Since we’re well into the dog days of summer as far as hockey news is concerned, the least we can do is offer a quick look ahead to what’s coming for the seven Canadian NHL teams this season.
With a month to go until training camp, I’ve asked a blogger from each city to weigh in on how their team has changed since last season and where they believe they rank in their conference. We’ll run one team every weekday, beginning today with the Calgary Flames.
Who’s in? Chris Butler
Who’s out? Robyn Regehr, Ales Kotalik, Steve Staios, Adam Pardy
The Flames finished 10th in the West last season (three points back of eighth place Chicago), narrowly missing the playoffs despite ending the year tied for seventh in goals scored with Tampa Bay. They were also one of the better teams in the NHL on the power play and in terms of limiting shots against.
Goaltending, however, was an issue, with Miikka Kiprusoff’s ugly .906 save percentage putting him ahead of only three of the 24 goalies who started 50 games last season.
Reasons for optimism:
"After Darryl Sutter's reign of madness was ended last December, the Flames suddenly became one of the hottest teams in the league in the second half of the season. It wasn't enough to pull the club back into the playoff picture for good, but the reversal suggested the team was better in the wake of the dour farmer's exit. If the Flames can replicate that level of performance to some degree this year, the playoffs are a strong possibility."
Causes for concern:
"The flip side of the coin is the Flames have missed the playoffs for two straight seasons and many of their core players are past their prime. New GM Jay Feaster didn't make any additions of note in the off-season with the highest profile move being the trade of Robyn Regehr for two relatively untested youngsters from Buffalo (Chris Butler and Paul Byron). Even though they were able to retain pending UFA's like Alex Tanguay and Curtis Glencross, the loss of Regehr means Flames are currently moderately worse on paper than they were last year."
Predicted finish in the West:
"Eighth. Calgary has enough depth and talent to continue to beat the lesser lights in the league, but their increasingly doddering core and lack of truly elite talent up front means they'll be cannon fodder before the big guns once again."
So there's our debate for the comments section: How do you think the Flames will do this season?
Tomorrow: The Edmonton Oilers