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Posts Tagged ‘Calgary Flames’

Because I’m a Very Busy and Lazy Person

In Hockey on October 23, 2013 at 11:58 pm

AbeSooo yeah. I didn’t exactly meet the opening bell when it came to getting my season previews done. Work and life get in the way, so deal with it.

But I am not about to deny my loyal reader(s) the remainder of these previews. Here they are in fast forward, unchanged from the start of the season, beginning where I left off.

Metropolitan Division

Washington Capitals – 3rd Place
Lots of offense, not alot of defense, but this team is going back to the playoffs.

Atlantic Division

Detroit Red Wings
The move East helps this old roster earn their first divison crown as members of the East.

Boston Bruins
Still a physical and nasty group, the Bruins will contend for the division title but just miss out after playing lots of hockey over an 18-month span.

Ottawa Senators
Maybe the most fun team in the league to watch, but with a few of their top forwards prone to injury, the team lacks depth to contend for the top spot. Still a playoff team though.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Defensive issues and possession numbers don’t favor the Leafs as they aim for a second straight playoff berth. Adding Jonathan Bernier means there’s no easy night for opposing shooters.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Suspect defense and a lack of consistent goaltending spells trouble for the Bolts this season.

Buffalo Sabres
They’re not good and the most entertaining thing about this team will be the Ryan Miller/Thomas Vanek trade watch.

Florida Panthers
Still a young group trying to find their way. Adding Tim Thomas helps, but these guys are a long way away from contending for anything other than a lottery pick.

Central Division

Chicago Blackhawks
Loaded at every position, the Blackhawks won’t run over everyone like they did last year but they’re still the class of the NHL.

St. Louis Blues
Great on defense and solid in goal, the Blues are one still one dynamic scorer away from challenging for the top spot in the Central. But man will it suck to play against these guys every night.

/laughs knowing the Sharks pounded the Blues early this year

Minnesota Wild
Still a year or two away from being a serious threat. But this team showed great strides last year and I expect that to continue this year.

Dallas Stars
They’d be higher on this list if I knew Kari Lehtonen wasn’t one play away from falling apart. Still a really good group of young forwards and veterans and a sneaky good defense.

Nashville Predators
They won’t run away with many games this year, but defense and goaltending will keep the Preds in most games this year. Plus, they have American Hero Seth Jones on the rosters, which is awesome.

Colorado Avalanche
A fast and skilled group of forwards makes the Avs a fun team to watch. A shaky defense and spotty goaltending do them in. But man will Patrick Roy be fun to watch as a coach.

Winnipeg Jets
They couldn’t win the worst division in hockey the last two years. That’s bad news as they transition to the West. Ondrej Pavelec is not a franchise goaltender. Why can’t Jets’ management understand this?

Pacific Division

Los Angeles Kings
They have the right mix of skill, toughness and great goaltending. They’ll be in the mix for the Stanley Cup again this year.

San Jose Sharks
It’s the last shot for this group to win. They’ll still roll out world-class talent at forward and have a very good goaltender in Antti Niemi. One serious injury to the forwards will doom the Sharks.

(This was my thought before their red-hot start. I never would have expected what has happened.

Anaheim Ducks
Lucky for you, Pierre Canard has you covered with an actual in-depth preview. Read it now.

Vancouver Canucks
They’re a tire fire waiting to happen, but they still possess some of the best talent in the world. They’re not elite anymore though. And the Sharks own them, which is great for everyone.

Phoenix Coyotes
Still stingy on defense and the score more than you think. I’d be shocked if they didn’t earn the West’s final wild card spot.

Edmonton Oilers
I still don’t trust this team on defense and in net. That’s bad news for a fan base that expects to win now.

Calgary Flames
Oof. Calgary needs to fail badly to try to lock up the top pick in next year’s draft. They’ll battle, but they’re very short on talent.

There ya go. I did not take anything that has happened so far into account for these brief previews. I’m sure everyone will agree with me though…

I am Ryan Thomas, and I’m glad I don’t do this for a living. Follow me on Twitter @rthomas_22, because if you like hockey, you’ll like following me.

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A Dozen Doses of What Could Have Been

In Hockey on August 5, 2013 at 12:08 am

As sports fans, we have all sat back and played armchair quarterback when it comes to our favorite teams. The “what if” factor is what makes sports the greatest bit of reality television on the planet. And no matter how many highs your team might get to experience, it’s the ones that got away that seem to stick with fans more.

