McGrath: Left Wing
McGrath: Right Wing
Built Up the Middle
D'Arcy McGrath
August 24th, 2003

For the first time since Joel Otto packed his bags for the city of the Brotherly Love, it appears the Calgary Flames have a center ice core that makes sense.

They have size ... all four centers stand 6'0" or greater.

Speed ... all four centers have above average speed

And most importantly they have four guys that seem to be built to fulfill the roles asked of them.

Steve Reinprecht and Craig Conroy have the skill sets to put some numbers up on the board, while Stephane Yelle has the coach in his corner as the club's go to defensive presence. Rookie Blair Betts will likely complete the quartette with decent size, and an ability to chip in offensively as well.

The club has some homes on the wings, holes that may see a repeat of a club that has trouble scoring on a game in game out basis, but it won't be for lack of skill down the pipe.

The real question comes down the wingers, as beyond Jarome Iginla, there just isn't a sure thing for goal production in Cowtown.

If one or both of Oleg Saprykin or Chuck Kobasew are able to step up then both Conroy and Reinprecht will have someone to work with. If not, then one pivot will have Iginla and the other will be left to create offence on his own - no easy task.

The Big Club

Craig Conroy The likeable and talkative Calgary captain was able to prove within a reasonable doubt that his first season in Calgary wasn't a fluke, as he scored close to 60 points despite Iginla's injury woes. Conroy continues to carry the coat tail label of sponging off his all star winger's abilities, a notion that is somewhat unfair given the fact that most good players line up with good players. Conroy's contract situation should be interesting to monitor as February turns into March. Prediction 26 goals

Steve Reinprecht The Steve Reinprecht experiment should look an awful like the Chris Drury experiment of last season. Reinprecht, so the story goes, being unleashed with ample ice time in Calgary will out strip his production in Colorado where he was buried on a star studded roster. Well it didn't pan out for Drury, but it could for Reinprecht. Here's hoping. Prediction 23 goals

Stephane Yelle While coach and general manager Darryl Sutter isn't noted for playing favourites, it's pretty clear that there's a warm place in his heart for center Stephane Yelle. Yelle is Mr. Everything for the Flames, as he's asked to carry the penalty killing brigade, shut donwn the opposition's most lethal center and chip in once and a while on offence. Yelle should be a benefactor of the trickle down effect of a rebuilt Calgary roster, yielding the Frenchman a more potent presence on the left side. Prediction 13 goals

Blair Betts It's time. Blair Betts has had many a battle to fight on his way to the National Hockey League, specifically ill timed injury after ill timed injury. Even a dust up in camp won't lose him his job this season however, pencil him in on opening night. Betts is an exciting addition to the Flames as the player has size, speed and decent hands, three variables very foreign to the club's fourth line in past years. Prediction 7 goals

Predicted Big Club Goal Output 69 goals

On the Farm

Should injuries fall one of the club's top four centermen, look for Matthew Lombardi to make the jump to the big leagues a little earlier than expected.

The talented former Oiler draft choice had a great rookie campaign in the American Hockey League, suggesting his learning curve is progressing a little more quickly than anticipated. He should see some time in Calgary, even if on the wing.

Depth Chart

  1. Craig Conroy
  2. Steve Reinprecht
  3. Stephane Yelle
  4. Blair Betts
  5. Matthew Lombardi

Organizational Ranking B The group lacks the top end, clear cut, number one NHL center, but as a foursome they do boast a pretty solid 2A, 2B, 3 and 4th line option. The group seems to be a good mix and should give Sutter the ability to roll four lines more often this season. The center ice position is a huge variable in today's NHL as the group tends to drive the transition game from defence to offence on the rush. The Flames seem to have taken some good strides in making sure this key area is a strength and not a weakness.

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