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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

How did Brennan Evans end up playing in the 2004 Stanley Cup playoffs?

The Calgary Flames re-signed Oliver Kylington on Tuesday. Kylington is the 10th defender that the Flames have on a one-way contract, and all 10 of them have NHL experience. The importance of having so many blueliners is underscored with one name.

Brennan Evans.

The Flames began the 2003-04 season with 11 defencemen on NHL contracts. At the NHL level, they had Jordan Leopold, Toni Lydman, Robyn Regehr, Rhett Warrener, Andrew Ference, Denis Gauthier and Steve Montador (who started the season as their seventh D). The Flames were sharing an American Hockey League affiliate with the Carolina Hurricanes, so they only had four other AHL defenders on NHL deals: Roman Rozakov, Jesse Wallin, Mike Commodore and Evans.

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Evans was signed at the end of training camp and projected as depth, but probably somebody who would bounce between AHL Lowell and the ECHL’s Johnstown Chiefs. Coming off four solid but unspectacular seasons in the WHL, Evans needed to learn pro hockey.

One game into the AHL season, Wallin suffered a nasty concussion that ended his season (and ultimately, his career). After two games, Rozakov opted to leave Lowell and headed back to Russia. Rotating injuries on the NHL roster led to Commodore getting recalled to the NHL roster for the back half of the season.

Suddenly Evans was the only depth defender on an NHL deal and, after the trade deadline, was the Flames’ lone backup option. (Deryk Engelland had a good first pro season, but would’ve needed to be signed before the trade deadline to be eligible to play in the playoffs.)

The Flames began the playoffs with a starting six of Gauthier, Leopold, Ference, Regehr, Lydman and Warrener, with Commodore and Montador as their extras. A slew of injuries in the opening round against Vancouver and the first two games against Detroit put Gauthier, Lydman and Warrener on the sidelines. With Commodore and Montador pressed into service already – and no other options available – the Flames turned to Evans.

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In Game 3, Evans played 32 seconds (one shift) and the Flames ended up winning 3-2. In Game 4, Evans played a whopping 5:11 (eight shifts) and the Flames lost 4-2.

Warrener was well enough to suit up for Game 5 and the Flames ended up going with the same six blueliners for the remainder of the playoffs: Leopold, Ference, Regehr, Warrener, Commodore and Montador. (Though, let’s face it, there’s no way those six guys were anywhere close to 100%.)

The Flames have 10 defencemen signed to one-way NHL deals for 2022-23. Based on history, and how injuries can crop up during a season, 10 might just be enough.

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