2013-14 Flames Season Primer

In just a little less than 24-hours, the Calgary Flames will open up their first season without Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff since 2005-06. It’s the start of a new era in Calgary, as the re-build is well under way. There are no superstars or first overall picks (yet) in the line-up; so to say it could be a long year for the Flames is a fairly accurate statement.

Losing will not be accepted in an organization that has not had much winning in the last couple of seasons. Not only is there a new captain, in much deserving Mark Giordano, but there is also a new voice in front office, with high profile Brian Burke, joining Jay Feaster and company among the Flames brain trust.

Burke was the Flames biggest acquisition this off-season, which exemplifies the kind of 23-man roster the Flames are set to ice this coming season. Burke, the new President of Hockey Operations, has never been afraid to let the public know how he feels, and has already criticized the play of Sven Baertschi.

In Burke’s opening press conference, Burke made it abundantly clear that he is coming into Calgary to be part of the team; to support Feaster, and that Feaster and Bob Hartley would be the one’s addressing the team’s needs on a day-to-day basis.

How long Burke will be able to stay away from the spot light and start to put his stamp on this franchise is the biggest question.

On the ice, the Flames do not have a ton of new faces, but in no way is this the same team that has missed the playoffs in four consecutive seasons. New faces include Calgary born T.J. Galiardi and Joe Colborne, who were acquired in separate trades in the off-season/pre-season, along with new starting goalie Karri Ramo, who beat out veteran Joey MacDonald and Reto Barra for the number one gig.

Other fresh faces include David Jones and Shane O’Brien, who were acquired from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Alex Tanguay and Corey Sarich, Kris Russell, and not new, but unfamiliar Ben Street, who made the Flames opening day 23-man roster.  

Also making the opening roster is highly touted, 6th overall pick Sean Monahan, who impressed many with his poise and smarts in the pre-season. Feaster admitted, in his media availability the other day, that if there was one thing he regrets doing, it was calling up then 18-year old Baertschi for that 5 game stint in 2010, but yet Monahan will start the season with the Flames.

Let the expectations begin to rise.

 

FORWARDS

Projected Line-up:

1- C. GLENCROSS- M. STAJAN- L. STEMPNIAK

2- T. GALIARDI - M. BACKLUND - J. HUDLER

3- S. BAERTSCHI - S. MONAHAN - D. JONES

4- L. BOUMA - B. STREET - T. JACKMAN

E- B. McGRATTAN - J. COLBORNE

 

INJURED RESERVE- M. CAMMALLERI

There isn’t much to get excited about up front for the Flames. Curtis Glencross, and when healthy, Mike Cammalleri will be looked upon to carry the load offensively, and could both be potential 30-goal candidates. Glencross will be in Calgary for the long haul, while Cammalleri, playing in his final year of his contract, will be surrounded by rumors all season on whether or not the Flames will dish their highest paid player before the deadline. Another player playing for a new contract is Matt Stajan, who even I will admit, played a lot better last season.

The questions begin with Stajan who will start the season as the Flames number one centre and for the 45th season in a row (it sure seems like that anyways), the centre ice position is once again the Flames weakest. Stajan is followed by Mikael Backlund, who is playing in a make or break season when it comes to being a top-6 forward, rookie Monahan, journeyman Street, and finally Colborne. Looking at those names, it should not take long for six-foot five Colborne to draw into the line-up as the Flames third line centre.

On the left and right side of centre, the Flames have lots of depth but no legitimate top line winger. Cammalleri, Glencross and Hudler are all good second line/secondary scoring wingers, but to ask them to carry the load is a little far-fetched. Galiardi will look to build from his solid play down the stretch and into the playoffs for the San Jose Sharks last season, while David Jones will look to get back to his 20-goal form, after scoring just 3 last season.

Baertschi will continue have the microscope on him, but as long as he shows progress throughout the season, he will be alright. He does not have to set the world on fire, and nor should Flames fans expect that. Good on him if he does, and proves Mr. Burke wrong.

 

DEFENSE

Projected Pairings:

1- M. Giordano - T.J. Brodie

2- K. Russell - D. Wideman

3- S. O’Brien - C. Butler

E- D. Smith

The Flames defense, much like their offence, does not have a sure fire superstar to lead the way. New captain Giordano will guide the way, along with young promising T.J. Brodie. Brodie took huge strides last season, eating big minutes down the stretch, and will be looked upon to take similar steps this season. Russell was brought in to improve the Flames mobility on the back-end, and should complement Dennis Wideman nicely. Wideman, Giordano and Brodie will also be the quaterbacks on special teams, especially Wideman with his booming shot from the point on the power play. O’Brien will bring some size and toughness, while Chris Butler and Derek Smith add depth.

 

GOALIES

1- K. Ramo

2- J. MacDonald

This is where the biggest question marks belong, as the Flames will no longer have Kiprusoff as their security blanket and last line of defense. That job now belongs to Ramo, who looked solid in the pre-season and was putting up impressive numbers in the KHL before joining the Flames this season.  MacDonald will be looked upon to give leadership to the NHL inexperienced Ramo. MacDonald reportedly came into camp out of shape, and almost lost the back-up job to the hulking Barra. MacDonald could be another player dealt sometime this season to a team looking for a veteran presence if the Flames really tank it before the deadline.

 

MY TAKE

It is obvious the Flames brass are not going to come out and announce that they expect to struggle and do not have issues losing hockey games. Yet the questions will be asked all season long, so Feaster, and “silent” Burke better get used to it, and not get so frustrated when the question comes up before the season even starts.

The Flames have finally brought some youth into their line-up, something I have hoped for ever since the first lock-out. With the shot of youth, I feel it will both help and hinder the Flames. They will have spurts of excitement, but will also have stretches where game 82 will not come soon enough.

There are still major holes in the Flames organization and it continues to start at the top. I’m not a huge fan of Burke, but he is a gigantic upgrade over Feaster, even though he has not replaced him (yet). As much as Burke wants to say he will not be in the spotlight, and that Feaster will be the one calling the shots, I think it is only a matter of time before Burke gets his way.

Burke will bring in his own guys and will continue with his famous sound bites, people do not change overnight.

I have no faith with Feaster leading this rebuild, or speaking to the media. Why, he admitted it was a mistake calling up Baertschi for that 5-game stint is beyond me. I do not disagree with Monahan starting the year with the Flames, but why Feaster would admit it was a mistake doing it with the Flames last big prospect before Monahan has even played a game, makes ZERO sense to me.

The Flames management (Feaster) is so desperate to prove to everyone that they (he) are doing the right thing, they hinder themselves in actually making the right decision. I have liked a few of Feasters moves, bringing in Galiardi and drafting Monahan, but there is nowhere near enough of them for Feaster to be the man to lead the way.

For me, the Flames will find a way not to finish last in the league, which in my mind isn’t a bad thing, nothing is more important to development than winning.They will get a top three pick in next June’s draft, and hopefully some of the young guys will show some promise and some consistency.

If Feaster is indeed calling the shots, Stajan will re-sign with the Flames, but I put the chances of him calling the shots at less than 20%.

This may not be Burke’s team yet, but it will not last long. Whether it helps or hinders this rebuild is yet to be seen.

I’m excited to see the young guys play, but I worry how long it will take for the Flames to once again compete for a playoff spot.

 

 

Follow me on Twitter: @NickSymon