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STAMP! Weekend Places Craig Button's Impression on the Flames

D'Arcy McGrath

June 25, 2001

Change (chnj) - To give a completely different form or appearance to; transform

Sometimes the word change is an understatement.

The Calgary Flames took a significantly different direction this weekend, both in the future and as soon as this September on the ice.

The last decade of team management featured a group terrified of making mistakes. (see Anthony Patrick's Article, Fear and Loathing In Calgary June 8th, 2001)

Watershed events that blew up in the face of the Calgary Flames, soon became options no longer considered.

Draft a Swedish player that fails with the number one pick? Never draft a European in the first round again.

Make a multi-player trade that doesn't work out? Never deal a core player in a multi-player deal again.

All that changed on Saturday.

Wheeling and Dealing

In Button's deal with the Florida Panthers, Button moved two players that have worn the assistant captain "A" over the past couple of season under former coach Brian Sutter, Val Bure and Jason Wiemer.

With Steve Smith now retired, and Jeff Shantz on the limp until Christmas the leadership group of the Calgary Flames have been completely rebuilt in a year's time.

Many feared that when the Val Bure trade finally came to fruition the Flames would find themselves even thinner up front in terms of quality forwards. The infusion of Rob Niedermayer keeps the top six forward quotient even, along with additional size, at the more important position of center.

At first glance a second round pick for Jason Wiemer seems a little slight, but on a day when Andreas Dackell was dealt for a 7th round pick, and Lubos Bartecko went for a fourth round pick, the scales tend to even out.

Later in the day Button tore up the farm system by moving former number one pick Daniel Tkacuzk and Sergei Varlamov to St. Louis along with Fred Brathwaite for behemoth goaltender Roman Turek.

Heart strings aside, Fred Brathwaite was never going to be the answer in Calgary. He had runs that had the city electrified but didn't hold the endurance or the consistency to hold down the number one job.

As a result the Flames will have another enigma in net next season.

Turek has had sparkling regular season numbers throughout his career, but with top hockey clubs. He's had his share of trouble in the playoffs.

Will the Flames young defence expose him as a goaltender that relied on top level defence to sport great numbers?

Or was the lack of activity in Dallas and St. Louis the reason for some soft goals, and an increase in rubber in Alberta will show him to be a solid goaltender?

Time will tell. Many a fan will be happy the guy is under the age of 40, and not coming off major surgery, like many of the stoppers that have been showcased in Calgary of late.

On Sunday the Flames added former Oiler speedster Dean McAmmond for a draft pick.

When the dust settles on a depth chart the Flames are a markedly different team.

The team can boast the strongest center ice contingent (Savard, Niedermayer, Conroy) since the 1992-93 season that featured Joe Niewendyk, Robert Reichel and Joel Otto.

They have a top checking line taking shape with Craig Conroy and Dean McAmmond.

And their goaltending has more star power than at any point in franchise history.

Now will it get them to the playoffs? Time will tell.

Draft Table

Blockbuster trades change a team's roster overnight, but a significant change in draft strategy can have a huge impact on a franchise in the long term.

From 1990 to 2000 the Flames drafted Canadian Major Junior kids with their first round pick nine times. The only two exceptions were two failed attempts to mine talent out of Sweden.

From 1985 to 1989 the Flames selected five straight college kids with their first round picks. Only Kent Manderville become a NHL hockey player, and not with the Flames.

With that level of success it can be seen why the Flames kept their picks in their own back yard, yet as a result the team missed out on the huge talent being found in Europe for the skill positions on NHL rosters.

Craig Button took the draft table in a very different direction this weekend drafting only one player from CHL hockey teams in 12 picks.

The Flames took a college player in the first round, then loaded up on Russians in the second round.

The biggest change in draft philosophy was to abandon the "safe pick" mantra and to take a chance on some players with larger upside.

In drafting a portly Russian goaltender in Andrei Medvedev, and a 5'9" forward in Egor Shastin, Button clearly rolled the dice.

New Era

No group of fans will ever be unanimous in their backing or condemning of a set of moves, like Flames fans witnessed this weekend.

To get you have to give, and that comes with risk.

One thing all fans will agree on however, that change was required to right a team gone seriously wrong in the last few years.

Assuming risk is a huge step for hockey management of the Flames.

And that in itself is a sign that things are changing in Calgary.

Now to get this team to play past early April for a change.