(Only a few contributor entries left folks)
By: Al MaGuinness**
Jay Feaster, the General Manager of the Calgary Flames, has already started to tinker with the line-up and, even prior to that, has made a well-documented change to the environment in the dressing room. Fortunately for him, his real work starts next year. For the fans, that means suffering through one more year of mediocrity before the light at the end of the tunnel even begins to show itself.
The Long and Winding Road
Looking at the present roster as it is profiled on capgeek.com, the Flames have 15 forwards signed for the upcoming season. They also have 7 Defensemen and, of course, Kipper and Karlsson in net with Leland Irving waiting in the wings. In total, these players add up to a whopping 63 million dollars leaving just over a million dollars in cap space left to navigate through the season. Considering there haven’t been any major changes except the loss of Robyn Regher, this season promises to be a roller coaster ride, just as it was last season. Unfortunately, unless Feaster and Sutter can muster up a continued attitude change for the full 82 games, things could be worse than they were a year ago.
The silver lining? 10 of the 24 players signed for this year are unrestricted free agents so Feaster will have an opportunity to begin righting this sinking ship. The players whose contracts are up include: Daymond Langkow, Niklas Hagman, Olli Jokinen, David Moss, Brendan Morrison, Tom Kostopolous, Raitis Ivanans, Tim Jackman, P-L Letourneau-Lalond and Cory Sarich. Essentially, this leaves the old mess left behind by Darryl Sutter here to toil away for one more year. Feaster will truly put his stamp on this team in the next 12 to 15 months as he looks ahead to the 2012-13 season with a sparkling $22 million + to work with as the rebuild really gets underway.
From this worn-out and ill-used crop of veterans, is there anything worthwhile for the team to keep? A lot would certainly depend on how each player does this year, but sitting from the nose-bleeds with my heroin beer and nachos in hand, there does not appear to be much. Perhaps I should move down a couple of tiers and get a better look…
Daymond Langkow used to be ideally suited as a #2 centre. With his best season now five seasons behind him and the fact he is nearly 35, I think it is safe to say he won’t be with the Flames very long after this year. With his injury history, declining production and an inability to fulfill his usual role, he’s done like dinner.
Hagman? I’d be surprised if he lasts the entirety of this season. The fans hate him. The team is clearly frustrated. He could end up overseas sooner rather than later.
There are some question marks in the upcoming UFA crop for the Flames, however. For example, there were many nights when Tim Jackman was the best player on the ice. He could be a useful fourth liner that can fill in on the third line when needed. Olli Jokinen started to see a revival in his game after Darryl Sutter left office. This is a pivotal season for him. The same could be said for David Moss but in reality he could end up with the rest of the group. Out of work come July 1, 2012. Cory Sarich has a great opportunity ahead of him this year. He’ll get more minutes than he can eat. With a solid year he could earn a spot in the team’s future.
Assessing the Core
Looking into 2012-13, The Flames have Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay, Curtis Glencross, Rene Bourque and Matt Stajan signed. The popular assumption amongst the Sea of Red? Stajan and his ridiculous contract will be deep-sixed sometime in the next year. Michael Backlund, an RFA, will have every opportunity to work his way into the top two center positions and with his ability and steady improvement there is every reason to believe he will earn his place in the core going forward.
The defensive core has some good pieces in place but may need some working over as well. Bouwmeester, Giordano are certain to lead this team in the coming years even though both are on the pricey side of the ledger, to say the least. Babchuk, Carson and Butler all have the potential to be better. The Flames will need to hope that happens sooner rather than later.
While Kipper is always reliable and Karlsson offers everything the Flames need in a back-up, their number one is aging. There are not many goalies that can maintain a high level into their late 30’s and early 40’s although, Martin Brodeur, Tim Thomas & Dwayne Roloson quickly come to mind. So, as he turns 35, how much more does he have left to give?
Sunshine and Lollipops
This year promises, well, nothing. As the Flames have in the last two seasons, they will battle for a playoff spot and end up with a disappointing draft pick to show for it. Sure, there will be a few good runs, the fans will get excited and Harvey will likely fall off the glass while doing the wave and end up hitting himself in the nuts but, in the end, this season will likely be one to forget. That is the easy prediction. The most excitement will be generated on trade deadline day when Jay Feaster cuts more fat and get some picks to build this team the way it needs to be post-lockout. The tough prediction is to identify who will be moved to make way for the next wave of this proud franchise.
**Al is a wandering vagrant that is mired in a state of disillusioned self-pity as his greatest athletic moments are now all just a distant memory. Remarkably, he is a compulsive writer and die-hard hockey enthusiast that is ironically connected to technology at every waking moment. For example, try connecting with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.