Monthly Record: :
Tomorrow another season begins for the Calgary Flames, and with it the questions begin as well. The biggest question heading into the preseason was where is the scoring going to come from? Results from the first few exhibition games seemed to confirm those fears as the team managed only five goals in their opening four games. But once Conroy and Iginla hit their stride, and Chris Drury arrived for the final two matches, the goals starting coming in a big way - to the tune of 16 in their last four preseason games.
What does all that mean in the grand scheme of things? Not a whole lot but perhaps it's a sign that the Flames are going to be a more explosive team this year. Drury has already shown that he's a far more dangerous point man on the powerplay than Morris and up front the chemistry between him, Iginla and Conroy is already starting to form.
As much as Drury is expected to help out the powerplay, Yelle should help the penalty kill. If special teams take care of themselves, the Flames will get off to a good start. Remember that it wasn't until mid-to-late November when special teams fell apart for Calgary last year.
PREDICTIONS: Marc Savard will be traded following Saturday's game against Philadelphia for a 4th/5th defenceman. Petr Buzek becomes the 7th defenceman when Leopold returns from injury ... Chris Drury finishes the month of October in the top ten in league scoring, along with Iginla and Conroy ... Roman Turek has a stellar month, with a GAA below 2.00 ... Toni Lydman shows he is more than capable of handling the roles of top offensive defenceman ... Rob Niedermayer finishes the month with only two assists despite the promotion to the second line that follows Savard's departure. The team tries Drury on the second line, which results in a mini-slump near the end of the month.
Monthly Record: :
Some teams make changes over the off season. The Calgary
Flames shook their core to the bone.
But now ... with the dust settling on an opening night roster
the challenge falls to the on-looker to determine the results.
Are they a better team? A team that has taken a step back?
Have positive moves in some areas weakened the club in other
areas to the point where the moves are negated?
For my money I like the new edition. They won't have the
Detroit Red Wings shaking in their boots - though they should
given the clubs history from last season - but they do appear to
be a more professional, deep, consistent bunch.
The play of the greatly altered squad in their final two
preseason games against Edmonton has the city talking hockey
once again, but those Edmonton lineups were missing their share
Like any recent addition; this year's Flames have their
quota of "ifs" needed to be answered positively in order to
get to the promised land. This year, however, the "if"
total seems to have shrunk.
Look for a solid start from the homeside, tying a well played
game to open the season with Vancouver then upsetting the
Hitchcock driven Flyers.
When the month comes to a close to the Flames will be in the
thick of things, where they should remain all season.
Chris Drury will continue his torrid preseason
pace, by notching 13 points in the opening month, including five
goals. ... Jordan Leoopold's concussion will prove worse than
imagined, forcing him to miss the club's first three games. ...
Marc Savard will survive the month as a Calgary Flame, squashing
the rumour mill of late that has him on the way out of town. ...
Jamie McLennan will make his first start against Chicago,
picking up the win. ... Micki Dupont will be returned to Saint
John midway through the month when the Flames add a veteran
blueliner. ... Toni Lydman will out score Derek Morris in
5-4-1-0, 11 points
The Flames will be thrown right
into the fire this season, with 10 of their first 13 games
coming against teams which were .500 or better last season and
another contest against Dallas, a squad almost certain to finish
near the top of the heap this year.
Duplicating last year's
phenomenal 13-2-2 start, therefore, is probably out of the
In fact, coming out of the
opening stretch this season at .500 might be a more reasonable
objective, allowing the Flames to look for softer spots in the
schedule later on to make up ground.
But that too is a dangerous
game given there isn't a single team that doesn't feel getting
off to a fast start is the key to a playoff berth by the end of
the year. Most, in fact, adhere to the dictum that a playoff
spot won't necessarily be won in October but it could certainly
In other words, its fine for
the Flames to come out of this opening month relatively even,
but anything less than .500 would put severe pressure on the
team to make up lost ground later on.
Helping the Flames early on is
a relatively light schedule - although decked with high quality
opponents - allowing for some respite and practice time in
preparation for a four games in six nights stretch to close out
the month of October.
One opponent, Chicago, might
have gotten noticeably easier to take on with the news yesterday
that Theo Fleury has been suspended without pay and placed in
the NHL's substance abuse program.
After a 7-0-1 pre-season,
Minnesota may not be the easy mark on the calendar they first
appeared to be.
The three early dates, two with
Vancouver and one with Philadelphia, could give Flames fans an
early glimpse as to the effectiveness of a flurry of off-season
moves, including the signings of rookie Chuck Kobasew and
veteran Martin Gelinas as well as the trade which brought in
Chris Drury and Stephane Yelle.
On the flip side, those first
three games might give fans a heads-up on whether or not the
Flames will miss Derek Morris, particularly with rookie Jordan
Leopold sitting out the first game.
We'll call a 5-4-1 start for
the Flames in October.
The most interesting dates of the
month probably involve Vancouver where the summer-long feud between Flames and
Canucks fans over which of Jarome Iginla and Todd Bertuzzi might be the NHL's
best power forward might finally gain some clarity . . . . . Equally important
will be dates with Buffalo and Minnesota, likely bottom-feeders of the ilk the
Flames absolutely, positively must beat throughout this campaign to secure a
playoff spot. . . . . . We'll say here and now that Robyn Regehr does score
twice in October, the same number of goals scored by Morris in Colorado. And
let's also say the Flames power play, with Drury guiding on the right point,
finishes the month among the top seven in the NHL. . . . . . Last October the
ugliest prediction we made had Rob Niedermayer opening the season with seven
points. We won't make that mistake again and will over-compensate by saying
Niedermayer is a utility spare part by the end of the month, if he's a Flame at
all. . . . . . . We'll also predict that Marc Savard remains on the rails for
the time being, the shadow of Drury concentrating his mind wonderfully, and
Chuck Kobasew is the beneficiary with four goals in the month.
5-3-2-0, 12 points
October is a big test…
It begins. The Flames opened
the Chris Drury era with a pair of pre-season wins over the
Oilers, finishing September on a confident note. That's a good
thing, because in October, they'll need all the confidence they
Although I don't see the Flames
repeating their success of a year ago, especially against such
relatively tough competition, I do see them having a winning
month and finishing with twelve points in ten games.
There are four very winnable
games for the Flames: the depleted Bruins at home, the Fleury-less
Blackhawks in Chicago, the Wild in Minnesota, and against the
Sabres at home. If the Flames can get points in each of these
games, manage a split against Vancouver, and pick-up a point or
two in the tougher games, it should considered a successful
Marc Savard will reaffirm his
position as the 2nd line center alongside Chuck Kobasew and
Martin Gelinas. The big line of Drury, Conroy, and Iginla will
continue to dominate and finish the month with a combined 25
points. Micki DuPont will be relegated to the bench upon Jordon
Leopold's return and will find himself back in Saint John by the
month's end. Mattias Johansson will join him, while Blair Betts
and Steve Montador will be the first call-ups on the season.
Jamie McLennan will start just once, against the Wild in the
second of back-to-back games.