Size’Em Up Sunday is like the Peeping Tom of hockey, but instead of peering into stranger’s windows, we are looking inside the competition. This Sunday, Ryan Agnew provides us with a juicy look at his Calgary Flames. Ryan is the Lead Writer for Flame For Thought, a fellow FanSided Sports Network blog. Calgary finished three points behind the Chicago Blackhawks last season. We feel your pain guys. So close, yet, so far away.
Caniacs, I introduce you to Mr. Agnew…
1.) Sum up the Flames’ 2010-11 season in one word:
Blindingly-mediocre. (Arguably, this two words. Anyone want to fight?)
2.) What is your favourite moment from last season?
This is a tough call because two extraordinary things happened last year for the first time, that will never happen again.
The first thing was the Heritage Classic. It was played at Calgary’s Mcmahon Stadium, the home of their Canadian football team, The Stampeders. I realize it wasn’t the first outdoor game ever played, but in a city like Calgary, it was long overdue. I’m talking hockey in its absolute purest form. On an outdoor rink, where the sport was born. Then add about 60,000 fans, beautiful retro sweaters, falling snow and frosty breath and you’ve got yourself a good old game of shinny. Also, the game was against the storied Montreal Canadiens, who come to Calgary about once every blue moon. What a treat. The Flames won the game 4-0, and at the time were still considered playoff contenders. I don’t want to talk about what happened after that.
The second moment was Jarome Iginla recording his 1000th career point on Friday, April 1, 2011. He scored it against the St.Louis Blues off a clapper streaking down the wing on a breakaway. It was in typical Jarome Iginla fashion, with pure will and relentless power. Iggy was the 77th player in NHL history to reach the milestone. The biggest thing I think for a lot of people is that Iggy’s such a stand-up guy and truly one of hockey’s best ambassadors. I’m not sure anyone in the history of the game deserves to have their hard work pay off more than number 12. I bet you couldn’t even find a Vancouver fan with a bad thing to say about him.
3.) Which player(s) on your team should be feared this season?
Mark Giordano is becoming one of the league’s premier defencemen. He plays with an edge, and plays responsibly defensively. He also happens to be really gifted offensively and has the potential to score highlight real goals. 2011-12 will be the first year in Giordano’s career he’ll be getting paid big money. just over $4 million, actually. He’s been arguably better than Jay Bouwmeester since he arrived in Calgary.
Rene Bourque is pretty much my favourite Flame. He’s a blue collar guy who can fly under most people’s radar. He’s been one of Calgary’s more consistent offensive stalwarts for the past few seasons and comes at a bargain price. Long story short, he gets it done on the ice but you rarely hear about him in the headlines. He’s going to have a career year next season. I’ll say he breaks the 60-point bubble. You heard it here first.
Jarome Iginla will be a player to fear as long as he still has a contract. Do I really have to say much more? Thought so.
Miikka Kiprusoff is still one of the best tenders in the league. He’s on a mediocre team in cap trouble and plays about 70 games a season. He prepares mentally and physically like no other and I see no reason why he won’t be stifling shooters come October. He had 37 wins last year on a non-playoff team.
4.) Going into 2011-12 season, what do you feel will be your teams strengths? Weakness?
Well, lets talk weaknesses first. After losing Robyn Regher, the defence may be a little suspect next year. It’s not that Chris Butler and Clay Wilson aren’t good returns. They will just take a little time to develop into solid, two-way NHL defencemen. Losing Regher will hurt in the short term while Calgary really only has four NHL-ready d-men right now: Bouwmeester, Babchuk, Giordano, Sarich (Butler, maybe).
Calgary’s cap situation will also serve as a weakness. With their backs against the wall, GM Jay Feaster really has no freedom to make any moves, should a key player go down next year. It should be interesting.
The strength of this team could be down the middle, especially if Daymond Langkow is good to go. After bringing Brendan Morrison back, who had a surprisingly solid year, the Flames are rolling with Olli Jokinen, Matt Stajan, Mikael Backlund, Langkow and Morrison as their centremen. With a solid one-two punch in net with Kipper and sophomore Henrik ‘the Calgary Tower’ Karlsson, don’t look for much weakness in the pipes.
5.) What staffing/roster changes were made do you feel will have the greatest impact on your season?
In terms of roster changes, the departure of Regher on the blueline will open the door for a plethora of youngsters to get a crack at making the team. This could open the door for a future star to be born (**cough, cough** Clay Wilson), but will certainly take some adjusting in the early goings.
With staffing, although it happened in mid-season least year, the exit of Darryl Sutter was big. After he took Calgary to the cup finals in 2004, it was all downhill from there. As GM, Sutter threw huge cash and no-trade clauses at anything with a pulse and as time went on, the losing culture grew within the dressing room. The guys weren’t having fun when they came to the rink, and Sutter made sure of it. Since Feaster officially took over GM duties, he’s changed the culture of the team and hasn’t made any frivolous deals…yet. Getting rid of Neon Dion (Phaneuf) was also huge. He’s overrated and apparently, a bit of a dinkis.
Silly good peep at the Flames, Ryan! Thank you!