Saddledome swan songs


Two things came to mind today when official word broke that the Detroit Red Wings had signed winger Todd Bertuzzi for a second tour of duty in the Motor City.

The first was the old line from journeyman baseball player and self-deprecating raconteur Bob Uecker, who during his modest career had two separate stints with the Braves.

“They couldn’t believe how bad I was the first time,” quipped Uecker, “so I guess they brought me back just to make sure.”

The second thing to consider is that the list of players who have had trouble finding work after spending time with the Flames has been reduced by one. With Bertuzzi now (more or less) gainfully employed, the members of the 2008-09 Flames squad still out of an NHL job are Andre Roy and, if you want to stretch a point, Anders Eriksson, and if you want to stretch a point even further, Rhett Warrener.

Whether it’s because Darryl Sutter has a penchant for using veterans to cross the “T” on his roster or just a fluke, Calgary in recent seasons has become the last stop for a number of players.

For instance, 2007-08 was the last the NHL saw of Marcus Nilson and Mark Smith.

After 2006-07, Tony Amonte, Jamie McLennan, Jeff Friesen and Brad Ference all made the segue from the Flames to retirement, Europe or minor-league obscurity. The year before that, it was Bryan Marchment, Cale Hulse, Jeff Friesen and Mike LeClerc. After the Stanley Cup run of ’04, Roman Turek and Dave Lowry said good-bye to the NHL.

Calgary’s elephant graveyard list would have been even longer had Curtis Joseph, Krzysztof Oliwa and Darren McCarty not squeezed in a few games in cameo returns to previous clubs (Toronto, New Jersey and Detroit, respectively) before continuing the ride into the sunset.

What’s the point? None, really – it’s just interesting that circumstances and Sutter’s modus operandi have been such that the Flames have recently been ending more NHL careers than torn ACLs and Battlefield Earth combined.

But it’s not like the Flames have been the only team plucking players from the scrap heap to fill our their roster. The Vancouver Canucks, just to name a club, have been forced to forage for defencemen in recent years because of injuries on the back end. They’re also forever on the lookout for a winger to complement the Sedins since Anson Carter’s departure, which has resulted in a seemingly endless parade of auditions from the likes of Jan Bulis and Taylor Pyatt.

Just for the hell of it, here’s a quick look at the number of players whose NHL careers have ended (or presumably ended) with Western Canadian clubs over the past five seasons. For the purposes of this exercise, only players who had played at least 100 previous games in the NHL were considered (i.e. minor-leaguers such as Richie Regehr, Dan Smith and Tyler Bouck who made semi-regular coffee runs in the big leagues don’t count).

Following 2003-04 season

Calgary (2): Dave Lowry, Roman Turek

Edmonton (1): Adam Oates

Vancouver (5): Artem Chubarov, Mike Keane, Magnus Arvedson, Marc Bergevin, Sean Pronger

Following 2005-06 season

Calgary (3): Cale Hulse, Bryan Marchment, Mike LeClerc

Edmonton (3): Igor Ulanov, Todd Harvey, Rem Murray

Vancouver (2): Eric Weinrich, Sean Brown

Following 2006-07 season

Calgary (4): Tony Amonte, Jeff Friesen, Jamie McLennan, Brad Ference

Edmonton (2): Petr Nedved, Jussi Markkanen

Vancouver (3): Jan Bulis, Yannick Tremblay, Marc Chouinard

Following 2007-08 season

Calgary (2): Marcus Nilson, Mark Smith

Edmonton (1): Geoff Sanderson

Vancouver (4): Trevor Linden, Jeff Cowan, Aaron Miller, Byron Ritchie

Following 2008-09 season*

Calgary (3): Andre Roy, Anders Eriksson, Rhett Warrener**

Edmonton (1): Jesse Boulerice

Vancouver (3): Mats Sundin, Taylor Pyatt, Ossi Vaananen

*Unsigned as of Aug. 18

**Under salary in 2008-09 but did not play


Calgary (14)

Edmonton (8)

Vancouver (17)