You might recall my bold prediction of 98 points for the Flames. I for one am a bit rosey when it comes to the potential of this year’s Flames. Why? Simply put, too many players had an off season last year and a repeat would spell doom not only for the franchise but the players as well.
I also thought the moves made the team better. Maybe not Stanley Cup contender better but certainly 8 points better (they finished with 90 last year).
In came the pre-season and the Flames went a perfect 7-0, albeit never playing against anybody’s top squad. The the real story out of camping was the incredible amount of injuries at center. How will the change down the middle affect the Flames?
In the midst of the pre-season we learned a few things, albeit briefly. It seems the team has been given a bit of a green light to sneak up and score goals. Ok, maybe that’s just the defence, but it certainly bodes well for the likes of Bouwmeester and Giordano, the former of which could use triple the amount of goals he posted last year. Feasible? Yes. Likely, sure.
The real issue is down the middle. We found out Daymond Langkow essentially broke his neck, and with the nature of his injury we may not ever see him again on the ice, let alone this year.
Of course that wasn’t such a bad thing, we have Oli Jokinen after all…. I welcome him, with his new price tag, but jury is still out on whether he can find the 30 goal plateau. Probably not, but 25 would be great. Right behind him was supposed to be Matt Stajan, but he’s gone indefinitely with a shoulder injury. Add David Moss who was trying his kick at center, and also what seemed to be a renewed Ales Kotalik, and you’ve lost 4 of your top 9.
Now thankfully the Flames have some depth, Backlund will step in but really, losing the potential of Langkow and Stagan, also Kotalik, well that’s a loss of 30-40 goals (not really factoring Langkow in the mix.)
Sure, we’ve signed Brendan Morrison (rumor has it Markus Naslund has been contacted to make a re-appearance in a Flames uniform next season….. :P), but he’s barely an upgrade on the two-way contract of Craig Conroy. Why he’s been touted as a top-six forward is beyond me, he hasn’t played top six in three seasons.
So with injuries the Flames are looking on the outside in. Limited youth, once again, limited offence, but a solid D, will potentially keep the Flames around 90 points again. But that all depends on the length of said injuries….maybe the lot are a bunch of quick healers, at least that’s what we can hope for.
But if the injuries turn out to be longterm and Moss and Stagan fail to find their form, well, the limited optimism that we began the season may wane by November.