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Fix Top Six or Playoffs Nixed?

D'Arcy McGrath

July 12, 2001

Calgary hockey fans were screaming for change this off-season.

Craig Button delivered change in a big way adding as many as five new faces to the team's expected twenty man roster for next season.

When the Edmonton Oilers visit the Pengrowth Saddledome on October 3rd, the Flames will look significantly different.

Roman Turek will likely be tending goal.

Rob Niedermayer will line up as the team's second line center.

Finnish import, Jukka Hentunen will make his North American debut.

Dean McAmmond will be blazing up and down the left side.

And Bob Boughner will be punishing the opposition with more vigor than has been seen in Calgary since Steve Smith retired.

As a result the team appears to be stronger in goal, deeper down the middle, faster, and quite likely much more effective in their own zone.

Which brings us to the remaining problem; who will score the goals?

Top Six

In today's watered down NHL, much of a team's offence can be found on the squad's top two lines.

The wealthy teams ice six top end forwards, each averaging close to thirty goals, while the average teams ice four or five accomplished scorers, void of the one mega-star.

Making the playoffs with less than four twenty goal scorers can be a real struggle.

A calendar year ago the Flames had their four snipers in Jarome Iginla, Marc Savard, Valeri Bure, and Cory Stillman.

The team was atrocious defensively however, surrendering far more goals than the squad managed to score, leaving the team out of the playoffs for the fifth straight year.

Changes had to be made.

Consistency and character had to be acquired.

In a sense the house was torn down in an effort to fix the foundation.

However, with training camp now only eight weeks away the Flames roster resembles a solid cement slab and some framework, with little siding or roofing to be seen.

I ask again, who will score the goals for this team?

What Level of Scoring is Needed?

Last season the average NHL hockey team produced 148 goals from their top six forwards, roughly twenty five goals per player.

The table below looks further by breaking the teams into classifications.









Door Step




With improved defence, the Flames will have a shot at the playoffs if their top six forwards can score close to 145 goals next season.

A look at the Flames projected lineup suggests that improvement will have to found from each of the six players in the Flames top six.

The group below presents the Flames top six projected goal scorers, not the suggested make up of the team's top two lines. The presence of Dave Lowry and Craig Conroy on the second line would indicate some serious issues to address for Craig Button.


Projected Goals

Jarome Iginla


Marc Savard


Dave Lowry


Rob Niedermayer


Craig Conroy


Oleg Saprykin


Projected Totals: Last year's total or a full season
projection if the player missed a substantial number of games

The group above currently projects to only 113 goals, over 30 goals short of that of a playoff team.

Are things that dreary? Well, yes and no.

Jarome Iginla will likely increase his totals.

As will Marc Savard.

Oleg Saprykin could double his totals with a great sophomore season.

Newcomer Jukka Hentunen could knock someone off this list.

A combination of a couple of the above might be all that it takes to make up the thirty goal shortfall, and catapult this team into the playoffs. But in such an important season in Calgary, how much should Craig Button rely on chance?

Is Button Done?

After a fury of activity things have become quiet at the Pengrowth Saddledome, but there is still plenty of summer remaining to continue to tweak the Flames opening night roster.

There were rumblings last week that Button narrowly missed out in signing ex-Dallas winger Mike Keane.

While Keane isn't one to salvage the offensive hopes of any NHL franchise, the pursuit of Keane does suggest that Button isn't done reshaping the 2001-02 edition of the Calgary Flames.

The Flames are better, most in the city agree on that point.

But to ensure success next year the Flames will need to acquire more scoring, or receive some luck other than bad for a change, in having a few players surprise.

Given the gravity of the situation, here's hoping Button's fingers are spending more time dialing and less time crossing.