Rise of the Giants
D'Arcy McGrath
August 11th, 2003

The Calgary Flames engineered a very significant size upgrade over the summer and nowhere is that more evident than at left wing. Ron Petrovicky, Dave Lowry and Jamie Wright have been replaced by Krzystof Oliwa and Josh Green, two players that stand 6'5" and 6'4" respectively.

The emphasis has shifted from small but annoying buzz saws on the third and fourth lines to speed with size in the case of Josh Green, and size with fear in the case of Oliwa. Though these two additions may not amount to much on the score sheet, they do at least add an interesting wrinkle to the Flames attack.

At the very least the changes should alter the perception of filler in the Flames lineup - those four to six guys that seem to have NHL jobs by default as they haven't brought any real tangible NHL level skill to the lineup. When Oliwa or Green are on the ice they will be noticed, one way or another.

The real focus however, is at the top end.

Dean McAmmond is back in the fold, joining 21-goal man Martin Gelinas and promising Russian youngster Oleg Saprykin in a trio that needs to step up the offence on the port side. The left wing brigade only managed 39 goals combined last season, meaning four other wingers averaged between for and five goals apiece.

McAmmond scored 10 in a Denver uniform, and his addition should help, but the team needs to almost double that 39 goal total in order to move up the standings and secure a playoff spot.

The Big Club

Martin Gelinas - The added ice time and the good fortune of riding shot gun for Jarome Iginla and Craig Conroy for parts of the season did a lot to boost Gelinas back to his career averages for production. The hard working two way winger will be hard pressed to duplicate his Calgary standard should he fall down the depth chart to the second or even third line this time around. When the dust settles however, count on Gelinas as a good secondary scoring source and likely 10 to 15 goals.

Dean McAmmond - Dean McAmmond will make his debut in Flames colours for the second time this fall, a full six months after the infamous trade deadline deal that landed the winger in a regulative snafu last season. Can Dean McAmmond return to his Calgary numbers of 20 goals and 50 points? A lot of that depends on which linemates he hops the boards with this season. If Sutter reunites the stand-by Conroy/McAmmond/Iginla line there's a good chance. At any rate, like Gelinas, McAmmond should bolster the club's secondary scoring.

Oleg Saprykin - Mr. Saprykin sits third on this list because of games played and his inability to consistently stick in the National Hockey League, but make no question, he is the key to the left side of the Calgary Flames forward ranks. Unlike Gelinas and McAmmond, Saprykin is a smooth offensive machine that has the ability to put up 40 goals once he finds his step at this level. The Flames are hoping that step comes to pass sooner than later.

Josh Green - The Flames found an astute off season pick up when they signed the towering 6'4" Josh Green to an economical two way contract. The low pay scale and two way clause give the Flames ample room to experiment with a winger that was once thought of as an up and coming huge power forward. Can Green regain that promise in Calgary, and take that step towards goal scorer and away from mucker? There's a better than even chance no, but then at $450K, he doesn't have to. He provides good speed and great size for the bottom half of the roster.

Krzystof Oliwa - Much like Josh Green, the Flames pounced on opportunity when they inked the Polish Hammer to a deal this summer. Having recently been bought out by the Boston Bruins, they were able to secure Oliwa for considerably less than the brawling winger is used to earning in the NHL. It's hard to say how often the former Devil will suite up in Calgary, but he gives the Flames a legitimate cruiser weight policeman for the first time since Sandy McCarthy left to Tampa Bay. Calgary Edmonton games should be a lot of fun this season.

On the Farm

The Flames system is understandably depleted this season with the club folding up their farm club in Saint John in order to share a club with the Carolina Hurricanes in Lowell. With only nine spots available, the five skating positions will have to be made up of only eight skaters, meaning depth is at an all time low.

Should a call go to Lowell count on Robert Dome to be the first guy to arrive at the Calgary International Airport. The former Penguin prospect is running out of chances, but is the most skilled option available in times of injury.

If not Dome, look for a player like Matthew Lombardi to move to the left side and make the trip to Calgary.

Depth Chart 


Oranizational Grade: B- One of the club's most glaring weaknesses has the potential to become somewhat of a strength with the Flames having big league depth from spots one through five. The left side scored 39 combined goals last year, look for that number to top 50 and perhaps even reach 60 goals this season. The left side has long been notorious for it's lack of a top six forward. With promies in Saprykin, and two semi-solutions in McAmmond and Gelinas, the club appears closer to filling this gap.

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