|Posted by Landon Ewaniuk on August 13, 2013 at 11:10 PM|
Photo credit: Calgary Flames
By Parker Jones
The Calgary Flames have a lot of questions to answer if they have any hope of torching their four-year playoff drought. A porous defense and anemic offense led the Flames to near the bottom of the difficult Northwest Division last season. So what does this year have in store? Here are some questions (and answers) for this coming campaign.
1. Who will start in goal?
Miikka Kiprusoff appears to be out of retirement, and the Flames have several unproven options to replace the man who led Calgary on its miracle 2004 Stanley Cup Finals run. Understudy Joey MacDonald (8-9-1 record in 2012-13, 2.87 GAA) will get a shot, but the Flames paid Karri Ramo nearly $6 million to come over from Russia and compete for the job. Swiss goalie Reto Berra will also enter training camp with a shot after spending much of the last decade in Swiss pro leagues. But teams generally don’t pay goalies $6 million to sit on the bench, so look for Ramo (26-9-5 in 2012-13 in the KHL) to get every chance to take the job.
2. Can anyone on this team score?
This does not appear likely. The Flames did little to replace Jarome Iginla, who went to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the trade deadline deal last spring -- or Jay Bouwmeester, who was snatched up by the Blues. They re-signed center Mikael Backlund, who scored eight goals last season and will be expected to shoulder a heavier load in 2013-14. Curtis Glencross is the leading returning scorer. The left wing lit the lamp 15 times last season. A resurgence by Mike Cammalleri, who scored only 13 goals last season, would be a boost to what’s looking to be an anemic offense. But that can’t be counted upon. Thus, first-round 2013 draft Sean Monahan will get every chance to make the roster as a top-six forward.
3. Can anyone on this team stop the opposition? Calgary surrendered 160 goals last season, worst in the Western Conference. Allowing 3.27 goals per game won’t notch many victories. Dennis Wideman is much better offensively (22 points last season) than defensively (-9) on the blue line. Not a single Calgary forward finished with a positive plus/minus rating last season. With little changeover on the blue line, don’t expect things to get much better.
4. Can the Flames compete in the new Pacific Division? Unlikely. The Flames jettison Colorado and Minnesota from their division for 2013-14 but add three 2012-13 playoff teams Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose. A feisty Phoenix team rounds out the seven-team division, which keeps the Flames with Edmonton and Vancouver. The Flames finished behind all these teams last season and will be hard-pressed to finished above any of them this coming year. The lack of movement by Flames management will make it nearly impossible to compete for one of the four playoff spots available in the NHL’s new format.
5. Will the Flames have a home? Hopefully. The Scotiabank Saddledome was heavily damaged by flooding in June. Team officials said over the summer the rink will be ready for the preseason next month. But water reached the seating level and decimated the locker rooms, so that’s a task that won’t be easy to finish. Fans who purchase Calgary Flames tickets certainly hope the seats are day -- and the action is better than last year.