This is the closest thing to an NHL roster Calgary will ice this preseason, so why not enjoy it?
The problem, obviously, is that this may not be the best way to judge the quality of the Flames’ NHL roster, given that the opponent tonight is an upper-midtable AHL squad.
Oh, I’m sorry, that’s the Edmonton Oilers, playing more or less what they will slog through all 82 interminable games with this year. You look at that top six and go, "Well, Hall and Eberle centered by Horcoff, that’ll be a decent line," and yeah, you’re probably right. Decent. That’s about it. Can’t count on two rookies between a a guy who’s broken 20 goals or 40 assists twice and once in his life, respectively, to carry the water offensively, but they’ll be fun to watch when the kids aren’t hopelessly over their heads, as they are wont to be on some night. Good for them, though.
Then there’s the second line, where a couple guys like Paajarvi and Hemsky can probably do real damage if they’re not challenged physically, or, less likely, if Sam Gagner can get his faceoff percentage about .450. But yeah, the kid on this line looks like the real deal, and Hemsky’s skill is undeniable.
But that bottom six might be the worst excuse for a bottom six I’ve ever seen in my life, and I saw the 2009-10 Oilers play a bunch of times. Look at these freakin’ stiffs. Jones, O’Marra, Reddox, MacIntyre, Vande Velde and Stortini. Wow. That’s not even a group of guys who would do especially well at the AHL level. I honestly can’t believe Liam Reddox is cashing NHL game checks. Who says it’s hard to get a job these days?
Not that Flames supporters should be doing too much back-patting over the Calgary bottom six, of course. Injuries have necessitated that guys be kept around the big club longer than they should’ve, and while Curtis Glencross is as legit a third-line scoring threat as may exist in the league today — 33 points in 67 games getting just 15 minutes a night is pretty damn good — the rest are guys who are here because other people are hurt and Darryl Sutter can’t manage anything that even resembles a salary cap.
Stefan Meyer has been a pleasant surprise, but if anyone is currently counting on him to eat third- or even fourth-line minutes at this point, the management asks that they kindly see themselves out. Brett Sutter is a more preferable fixture on the team, just to give you an idea of where Meyer’s at.
Tim Jackman, as was pointed out to me by Kent last game post, is likely to be on this team for the duration, but goddamn does he stink. I’d almost rather have Jon Rheault (but not really).
‘Course, this game has the potential for some fireworks, as all Battles of Alberta do. Flames/Oilers and all that. Top lines, real NHL goalies (well, if you can call Khabibulin an NHL goalie at this point given the wonky back and the glug glug and the year off and the no longer good when he wasn’t a year off and the prison sentence and the playing behind that D corps and the being 62 years old).
But hey, have fun out there, eh?