Sadly, this look usually comes at the end of a Sharks' playoff series.

Sadly, this look usually comes at the end of a Sharks’ playoff series.

This is one of those lists, dealing with my beloved San Jose Sharks

I don’t need to re-hash what the playoffs have been like for the Sharks, who have remained one of the NHL’s top teams for a decade (although words like pair, torture and hell are three that come to mind). Sure, they’ll always have the upset of the Blues in 2000, the run to the West Finals in 2004 and staving off Detroit in 2011. But even with all of the success, I have been stuck wondering what might have been in my 13 years as a fan of this team. I saw a Tweet where someone asked a fellow Sharks’ fan if they could pick one game to change the outcome to, which one would it be? I feel that since it’s a Saturday night and I’m making friends with a few Miller Lites, I would not only make one choice, but rank a dozen of them.

And after putting together my list, it’s a good thing I’m drinking.

Honorable Mention

Game 7 vs. Toronto, 1994 Western Conference Semifinals
Yes, I know that the Garpenlov crossbar and the fact Sandis Ozolinsh passed on a great shooting opportunity will stick with Sharks fans that have been with the team from the beginning. But that’s the thing, I haven’t. So having said that, it gets a stick tap, but nothing more from me.

Game 3 vs. Dallas, 2008 Western Conference Semifinals
Facing a 2-0 deficit and pushing for a win on the road to get back in, the Sharks do what we all expected them to in overtime of game 3. That of course is allow a goal to a guy that scored all of 18 career NHL goals (Mattias Norstrom) to get the game winner in overtime on a shot that hit Jeremy Roenick’s stick. And you call Patrick Marleau a choker, eh JR?

Game 2 vs. Anaheim, 2009 Western Conference Quarterfinals
This series will always bother me because of how good the Sharks were in the regular season and the amount of rubber they launched at Jonas Hiller in this series. Down by a game, the Sharks outshot the Ducks 44-26 but still lost 3-2 because the guy at the other end of the ice was better than Evgeni Nabokov. And no, this is not the last time Nabokov will be mentioned on this list.

Game 3 vs. Colorado, 2010 Western Conference Quarterfinals
I thought the Sharks were lucky to be tied at 1-1 heading into game 3 of this series. And this game turned into the Craig Anderson show quickly, as the Colorado netminder stopped 51 shots to record the shutout. But hey, at least a Shark scored in the game. Of course, it was when Dan Boyle inadvertently whipped a behind-the-net clearing attempt into his own net (although I maintain it hit TJ Galiardi’s stick on the clear).But hey, if Nabokov is holding the near post properly, that puck doesn’t go in.

Thankfully, Boyle redeemed himself in game 4, Joe Pavelski bailed the Sharks out for the second time in the series and San Jose went on to hammer Colorado in games 5 & 6 to win the series.

Game 1 vs. Vancouver, 2011 Western Conference Finals
A dead tired team only a few days removed from a battle with Detroit held a lead late in the opening game of the Western Conference Finals. While I was having dreams of stealing home ice advantage, the Cancuks slipped a pair of goals past Antti Niemi in the third period en route to winning the game.

With two days between games, the Sharks could have gotten some serious momentum from the win and then some rest before game two. Damn it all…

Think those were bad? It only gets worse from here.

No. 12, Game 1 vs. Dallas, 2008 Western Conference Semifinals
People might not remember that several experts pegged the Sharks as Cup favorites heading into the playoffs. However, having not beaten the Stars in regulation since 2006, the Sharks had to prove that their 7-game series with the Flames in the first round was only a hiccup.

So naturally, they came out flat and the Stars jumped out to a 2-0 lead after two periods. But hope that was once lost was found again when San Jose tied the game late in the third on a Jonathan Cheechoo goal. But even with that momentum, the Sharks gave away home ice in OT when Brendan Morrow hammered home a slap shot after a goal mouth scramble. Turns out Morrow was just getting started, as he went on to dominate this series.

No. 11, Game 3 vs. Calgary, 2008 Western Conference Quarterfinals
This game boggles my mind to this day because of how good the Sharks looked early on. Not only did they jump out to a 3-0 lead, they did so in the FIRST FOUR MINUTES OF THE GAME. The Sharks also chased playoff nemesis Miikka Kiprusoff from the net in favor of 86-year old Curtis Joseph. It was all good and the Sharks were about to take a 2-1 lead, right? No. Calgary charged back into the game and Joseph looked like CuJo circa 1999. To top it all off, the Flames got the winner from Owen Nolan with just over three minutes to go in the game and what should have been a sure win was gone.

