Ciampa: Left Wing
Ciampa: Right Wing
Centre position a step behind from last year
Marc Ciampa
August 28th, 2003

Last season the clear strength from top to bottom for the Calgary Flames up front was at the centre position. Boasting the likes of Marc Savard, Craig Conroy, Chris Drury, Stephane Yelle and Rob Niedermayer the club had more than enough players who could step up and play on the top two lines if needed.

This season the pecking order is a lot more defined. The depth isn’t there anymore and an injury or two would completely decimate the club down the middle. Out of what the team does have, though, the centre position is a definite strength if everyone stays healthy for the entire season.

The following is a synopsis of each player and reasoning for their placing on the depth chart:

ConroyWith the chemistry that Craig Conroy has exhibited with Jarome Iginla the past two seasons, penciling him as the first-line centre is a no-brainer. Given the lack of depth down the middle plus the impending lockout it’s also very likely Conroy will play the entire season in Calgary despite his contract expiring next July. The Flames will need at least 25 goals and 65 points from him to make the playoffs.

ReinprechtSteve Reinprecht is the wild card, not only down the middle for the Flames but also throughout the team’s lineup. Having played behind Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg for most of his career, he has never had the opportunity that will be given to him in Calgary this upcoming season. Despite the lack of top-six ice time, Reinprecht has improved his totals in each of his three NHL seasons and is now entering his prime with expectations he’ll do even better. This year might be the one where he finally breaks the 20-goal barrier.

YelleSince Darryl Sutter joined the team, Stephane Yelle has played a major role as the third line centre. Despite playing behind the top two lines, Yelle will probably lead all centres in ice time most nights. Look for Yelle to come close to his ten goal total again this year.

BettsThe fourth-line centre position heading into training camp is unquestionably Blair Betts’ to lose. Injury problems may also work against him playing a large number of games in the NHL this season but if he remains healthy but if he remains healthy his play and the fourth line might end up being a big key to the club’s success.

LombardiAt the start of the 2002-03 Amercan Hockey League season, Lombardi lit the league on fire but his performance tailed off at the tail-end of the year. Another full year in the AHL will do wonders for him as last year he saw time in all situations, including shorthanded, on the powerplay and in the final minute of most games. He’ll likely see his first NHL action but it’s best for him to play a lot of minutes in Lowell and work on consistency.

MorganJason Morgan is a solid AHL veteran who just may get his first shot at the NHL in five years this season. He’s a likely call-up if there’s an injury to the fourth line as Lombardi is not well suited to that role. If Betts comes way below expectations in training camp, Morgan shuffles into his spot.

Depth Chart

  1. Craig Conroy
  2. Steve Reinprecht
  3. Stephane Yelle
  4. Blair Betts
  5. Matt Lombardi
  6. Jason Morgan

Organizational Grade: C There’s some good quality players down the middle this season, unfortunately an injury to any one of them and centre suddenly becomes a very weak point for the Flames.

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