score 20 again this season with his power play goals.
Robin is the perfect stay home defenseman and will save his defensive partner. He rarely gets caught out of position in the offensive zone. His offensive numbers may not be impressive, but that is not why he is on this team. He is our best defenseman and probably one of the best in the League. He is 1A on the depth chart as far as I am concerned.
Cory is a stay home defenseman who has to improve. He is not consistent. I would see him on one night being one of the best, and the next night he is terrible. If Cory can stay consistent, he will be an asset to the Flames' defense. Cory won't contribute offensively, but he can sure contribute defensively. He might be anywhere between a 3 to 5 defensemen on the Flames.
Mark is back and I say thank goodness! He is an underrated puck moving defenseman. Mark has a good slap shot. I suspect he will get second line line power play time with Aucoin. I really like his game. He is adequate defensively, and has plenty of offensive skills. I expect a 10 goal season out of Mark if he gets powerplay time.
Adrian will be a number of 4 or 5 defenseman. He is pretty solid offensively. He has a terrific hard shot, and can pass the puck well. Aucoin should get second line powerplay time. He should be consistent offensively and meet last year's total of 35 points. I would put him with Robin; they should compliment each other, covering each other weaknesses.
Now we come to the battle for the sixth defenseman, which could be one of maybe four defensemen: Vandermeer, Warrener, Pardy, or Eriksson. This is going to be an interesting battle between those four. I suspect it will be Vandermeer, unless there is a trade coming to make things less confusing and give them more cap room.
That's the only time I have really ever spelled his name out completely. Mikka is one of the best in the League. He has reflexes like a tiger. He covers rebounds, and has a great glove hand. The only weakness he has is his stick work, when he is handling the puck. If the Flames don't overuse him, he is capable of resuming his status as one of the best in the League.
Curtis gets 15 starts. If he can win half of them, the Flames make the playoffs. I think he is a solid prospect if given the opportunity. He can take the puck and run with it. He is still young, but the pressure is on him to perform. The Calgary Flames have Matt Keetly coming from the farm, Irving, and Spratt, all with a great future ahead of them.
If everything falls into place, the Flames could win the division. What has to take place for that to happen? The forward who gets that sixth forward spot has to meld with Cammy and Lombo. Mcelhinny has to win half of his games. Kipper has to return to his form of 03-04. Bertuzzi has to fit into the Keenan mold and gel with Langkow and Iggy. And the defense has to improve the play in their zone. If those situations don't happen, a sixth to tenth position in the West could happen just as easily. In all honesty, I see the Flames probably finishing Third or Fourth in the western conference.