And the Sharks passed on Nolan (my favorite player of all time) the previous offseason to sign Roenick.

But the fact remains, if the Sharks win this game, this series is over in five and the Sharks can get some rest before the Dallas series.

No. 10, Game 7 vs. Colorado, 2002 Western Conference Semifinals
This year marked the season the Sharks finally broke through and won their first ever division title. After laying waste to Phoenix in the opening round, the Sharks met a Colorado powerhouse in round two. After six games, nothing was solved and it came down to a do-or-die game seven in Denver.

Now, there aren’t many people around the NHL that don’t care for Teemu Selanne. After this game, some Sharks fans still find it difficult to forgive him (I have moved on, but not everyone has). After a net-mouth scramble, Selanne had a chance at an open net wrap-around that would have tied the game at 1. Instead, Patrick Roy made the save as one of the greatest finishers of all time couldn’t tuck it home. Colorado would hold on and win the game 1-0, giving a 15-year old me a taste of things to come.

Why don’t I rank this game higher? Because the team waiting on the winner is the most stacked team I’ve ever seen in the 2002 Red Wings. Colorado could hang with them, I say the Wings would have DUSTED the Sharks. But then again, we’ll never know the result.

No. 9, Game 7 vs. Los Angeles, 2013 Western Conference Semifinals
Let me be clear, this loss HURT. The Sharks matched the then-defending champions every step of the way in this seven-game classic. The only glaring miss (because I was HAMMERED for this game and don’t remember everything) was Pavelski missing an open net. If you or anyone want to blame the man, stop. It was a bouncing puck that he shot as quick as he could and Jonathan Quick got to it. That doesn’t excuse the Sharks’ play in the opening half of the game, which LA dominated.

So why isn’t this one higher? Because the series could have (should have) been over and not needed a seventh game. More on that later.

No. 8, Game 1 vs. Chicago, 2010 Western Conference Finals
I was jacked for this because my team had the chance to meet the team that all of my friends cheer for. After Jason Demers scored mid-way through the opening period, the Sharks buzzed Antti Niemi and the Chicago net for a total of 44 shots on goal in the game. Of course, Niemi didn’t allow another goal for the remainder of the game and after Chicago tied the game in the second on a HORRENDOUS goal given up by Nabokov to Patrick Sharp, I knew the Sharks were in trouble.

Known alcohol, buffet and boating enthusiast Dustin Byfuglien would score in the third to kick-start a Chicago sweep on their way to a Stanley Cup.

I don’t know if winning game one would have changed the outcome of the series, but come on. Win a freaking game. I still have to hear a bunch of BS about this sweep from my friends.

No. 7, Game 4 vs. Detroit, 2007 Western Conference Semifinals
What sticks out the most about this particular team is that they were built to make a run at the Cup after trading for Bill Guerin, Craig Rivet and Mike Grier before the trade deadline. Through three games, the Sharks had the West’s top-seeded Red Wings on the ropes, leading the series 2-1. After jumping out to a 2-0 lead, the Sharks allowed a pair of late second and third period goals before Matt Schneider capped the comeback in OT. Series tied, and was basically over as the Sharks never recovered from this heart-breaker.

Yes, I know the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Ducks were waiting in the conference finals had the Sharks won this game and series. I liked their chances against Anaheim that year more than I did in 2009. But alas.

No. 6, Game 1 vs. Calgary, 2004 Western Conference Final
This series will drive me crazy until the day I die. I feel that this is the best chance the Sharks have ever had to make it to the Finals, and they dropped the ball. Yes, I could point to the other three losses in the series, but game one is the one that irritates me to this day. The Sharks overcame 2-0 and 3-2 deficits to send the game to overtime, only to be beaten on a goal by Steve Montador. At that point in his career, Montador had scored a whopping three goals in his career.

Of course, the Sharks flopped at home in games two and five and were done in six. This started the debate on whether or not the Sharks should have dealt Nabokov (especially after his holdout to start the 2002-03 season) and kept Kiprusoff. But Kiprusoff was atrocious in his audition to take the starting job and S.O.L. with Nabokov and Toskala playing better in front of him leading up to the trade to Calgary.

But hey, at least the Sharks turned the second round pick from the Flames into Marc-Edouard Vlasic. That counts for something right?

