October 2nd, 2002


Camp Chaos

Five Player Swap Tosses Roster Up in Air

AP Photo

Top Six Set: But who will be the Flames final cuts.

by D'Arcy McGrath

One day later ...

Chris Drury and Stephane Yelle are Calgary Flames, Dean McAmmond, Derek Morris and Jeff Shantz are Colorado Avalanche.

A widely accepted statement, but one that sent each and every Flame fan off the deep yesterday. Lines were formulated, goal totals were tabulated, and trade victories were claimed.

Now back to the matter at hand.

How will the 2002-03 Calgary Flames look when the dust settles for October 10th?

The above question was both simplified and severely complicated due to yesterday's events.

The Blueline

Barring another deal, the exodus of Derek Morris and the lack of another defenceman coming back appears to have locked down the starting blueline core.

The pre-camp incumbents of Denis Gauthier, Robyn Regehr, Bob Boughner and Toni Lydman are still locks. However, the battle for the final defence position was essentially wiped out, leaving the remaining candidates - Petr Buzek, Jordan Leopold and Micki Dupont all on the roster.

That last part is sure to make many a hockey observer shudder - two rookies and a guy rescued from an expansion team to fill holes five through seven?

The top four are going to log a lot of minutes unless an additional defenceman is claimed through the waiver draft, or GM Button makes a small deal.

Things up front, however, are really tough to figuere.

The Forwards

The Flames essentially added two forwards in the blockbuster deal - Dean McAmmond was hurt and growing doubtful to start the season. The other forward, Jeff Shantz, was rumoured to be waiver list bound with the hopes that his surrogate uncle in Chicago would claim him and relieve the Flames of his big ticket.

In return the Flames gained two forwards that are rock solid to be in the opening night roster, and bulged their viable option list to 18 forwards, with space for only 14.

It's interesting to speculate how the deal has affected the bubble players on the Flames camp roster.

The Top Six -

There are many permutations available when building the club's top six forwards, but most come down to involve the same six players; Jarome Iginla, Craig Conroy, Marc Savard, Martin Gelinas, Chuck Kobasew and Drury.

From there things get very, very hazy.

Bottoming Out -

The third line in particular is very tough to fathom.

Before the deal yesterday, Dean McAmmond had Drury's spot on the top line leaving basically four players as candidates for the third trio. These four of course, Rob Niedermayer, Jamie Wright, Chris Clark and Mattias Johansson.

The addition of Stephane Yelle complicates things. Yelle is a natural center, and a player that is great on the draws, his ability to shut down the opposition suggests that he needs third line ice time. But where, in this case, do you stick Rob Niedermayer?

If Niedermayer is shifted to the left side with say Yelle and Chris Clark then two players, Wright and Johansson then fall to the fourth line.

A. Niedermayer as Left Wing

Drury - Conroy - Iginla
Gelinas - Savard - Kobasew
Niedermayer - Yelle - Clark
Wright - Nichol - Sloan

Cut - Petrovicky, Betts, Kohn, Johansson

The problem there is the fact that the fourth line already has two players that will end up on the roster in a week's time - Craig Berube and Blake Sloan. That leaves four fourth line players and only three starting spots.

It gets worse, to date we haven't even mentioned Scott Nichol, Blair Betts, Steve Begin, Ladislav Kohn or Ron Petrovicky.

The easy cuts to make would include Blair Betts (waiver ineligible), and Ladislav Kohn (without a contract), but the final two cuts should prove very difficult.

The Flames risk losing any of Scott Nichol, Steve Begin and Ron Petrovicky on waivers, so some tough decisions will have to be made. Mattias Johansson could, however, start on the farm in order to get his North American hockey feet wet.

B. Niedermayer as a Center

Drury - Conroy - Iginla
Gelinas - Savard - Kobasew
Wright - Yelle - Clark
Johansson - Niedermayer - Sloan

Cut - Petrovicky, Betts, Kohn, Nichol

The other option is to move Niedermayer down to the fourth line and attempt to establish a fourth line that almost equals the third line, and literally roll four lines. In this case the decision come down to Nichol and quite likely Johansson.

Too many options is a favourable situation to have for a head coach, but the Flames may be looking at some minor deals to move some bodies to help sort a seemingly horrific situation out.

The final decisions will be made this weekend when the Flames continue a four game set against their provincial rivals, the Edmonton Oilers.

Fans watching these games will no doubt have their eyes glued to that new winger on the top line, but don't forget, the real action exists further down the depth chart.

  Back to Calgarypuck.com
Read other Stories
Talk About it!