January 07 2013 08:36AM
The lockout is over! Training camp for the abbreviated 2013 NHL campaign will begin some time this week.
Approximately 30 to 33 players will be invited to training camp, according to Jay Feaster on The Fan960 recently. Breaking it down, however, it's patently obvious that there won't be a lot of true roster battles.
The Flames have three goalies under NHL deals for 2013 that are in North America: Miikka Kiprusoff, Henrik Karlsson and Leland Irving. Joni Ortio has a contract but is still with HIFK Helsinki in SM-Liiga.
Although he's now 36 years old, Kiprusoff is the undisputed starting goaltender after a bit of a renaissance season last year. Karlsson and Irving will battle it out for the back-up job. Hard to tell which guy has the inside track, as Karlsson is mediocre and hasn't been playing while Irving has fallen on his face in the AHL. The last time the former first rounder started a game for the Heat was December 15th. He also has the worst record and save percentage of the three puck stoppers on the farm.
The good news is, the back-up probably doesn't matter since Kiprusoff can likely play 99% of the games in the shortened season. Unless he gets injured, of course...
Here's where the log-jam hits. The Flames have eight bodies on NHL one-way deals: Jay Bouwmeester, Dennis Wideman, Mark Giordano, Anton Babchuk, Cory Sarich, Chris Butler, Derek Smith and Brett Carson. Then they have T.J. Brodie, who earned a job with the team last year and has been excellent for Abbotsford this year. Even if the Flames could convince Babchuk to stay at home to play with the KHL's HC Donbass Donesk, as he has during the lockout, that's still eight bodies for seven jobs.
In addition to those eight or nine players, expect to see Abbotsford's Steve McCarthy on a try-out and perhaps one or two of Brady Lamb, Chris Breen and Joe Piskula. Breen, in particular, has had his best AHL season and the Flames may want to see how he stacks up against NHL bodies.
Calgary may carry eight defensemen, which would mean that Carson gets waived and assigned to Abbotsford and the team carries 13 forwards instead of 14. Then again, that depends on how Bob Hartley wants to assign roles.
Like the defensemen, this gets crowded pretty quickly.
Jarome Iginla, Mike Cammalleri, Jiri Hudler, Alex Tanguay, Matt Stajan, Curtis Glencross, Lee Stempniak, Blake Comeau, Blair Jones, Mikael Backlund, Sven Baertschi, and Tim Jackman are locks. That's a dozen bodies. The two other forward spots would normally go to Lance Bouma, who was decent as a 4th liner last year, and KHL standout Roman Cervenka. Unfortunately, both of those gentlemen are currently injured. Bouma with a knee problem that could keep him out for the rest of the year and Cervenka with a blood clot in his leg that doesn't have a particular time table attached for recovery right now.
Vying for the one or two final spots are an interesting mix of people. Leading the way is newly-minted AHL sniper (and NHL sophomore) Roman Horak. After him, there's guys like Paul Byron, Max Reinhart, Ben Street, Akim Aliu, Krys Kolanos and Steve Begin, who will be in camp on a try-out basis. Greg Nemisz has an outside shot to be invited to camp, but as an AHL 4th liner with zero points in 15 games it's doubtful he'll truly challenge for a spot.
The two players with the inside track are probably Horak and Ben Street. Street has been excellent in Abbotsford and leads the team in both points and shots on goal. Horak made the club out of camp last year and leads the Heat in goals. He's also extremely versatile since he can play all three forward positions.
An interesting wrinkle will be the centres: Jiri Hudler, Matt Stajan, Mikael Backlund, Paul Byron and Blair Jones are the “natural” pivots in camp, although Hudler mostly played RW in Detroit. Horak and Cammalleri have lined up in the middle in the past and Max Reinhart and Ben Street are also centres.
Cervenka was penciled in as the club's first or second line center, so there is going to be room in the Flames top-six rotation while he's out. That should open up space on the third or fourth line, depending what Hartley thinks of Matt Stajan. Good news for Street, Horak, Byron and maybe even Reinhart.
How will Bob Hartley and his brand-new staff implement a new system in such a short amount of time?
How will the new Flames (Wideman, Hudler, Baertschi) gel with their new teammates?
How long will Cervenka and Bouma be out?
Is Leland Irving's AHL performance indicative of anything at all?