Right?!?!

(Crickets)

No. 5, Game 6 vs. Dallas, 2008 Western Conference Semifinals
I felt awesome about the Sharks’ chances heading into this game. The Sharks battled back from down 3-0 to close the series deficit to 3-2 and if they could win in the house of horrors knows as American Airlines Center, our boys had a chance to complete the ultimate comeback. The teams settled nothing in regulation, and all hell broke loose in overtime. First, the greatest save I have ever seen with my own two eyes. I thought the series was over and Nabby gave his team a clutch save when he had routinely failed to do so in the past. Minutes later, Patrick Marleau had a golden chance to end the game thanks to a great pass from Roenick. But of course Marty Turco was able to stop the shot after trying some sort of dropkick, and the game continued.

And continued.

And continued.

Finally, in the fourth overtime, Brian Campbell cemented his legacy in Sharks lore, taking a tripping penalty that led to Morrow’s series winning tap-in powerplay goal. Think of how the refs swallow the whistles in overtime playoff games and let that sink in.

And to top it all off, I was supposed to be studying for a final exam that night. No studying got done and I barely passed my final. Damn you, Brian Campbell!

No. 4, Game 5 vs. Detroit, 2011 Western Conference Semifinals
This game was over after two periods. Over. The Red Wings had no answer for the Sharks and another five-game defeat was lurking. But unlike the previous year, the Wings got a few bounces and scored three times in the third period, sending the series back to Detroit for a sixth game that everyone knew the Wings were going to win. It’s another game that could have given the Sharks some extra rest for some of their injured players (namely Dany Heatley). Instead, I could hardly sleep with the thought of the Sharks blowing a 3-0 series lead to a team that’s generally disliked by the hockey community.

Could the extra rest have made a difference against Vancouver? Possibly. I know they would have been fresher for the opening game of the series. Even though the series had a happy ending, I still think it was inexcusable to let this game get away.

No. 3, Game 5 vs. Vancouver, 2011 Western Conference Finals
13 freaking seconds. That’s how close the Sharks were to surviving and sending this series back to San Jose. And to top it all off, the egregious missed icing call on Dan Boyle that led to the tying goal is something that still drives me mental. And to make things better, the Sharks continued to launch rubber at Roberto Luongo through the first overtime and into the second.

We all know how it ended, with the worst bounce this franchise has ever experienced. That’s the image that will always stick with me. If Daniel Sedin had ripped a wrister clean over Antti Niemi’s shoulder, I would have been less upset. But that f’ing stanchion and the perfect bounce to the only guy that knew where the puck was is a sequence I still haven’t recovered from.

Thankfully, the Sharks were able to get a bit of revenge in 2013, cashing in with a sweep of a team that’s impossible to like. It doesn’t erase the scar, but man was it nice.

No. 2, Game 2 vs. Los Angeles, 2013 Western Conference Semifinals.
It was damn near impossible for the Sharks to score on Jonathan Quick in this series, especially at Staples Center. So three goals should have been enough, or so I thought. The combination of a Brad Stuart penalty and a BULLS*** delay of game penalty on Vlasic gave the Kings a 2-man advantage.

Let me be clear on something, I have no problem with the delay of game penalty in the NHL. It’s one of the few black-and-white penalties that this game has. But there was ZERO intent for Vlasic to fire the puck over the glass on the PK, And to top it off, THE PUCK HIT JEFF CARTER’S STICK ON THE WAY OUT. Hey NHL, I like your sport and your operation. But not only should intention be called into question when calling this penalty, but it needs to be reviewable. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Even down two men, I had enough faith in the Sharks’ penalty kill and Niemi to fend off the Kings sometimes anemic powerplay. But of course, they struck twice and got a couple gifts from the Sharks PK in the process. First, Logan Couture failed to clear a puck leading to Dustin Brown’s tying goal. OK, get a guy back on the ice and play for OT. I knew it was possible and I expected it.

Of course, I was proven wrong when seconds later when Niemi kicked out a fat rebound to Trevor Lewis who abused Joe Pavelski on his way to smacking the puck into a yawning cage, giving the Kings a 2-0 lead in the series.

I didn’t panic after this game, but I wasn’t happy. Assuming the rest of the series plays out the same way, the Sharks are playing Chicago in the West Finals, not LA.

