1. Another good draft
While you and I may sit here and disagree with the selection of Mark Jankowski all day and night, the fact remains that the Flames have been able to put together goodish drafts under Jay Feaster, at least in terms of early returns.
Just based on the last two drafts — and granted that’s not a good sample size — they’ve pulled five World Junior players, representing three countries, all of them being non-first-round picks. Tyler Wotherspoon has been just fine for Canada, Markus Granlund is second at WJCs in scoring (as of this writing) with nine points, Johnny Gaudreau is an NCAA scoring sensation who has six points in his last two games after a slow start, Patrick Sieloff isn’t lighting the world on fire but has been used in four of the team’s five games after being held out in the first one thanks to roster complications, and Jon Gillies has been excellent in college but is logjammed behind the best goalie in the tournament.
And that’s four players out of 12 draftees, which doesn’t take into account Sven Baertschi, who is now too old to compete; Laurent Broissot, who’s one of the best goalies in the WHL; and Jankowski, who has reportedly been perfectly alright for Providence College despite having just turned 18 in September. Maybe with another good draft in June, the Flames can finally hit an unequivocal home run again as they did with Baertschi.
2. The emergence of Sven Baertschi
Speaking of whom, Calgary fans haven’t had what looks to be this much of a legitimate prospect to actually root for since Dion Phaneuf came of age. He’s up to 17 points in 19 games in Abbotsford and was apparently very good in those games.
He’s been so good, in fact, that his concussion — which, that’s not good — has largely been attributed to the Heat’s recent struggles. His having been out a month is also not very good at all. But maybe, just maybe, if he can get over the "upper-body injury," Flames fans might have someone to cheer for on Jarome Iginla’s top line by the end of the season.
I know it’s easy to get caught up in his completely impossible-to-reproduce three goals in five games last season, but if you’re not excited to see this kid at least get some high-quality power play time under Bob Hartley, then you don’t have a pulse.
3. A potential Iginla victory lap
While I don’t think it’s going to necessarily happen, unless something drastic occurs, you have to think there’s at least a possibility that this is Jarome Iginla’s last season with the Flames (Not to be too much of a downer.)
His contract is up at the end of this now-abbreviated season and you gotta think there will be some appetite out there to continue paying $7 million a year for his services even if he’s not worth it any more. And you gotta think he isn’t. I wonder just how committed he is to the "hometown discount" if he can bang out another $2 million per annum over what the Flames offer him, especially against a cap that has the potential to be significantly lowered from last year.
Obviously the Flames will make every effort to retain him as long as he’s still capable of skating around out there, and will probably pay more than they should to do it. But again, someone who’s close to being a Cup contender and has the cap space could make a very legitimate run at him. Wonder how it all shakes out.
4. So many roster moves
Speaking of expiring contracts, Calgary has nine guys coming off the books at the end of the season, but apart from Iginla and Roman Cervenka, there aren’t too many big-money contributors to worry about. Among the remaining guys who will need re-upping are Mikael Backlund (likely available at a cut rate given his point totals the last two seasons); Chris Butler and TJ Brodie will both need to be brought back, and neither should be exceptionally expensive; Blake Comeau is a guy you could probably take or leave, but I wouldn’t care one way or the other; Lance Bouma basically who cares; and both Anton Babchuk and Henrik Karlsson can both take a hike.
Plus, with the potential for "compliance" buyouts, the Flames might also wanna 86 Matt Stajan or even Jay Bouwmeester, just because. Or ooh, Cory Sarich. That’d work too.
There’s actually rather a lot to think about. For example, Karri Ramo likely comes over to replace Karlsson, or whomever, as Kirpsuoff’s backup, and how much does that cost? What about any potentially pro-ready prospects who need signing (maybe Gaudreau, but I wouldn’t do it this summer)? There’s also the matter of re-signing the aforementioned Cervenka if he works out okay running the pivot for Iginla or the second line.
5. Maybe even the playoffs?
Haha I’m just kidding. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.
Although actually, well, it’s possible. At least given the shortened season. But only because anything at all is possible if you’re only playing 48 games. Hell, the Wild would have been like the best team in the West through 48 games last season, so basically, y’know, yay randomness. Of course, another cold start would mean a top-10 pick for the Flames in the 2013 draft. How’s that for optimism?
PS – Go America forever.