Forward thinking

Oilers Flames Hockey

On the heels of a stretch of three games in three nights and four in five, the Flames suddenly those extra bodies lying around the House That Kevin Lavallee Built extremely disposable and on Tuesday shipped seven of them to Abbotsford.

That leaves a roster that is pretty easy to decipher on the goaltending end of things, a modest challenge on the blue line and totally “holy-smokes-what-are-they-going-to-do-with-all-those-guys?” up front.

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With 20 — count ’em, 20 — forwards remaining on the premises, all but three of who have at least 50 games of big-league experience, it’s as much of a head-scratcher trying to figure out the third and fourth lines and the 13th and possibly 14th forward as it was at the dawn camp. Perhaps even more of one now that Theoren Fleury has refused to fade away quietly on his comeback bid and actually has some fans believing he is a viable NHL option tout de suite.

That said, there are a few gimme cuts on this list and a couple of others who can be dispatched to Abbotsford by educated guessing. This, of course, all depends on everyone staying healthy between now and opening night.

1) John Armstrong: He’s a bit of a favourite in the organization but the only reason he’s still here now is that he’s healing up. Once cleared medically, he’s B.C.-bound.

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2) Mikael Backlund: Some Flames fans have placed a rush order on his arrival to the NHL, but logic suggests that some minor-league seasoning is in order. You’ll be tired of hearing this by now but there’s some truth in the observation that there’s no value in keeping a young skilled player around as a bit part.

3) Brett Sutter: If for no other reason, the avoid all the confusion that’s bound to arise if Sutter starts hounding Sutter about Sutter’s ice time. Also, there are others better equipped to fulfill the role of which he’s capable.

4) Colin Stuart: Has won some admirers with his training camp performance, but the numbers game and the lack of a stand-out attribute will soon have him in Heat silks.

5) Jason Jaffray: Again, another player who has turned heads in camp. Again, another guy who had the deck impossibly stacked against him going in. He came to Calgary with a reputation as a good minor-leaguer who can be handy on a call-up basis and that’s probably the script that will be followed here.

OK, now it gets tricky. The timing of this move, assuming it happens, will be interesting but another forward who will receive his marching orders is . . .

6) Theoren Fleury: OK, this is an intriguing story and he’s provided a few nostalgic fans with some thrills during the exhibition season. Still, Fleury himself admits he’s got a long way to go and most objective observers would concur. Besides, it has already been plausibly suggested that there’s already a gentleman’s agreement between Fleury and the club that the comeback bid will continue in the minors.

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After that, it’s a matter of whether the Flames will choose to carry 22 bodies or 23. Last year’s salary cap debacle and the proximity of Abbotsford to Calgary suggest that the Flames will go one under the limit, which likely means one more forward must go.

Since the Flames’ insistence at carrying a policeman will seemingly continue in the person of Brian McGrattan, the odd man out might be . . .

7) Jamie Lundmark: He proved useful to the Flames when he was recalled from Quad Cities last season but a full-time NHL gig has been like a wet bar of soap for the former Moose Jaw Warriors star. The Flames just might dump him in the minors and fish him out at an opportune moment.