No. 1, Game 3 vs. Edmonton, 2006 Western Conference Semifinals
But as bad as everything above was, this game is my nominee for the one I want back the worst. Leading 2-1 late in the third with a 2-0 lead in the series, Raffi Torres beats Vesa Toskala with a perfect shot to even the game and send it to overtime.

The Sharks’ best chance came in double overtime when league MVP Joe Thornton and Rocket Richard winner Cheechoo had a 2-on-1. Thornton made a perfect pass to Cheech in the slot and he rifled it straight to the top shelf, only to see the puck find its way into the diving glove of Dwayne Roloson.

Know that sinking feeling you get when you know a goal should have happened, didn’t, and you knew trouble was coming? That’s exactly the feeling I had.

Sure enough, in the third overtime, Shawn Horcoff slid a puck past Toskala in the goal mouth and all momentum the Sharks had was gone as Edmonton won the next three games.

Now is this one as demoralizing an ending as some of the others on this list? Not even close. So why is it at the top of my list?

Remember at that point in the playoffs, the West’s top four seeds were all eliminated at this point, and the West was destined to go through San Jose. The Sharks had the chance to put their foot on the Oilers’ throats and advance to the West Finals where they would have met a young and not-quite-ready Mighty Ducks team. And yes, they could have sucked it up and won any of the three games that followed. But a triple-OT defeat is crushing to any team, and the Sharks’ “playoff choker” label that has followed the Sharks for years might as well have been born after this game.

I know hockey experts want to disregard the 2005-06 season and call it an anomaly, but people still recognize the Hurricanes as Stanley Cup Champions, damn it! This was the ultimate chance for the Sharks to give themselves a chance, and it didn’t happen.

So that’s it. I hope you’re all done with however many bottles of whiskey this persuaded you to drink. And if you think I’m wrong, please let me know which one tops your list.

My name is Ryan Thomas and I’m making a call to my therapist now. Follow me on Twitter @rthomas_22 and I promise I’ll be more positive than this at all times.

2011-12 NHL Season Preview: Calgary Flames

In Hockey on September 19, 2011 at 10:07 am

Calgary Flames

A Look Back at 2010-11
The Calgary Flames entered last season coming off of their first time missing the playoffs since 2003. It was also an older team that made a few head-scratching moves in terms of personnel, bringing back Alex Tanguay, who was awful in Tampa the previous year, and Olli Jokinen, who the Flames couldn’t ship out of town fast enough in 2010. The team was expected to be good defensively, but the direction of the team was up in the air, as the Flames’ best players were all getting older and the pipeline for the Flames hasn’t been good. So it was inevitable that the Flames started out sluggish, finally found their legs but it was too late by the time they did. Tanguay and Jarome Iginla were the only two bright spots for the Flames last year, as they missed the playoffs for the second straight season. Some people expected the team to make the playoffs, I wasn’t one of them. But at the same time, they were straight-up lousy to start off the season and only when Daryl Sutter was fired did things start to turn around. Grade: D

A Look Ahead to 2011-12

Jarome Iginla will be counted on to carry the Flames' offense once again

Forwards
Even though it was broke, I thought the Flames did a poor job in trying to fix their group of forwards. How this team finished seventh in the league in scoring, I have no idea when I look at their group of forwards. I do know that they still employ one of the game’s best players in Jarome Iginla. Iginla can always be counted on for 35-50 goals and 80+ points. The man has been one of the most consistent players in the league over the last decade. However, though he loves Calgary, I have to think that with the current direction of the Flames, Iginla should want a chance at a Cup. He doesn’t have that chance in Calgary right now and won’t for at least a few more years. For a man that does everything in the game right, he could (read: should) be on the trading block at some point. Until the Flames commit to re-building, Iginla will be joined by Tanguay on the top line. I thought that the former Stanley Cup hero was done for after stints in Tampa and Montreal. I was very wrong, as Tanguay was outstanding last year with the Flames. He gives Iginla someone that knows how to distribute the puck and those two have had great chemistry over the years. Rene Bourque will line up on the second line, and he gives the team a nice start on the second line, as his game has improved by leaps and bounds over the last couple seasons. Curtis Glencross had a big year last year, and cashed in as a result. Although he was good last year, the fact that Glencross is given second-line responsibilities isn’t a good sign. That’s no disrespect to Glencross either, but he’s better suited to be a grinder. Lee Stempniak was recently brought in to give the team a little more punch up front, and his arrival should allow Glencross to play on the third line. That’s the only difference Up the middle for the Flames’ top two centers are somewhat of an enigma. Olli Jokinen and Mikael Backlund are going to have a lot to do with how well the team performs this year. Jokinen is no longer a major offensive force, but he’s always been a curious case because of how good he could be. Now that he’s a little older, the expectations aren’t quite as high as the past. Backlund enters his second year, and he is going to need to be better than 25 points this season. He’s the team’s best young player and one of the Flames’ only top prospects, so his level of responsibility will increase this season. I can see Backlund taking a step forward, but not the leap the Flames need him to. David Moss and Brendan Morrison each got off to good starts last year before injuries ended their years. Tim Jackman reached double-digit goals for the first time, but this year he will be used more for physicality and his fists. Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman and Tom Kostopoulos round out the forwards that are expected to see ice time this year. Pierre Leblond was added as an enforcer, but probably won’t play much. I loved the team’s pick of Sven Baertschi in the draft this year. They need offensive support, and Baertschi should be ready to go in a few years. While there are worse forward groups out there, I’m still not crazy about this group because of the age. If the Flames are out of it come deadline time, I can see them at the very least, listening to offers for Iginla. It would be a guarantee they would get back a great package for Iggy, and they would give him a chance to chase a ring. Grade: C (Too many old guys is a major cause for concern. And as much as I think trading Iginla is a good idea, even I don’t think it will happen.)

