Look Up Flames Fans, Way Up

At risk of being labeled a ‘homer’ for completely biased home team predictions, let me say that the Calgary Flames are a much better team than the 2010-2009 team. They’ve added grit and scoring, have kept a solid D in tact, and boast one of the best goalies in the league. This team is good. The only question is how good and is is good enough to beat other Western Division teams who got better in the off-season?

FlamesForum is going to analyze this year’s prospect of making a deep run into the playoffs, as well as commentary the Summer’s player transactions. It’s our 2010-2011 predictions, and for us, they’re mostly rosey.

A couple years ago the Flames were on top of the Northwest Division. The only piece of the puzzle seemingly missing was a starting C. In came Olli Jokinen at great cost and the Flames finally had their final Stanley Cup cog. But things went downhill from there, or did they? Things certainly got worse, but the troubles started long before that.

Chalk up a two year hiatus of development for young players and any resemblance to a ‘system’ during the Mike Keenan years and you have a foundation to what caused the degradation. Jokinen makes this team better, but the problems started before him. In fact, in another post I’ll point out how the Keenan years lead to the Phaneuf trade….

Last year new head coach Brent Sutter got his first full year with the team and seemed to tie up the ‘system’ part of the game well, but didn’t have a complement of players to run with it. EVERYONE less Giordano, maybe Borque and Kiprusoff underachieved, and most in a very big way. Jokinen failed to score, but at almost the same price and less goals, Langkow lost his scoring touch. Iginla, of course, had an off year and he’s not getting younger. Bouwmeester put up the minutes, but at 6 million+ he was supposed to put up way more points.

Essentially, the Flames were so bad last year that they couldn’t possibly have a worse year (at least in terms of scoring), could they?

This off-season Darryl Sutter surprised all, some calling it lunacy, some calling it larceny (stealing from our hopes as fans). I say the moves are great, not the best, but certainly gives the team an extra 100 points.

The controversial additions of Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay provide the first line some hope. Jokinen can’t score less (can he?…..) and Tanguay has lots to prove in a one year contract (a la Mike Cammalleri me thinks). Together they should combine for over 100 extra points, or say around 60 extra points that we didn’t have last year even with Jokinen. Factor in a more productive Iginla and we could conceivably see an extra 20 points thrown into the mix. That’s 80 total.

The Dion Phaneuf trade provided the Flames with 3 usable and above average bodies in White, Stajan, and Hagman. Those three ended the season 3,4,5 respectively in team scoring (which is sad when you think of it, but certainly bodes well for a season where they should put up similar numbers).

Matt Stajan 19 38 57
Niklas Hagman 82 25 19 44
Ian White 13 25 38

It’s conceivable all of these players will score similar, if not more, points this season. Since we’ll cancel out White’s points (although he may score more than Phaneuf again this season) with the exit of Phaneuf, that leaves us with another 100 points we didn’t start with last season.

Calgary also had a few departures including Eric Nystrom left to Minnesota, Chris Higgins for Florida, Daweds signed in Atlanta, and Jamal Mayers was inked by San Jose. Dawes and his 14 goals will be missed, but hopefully replaced collectively. Nystrom, despite his grit, is replaceable. HIggins was a non-factor along with Mayers.

On defence all things are equal, although one has to believe something’s gotta give salary cap wise. Someone would make our day to take Cory Sarich and his slow feet combined with a 3+ contract away. Points wise Bouwmeester can help in a big way by posting more than 3 goals this year, which he will. I predict a 50 point season with 10 goals. Giordano will also have a career best with over 30+points. Safe to say we can expect 25+ extra points from the D this year.

New faces Tim Jackman and Raitis Ivanans will add grit, albeit they aren’t the solution to our real problems of scoring. Jury still out on whether Henrik Karlsson will be a suitable backup to kiprusoff.

The Flames would do well to fix their money problems sending away Sarich or Staois, or even Kotalik. That would amount to between 5-7 million at least! But after all is said and done the Flames have probably added in excess of 200+ points that wasn’t around last season. That makes this team better in a big way. Yes, it relies on some career turnarounds, but these aren’t Tony Amonte or Jeff Friesen additions.

We also haven’t factored in wild horses like a great season from Kotalik (hahah, JKJ), Backland, and even Langkow when he comes back. David Moss may even score more than 20 points!

FYI, any talk about the future of Jarome Iginla should be silenced. Unless he wants out, he’ll turn out to be the Sakic or Yzerman of our time.

Perhaps the biggest move the season, and likely the most important for the future of the Flames doesn’t have to do with the players at all. The addition of Jay Feaster is probably the most important for the team? Why? He’s probably the replacement for Sutter at the end of this season.

I can image how the discussion went with ownership at the end of the 09-10 season.

Listen Darryl, we like you, you like us, we do’nt want to run you out of town, but let’s get a successor in the wings for next year…..

In comes the astute Feaster who took media duties on Day 1.

The future certainly looks bright. How bright remains to be seen, but I for one like the 10-11 version of the Calgary Flames and I know they’re better than last year’s team.

The question is “how good” and “how good did the rest of the West get?”. I don’t see many team losing over the off-season. Vancouver is a force, Edmonton has talent, even St Louis may make a push.

Guess we’ll have to wait to see, but enough with the doomsday, this team will exceed most expectations. Ok, fine, maybe not 100 points but 98 sounds good :D