Charlton: Left Wing
Up to Chuck
Rick Charlton
August 18th, 2003

It's one superstar and then the rest of them at right wing for the Calgary Flames, the presence of Jarome Iginla perhaps enough to make the gaggle behind him superfluous.

On a team with one of the lowest ranked offensive capabilities in the NHL, Iginla stands out by a country mile, a MVP runner-up the year being slowed by injuries last season before a 'WOW' finish where he netted 29 goals in his final 45 games. That closely matched the + 50 goal pace of the previous season and gave rise to hope from his supporters that Iginla isn't a flash in the pan but fully capable of carrying the Flames on his shoulders yet again.

He might have to and will almost certainly have some extra motivation knowing his ample contract expires at the end of the year.

If Iginla is a given, however, the man who could make a huge difference is young Chuck Kobasew, a 2001 first round draft pick who wasn't quite ready last season but managed to generate some impressive numbers in the AHL after his mid-December demotion.

Kobasew does one thing exceptionally well - score goals - and that is a trait missing through much of Calgary's lineup.

At some point the feeling is Kobasew will deliver on his ample promise and become a leading sniper in the Calgary organization. The issue, of course, is whether or not that will occur this year, putting ample pressure on a still inexperienced young man barely scratching his 21st birthday.

One thing is certain, however, the second line right wing job behind Iginla is Kobasew's to lose, GM and Coach Darryl Sutter making it clear the young players in the organization will get their chance to shine.

Kobasew has scored at every level he's ever played. There's only one level left and the Flames need him now.

The much-maligned Chris Clark will likely flip/flop with Shean Donovan and perhaps newcomer Matt Davidson in the third and fourth spots.

More might have been expected earlier in his career but, at age 27, Clark seems to have found his level, a perennial 10 to 12 goal man with speed and some toughness, a prototypical third or fourth liner who struggles with consistency and might have been forced into a part-time roll on a better team or certainly one with more depth than Calgary.

The one thing Clark has on Donovan is better hands, the latter so limited in his ability to put the puck in the net that "defensive specialist" seems to be a sobriquet deliberately invented for his personage alone. Donovan has played in five organizations in 10 seasons but does seem a great fit on the fourth line in Calgary and as an occasional sub in other places through the lineup when required. One of the fastest skaters in the NHL, it might be fair to say Donovan's primary value to this team will come in the role of a penalty killer.

The above four are likely the principle people patrolling the right side in the coming season with newcomer Matt Davidson the intermittent substitute, the guy Sutter will use to threaten Clark and Donovan's ice time in moments when the latter fall into their characteristic mid-season funks.

The trimmed down farm system offers little hope of significant help - Kobasew was "it" - with 22 year-old Garrett Bembridge the only reasonable call-up in a dire five alarm emergency.

Depth Chart

  1. Jarome Iginla
  2. Chuck Kobasew
  3. Chris Clark
  4. Shean Donovan
  5. Matt Davidson
  6. Garrett Bembridge
  7. Darren Lynch

Organization Grade B

Make no mistake, the "B" grade is about 75% Iginla with Kobasew making up most of the rest. Injuries will likely be the only thing to hold Iginla back this year while Kobasew's age and relative inexperience might still limit him. From Kobasew, the team would be well satisfied with anything north of 15 goals and a solid two-way effort on a nightly basis. Clark is a serviceable career third or fourth liner, albeit prone to long stretches where he could use a little competition to get his juices flowing. Donovan probably isn't the guy to make Clark worried but Davidson might be. All three are as fast as lightning which should make the race for jobs all the more interesting. If Kobasew can contribute, this could be one of the positions of significant strength for a team trying to erase a seven-year playoff drought.


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