December 1st, 2002

December Preview Feature

by Staff


Here's a prediction that is sure to come true ... the Calgary Flames WILL improve in December.


How could they not? 


The month of November was nothing short of a mitigated disaster with the club struggling to a 3-9-1-1 record, and virtually assuring themselves a view from the outside when the playoffs commence in five months.




Calgarypuck certainly didn't see this this coming. McGrath's pick of a 16 point month and Charlton's choice for 15 secured points both were a long shot beyond the club's 8 measly points.


So where do they go from here?


Are you afraid to look?


Marc Ciampa

Monthly Record: : 7-6-1, 15 points

The Calgary Flames are better than they played in November, aren’t they?

It’s hard to believe that this is a better team on paper than the one that went 13-2-2-2 to start the 2001-02 season. The biggest issue is players who were playing extremely well at that time are involved in monster slumps now, as the team falls to 1-9-0-1 in their last 11 games and slipping fast.

Players such as Jarome Iginla, Roman Turek and Craig Conroy, who were the heart and soul of the team during that amazing run, are playing as poorly as they ever have at any point during their careers. Never mind Greg Gilbert, if you take the top two players and top goaltender from any team and effectively remove their effectiveness from the lineup that team will go downhill in a hurry. For instance, what if Tommy Salo, Anson Carter and Ryan Smyth all went into career-long slumps? The Oilers would be toast. Ditto Forsberg, Sakic and Patrick Roy for the Avalanche.

The biggest question then, is can these players get back to the level they’re capable of in time to salvage a season that’s going into the tank? Unfortunately it may take a coaching change to light a fire under these players.

The good news, if there is any, is that going through this kind of adversity can be a big benefit to the team’s ability to handle difficult situations – provided they ever play their way out of it.


Oleg Saprykin will be sent back to Saint John at the end of the road trip after recording zero points… The slide will continue for the next four games, leading in Greg Gilbert’s departure from the club before the December 12th home game against Carolina. He will subsequently be replaced with Jim Playfair… Under Playfair, the Flames will win their first several games, go back to their losing ways but partway through their pre-Christmas road trip will finally turn their season around for good… The home attendance for December 5th vs. Minnesota will be the lowest in Saddledome history… Craig Button will make no trades throughout the month.

D'Arcy McGrath

Monthly Record: : 5-5-3-1, 14 points

When November began things looked very promising for the Calgary Flames.

They had managed their way through a very tough opening schedule and were finding ways to secure points in most games - be it a tie, or an overtime loss.

Something happened in Manhattan however. When Chris Drury hit a goal post with less than a minute to play in null null game with the Rangers it seemed like a break point besieged the club for the rest of the month.

No more luck!

From there everything that could go wrong has gone wrong and continues to go wrong as the club putts towards the holiday season.

It all kicks off tonight against the Stanley Cup Champions, a great way to get a month off on the right foot.

The month of December features 14 games, eight of which are on enemy ice (don't worry that's a good thing with their record at home). The beginning portion of the month has a game with Detroit, two with the Avalanche, and two with the red hot Canucks.

A betting man would pick 14 losses, given the club's November performance, but not this prognosticator.

If the Flames don't right their ship soon they will soon be playing for draft position, something not entirely new in these parts.

Don't worry ... they will. 

The ebb and flow in the NHL says what goes down usually comes up ... and so will the Flames as they chug to a 5-5-3-1 record and 15 points.

The bad news is that a .500 month won't do much to erase the club's current -6 rating in the standings, putting their seasonal goals in peril.


I predicted Iginla to bounce back last month ... he didn't. Just like the club itself, I'll stubbornly repeat my prediction again this month and cross my fingers. ... Roman Turek will go on one of his patented streaks, winning a few on his own, and supplying Herculean goaltending for a string of games. ... The Flames will finally find some defensive depth by reacquiring Cale Hulse from Nashville. ... Greg Gilbert will find his job saved by a combination of better play, and no clear replacement waiting in the wings.

Rick Charlton

Monthly Record: 5-8-1, 11 points

It is with a greater degree of humility that I approach prognosticating the coming month for the Flames.

November saw me being spot-on in predicting the end of Marc Savard, and getting bonus points for suggesting no immediate help would be forthcoming, but that was before I was beaten over the head with the tire-iron of my own arrogance, the Flames beginning their epic faceplant, finishing the month 3-9-1-1 for eight points instead of the 15 points I had envisioned.

The ten losses, with one in overtime, may well qualify as the worst month in team history, including the Atlanta days where only once did a Flames team go into double digits in defeats.

And now we face a December with Calgary staggering under the weight of losing 10 of its last 11, the coach apparently still at the helm but looking over his shoulder at a rising tidal wave of disatisfaction coming up behind him and yet another imposing schedule in December representing the rocky cliffs of doom lurking in the night ahead.

It doesn't get any easier for the good ship Flames, eight of 14 games this month on the road.

Last year's two Western Conference finalists are first up and, although Detroit has lost three of its last four, has yet to give up a goal to the Flames this year, winning two previous games by a combined score of 9-0, while Colorado is the final game on this disastrous road trip.

Flames are then home for one game against the improbable Wild, as big a must win situation as they've faced this year given Minnesota is likely one of the teams the Flames will have to punch out if they are to retain any hope of seeing pre-season action.

Then back on the road against Vancouver - winners of 10 straight - then back home for the recently hot Carolina Hurricane and the Avalanche again. A five game road trip leads into the Christmas break followed by a final three games at home.

It could well be we may know in the next 30 days whether this team is playing for next year or not.

At this point, only an idiot would avoid the prudent approach, erring on the side of caution and admitting the disaster theory. It says here the Flames will finish 5-8-1 in December.

Not good enough.

OTHER FEARLESS FORECASTS - Greg Gilbert, fortunately for his enemies and unfortunately for his friends, will not survive the month - or maybe even the day - and we will go with the notion that Jim Playfair is his successor. . . . . . . Oleg Saprykin is called up and sticks in Calgary, reducing Rob Niedermayer to spot duty on the left side. . . . . Jarome Iginla and Craig Conroy finally begin to overcome lingering injuries to generate some results - but will it be enough to lift the Flames from oblivion? . . . . . . Bob Boughner's return in mid-month helps settle down the blueline corps. . . . . . . . The notion that Radek Bonk may be on the blocks with the attendance starved and therefore cash-starved Ottawa Senators is intriguing. A future Flame in the month of December? A team that may need a personnel shake-up could do worse than Bonk. . . . . . . Robyn Regehr, predictor of 10 goals for himself in training camp, again fails to light the lamp.

Calendar (small)

Calendar (large)




L L -- L
L T -- L
W W -- L
L OL -- L
W W -- W
L L -- W
L L -- W
W W -- L
T T -- L
W L -- W
L W -- W
L L -- W
W W -- T
T T -- W

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