They have one of the top five forwards, defencemen and goalies in the league. The three are signed to long-term contracts.
It’s just a shame that with all that talent, that they’ll barely make the playoffs.
Forwards: This is Jarome Iginla’s team. The 50-goal scorer does what needs to be done on the ice to lead his team to victory. If the team needs a goal, they look to Jarome. If the team needs a fight to get them going, Jarome steps in. If they need some physical play, there’s Jarome on the forecheck. As Iginla goes, so does the Flames.
But Calgary made a few moves this summer to try and improve their offence. They signed Todd Bertuzzi to a one-year deal worth under $2 million, which was a great pickup. While Bertuzzi may be more well-known in Vancouver for his attack on Steve Moore, you can’t overlook the fact he scored 25 or more goals in five of the last six seasons he played there. He knows this will be his last chance to impress and sign a big contract next summer, so look for him to do well.
Michael Cammalleri was the other major pickup. Flames fans hope he can recreate his 34-goal, 80-point season from two years ago, but that year seems to be a blip on the radar in his career. But look for the Flames to give him every opportunity to do well.
Defence: Led by the best young defencemen in the game, the Flames make sure opposing players know enough to keep their head up while on the ice.
Dion Phaneuf is a beast back on the blue line. His bone-jarring hits are enough to make most opposing players say “Thanks coach, but I think I’ll stay on the bench for this shift.” If that wasn’t enough, Phaneuf was fifth in the league for defencemen points last year, second in goals, tied for first for powerplay goals, and tied for first in game-winning goals. Plus, he’s only missed three games in the past three years.
Things are also looking up for Adrian Aucoin. Last year was the first time he played a full season in three years, and he responded with 10 goals, 35 points, and a plus 13. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent after this season, so look for Calgary to try to resign him to a one- or two-year extension sometime during the season.
Goaltending: Miikka Kiprusoff is a workhorse. He has started at least 74 games each of the last three years, winning an average of 40 games. He makes saves that no one has business making. Unfortunately, his goals against average and and save percentage have been getting worse each year. An easier workload would probably help him out in that regard, as a well-rested player will perform better.
Pool picks: Todd Bertuzzi would be someone worth taking a gamble on. He may not get the 97 points that he did with the Vancouver Canucks one season, but he’ll be on one of the top two lines and will get a chance to be on the powerplay. He’ll probably get 60 or 70 points, if he can stay healthy all season. Stay away from: Michael Cammalleri. Yes, he scored 34 goals and 80 points two years ago, but that dipped down to 47 points last year. He may be with a new team, but despite Jarome Iginla, this team isn’t known for its wide-open style of play.
Miscellaneous: The Flames play in the most evenly-matched division in the NHL. Every team has a solid chance to make the playoffs, and not one team is dominant enough to blow away the division. If Calgary can get on a good roll, they’ll probably take first. If they struggle, they’ll miss the playoffs.
Expected finish: Second in the Northwest division, seventh in the Western conference.
Overall: The Flames finished in the middle of the pack for both goals and goals against last season. And they’ll be a middle of the pack team again this year. Try as they might, they can’t seem to break out of that logjam of teams fighting for a playoff spot. At the end, they’ll still make it to the postseason, but only because the NHL rewards those in the middle with playoff spots.