Mark Giordano enjoyed his finest season last year

Defense
How a team that had the defense Calgary had last yar finished 19th in goals against is astounding. While they’ll be without Robyn Regehr for the first time in over a decade, that spells trouble for the Flames. Of course, the amount of money they’re paying Jay Bouwmeester to be an average defenseman is doesn’t make things any easier. I’ve kept waiting for Bouwmeester to get back to the form he played with when he played in Florida. That’s a lot to ask out of the defenseman now. He’s still good in his own zone, but he’s been labeled a failure because of his production on offense. This is his defensive group now, so maybe he finally puts it all together. Mark Giordano had a great year last year, and there’s no reason to think that he remains the team’s best offensive option on defense. Anton Babchuk stepped up last year for the Flames. Babchuk was always knows as someone that loved to shoot, and last year he scored eight goals after coming over from Carolina. He and Giordano should form a nice tandem on the Calgary power play. Cory Sarich and Scott Hannan are each veteran blue liners that will be counted on to stay in their own zone. I like the Hannan signing, although he’s looked old in the last two years. Chris Butler, Brendan Mikkelson and Brett Carson will compete for the final spot on the blue line. The team lost the only top prospect in their system this offseason when they had to trade Tim Erixon to the Rangers after not being able to come to terms on an entry-level deal. Not good, and this current blue line is going to have to tighten up if the Flames want any shot to go to the playoffs. Grade: C- (Until Bouwmeester plays the way he should, it changes the dynamic of the team.)

A decreased workload could be the best thing for Miikka Kiprusoff and the Flames this season

Goaltending
Like it’s been each year since the lockout, Miikka Kiprusoff will enter the season as the Flames’ starting goaltender. Kipper is still a horse in net, who should be a lock to play 60+ games once again. However, his skills have tailed off over the last few years, and the fact that his work-load isn’t cut down to keep him fresh has been a product of his stubbornness and the lack of a good backup. That should change, hopefully soon, as the Flames appear to have some nice pieces in net waiting behind Kiprusoff. Henrik Karlsson played well when he was called upon in his first season in the NHL, finishing with a better save percentage (.908) than Kipper (.906). He’s a big goalie and was rewarded with a new deal this offseason based on his play last year. I would like to see his workload increase this year, because the Flames would benefit from it. Calgary also has Leland Irving and hard-working Joni Orito ready to play in the AHL this season. I like Orito, and he could get a look very soon in the Calgary net. But for now, this team belongs to Kipper, and if he’s as average as he was last year, the Flames are in trouble. Grade: B- (I feel like I’m being generous, but the last time Kiprusoff had a bad season, he bounced back to have  a great year. We’ll see.)

Prediction
They’re older and play in a nightmare conference. Their saving grace is that they play in an awful division, but Colorado, Minnesota and Edmonton all got better this offseason and Vancouver is still Vancouver. They’ll need to beat up on their division to have a chance to qualify for the playoffs. But it’ll be another cold winter in Alberta, and another early vacation for the Flames. They really need to consider trading Iginla. I think I’ve made my point as to why. 3rd in Northwest, 13th in West.