It’s just over a month until the opening night of the 2006-2007 NHL season, so it’s time for the Red Mile Blog to give the Calgary Flames its annual checkup.
The Flames left the 2006 season healthy, but unhappy. They had few injuries, and a strong team, which was good for off-season trades and development. The Flames’ unhappiness stemmed from a first round loss to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, which also hurt the pride of their loyal fans. It seems we were all ready for Iggy to raise the Stanley Cup this year despite the fact that Sports Illustrated chose the Flames as the most likely Cup winners this year. But the jinx (and the pressure) is off this season, as SI has chosen Buffalo Sabres to win the cup… and Calgary is looking good.
Calgary has the Vezina Trophy holder in Miikka Kiprusoff, and he’s as strong as ever. Most Goaltenders get better with age, and Kipper will be turning 30 this October. As far as goaltenders go, that’s known as ‘his prime’. I look forward to another MVP/ Vezina-style year from Kipper.
Calgary has arguably one of the best defence teams in the league. When they bring back Robyn Regehr, Dion Phaneuf, Rhett Warrener, Roman Hamrlik, and Brad Ference the Flames ‘D’ are looking pretty solid. In the off season, GM Darryly Sutter added veteran shot blocker Andrei Zyuzin, as well as Andrew Ference, who have both proven they can play the Flames style of defence. Look for Regehr and Hamrlik to continue leading the Flames defence, but keep your eyes on Phaneuf. He is coming off a fantastic rookie season where he was mentioned in the same breath as superstars Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. These two forwards are the only reason Phaneuf did not walk out of the 2006 NHL Awards with the Calder Trophy.
The Flames offensive production lies heavily on the shoulders of Jarome Iginla, and last year’s addition of Tony Amonte did little to ease this burdon. However, Sutter made one key trade in the offseason to acquire Alex Tanguay from Colorado. Tanguay has averages 67 points per season for his 6 year career. He’s used to playing with the league’s best players (having spent most of his time alongside Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk), and should provide some much needed offensive spark for Calgary. The Flames also have face-off specialist Stefan Yelle, and offensively talented Swede Kristian Huselius
Coaching and Management
Darryl Sutter announced that he was stepping down as the Flames head coach this summer to focus on his role as General Manager. He was instrumental reviving a slumping Flames Organization and assembling the Calgary Flames teams that ran to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004 and won the Northwest Division in 2006. His experience as a GM will go a long way for the Flames in the future, so look for some good moves from Sutter to further strengthen the Flames roster this season.
Sutter chose his former Assistant Coach Jim Playfair to replace him. I believe this is a good choice and it will be a successful change for the Flames. Playfair is a great coach and he knows the system that has worked for Calgary in the past. He also knows the players and has a good reputation with them. His work ethic will prevail, and I look forward to a good season with Jim behind the bench. Playfair’s Assistant Coach will be Wayne Fleming, who brings 3 seasons as an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Flyers and several international coaching assignments with Team Canada at the World Championships and the Olympics. (Anyone remember who won in 2002? Wayne was right there behind the bench).
Calgary said goodbye to tough guy Chris Simon, and welcomes Eric Goddard to their roster this year. In Simon, the Flames lost a serious scrapper who could also score a goal or two when needed. In
Stanley Cup Champions
The Calgary Flames now have a few more players that have raised the Stanley Cup over their heads. This is important to note for a team that is in such good shape as the Flames, as this ‘to the bitter end’ experience will help them in the Playoffs this season. Here’s a list of the Flames who are already Stanley Cup Champions:
Darren McCarty (Detroit 1997, 1998, 2002)
Alex Tanguay (Colorado 2001)
Jeff Friesen (New Jersey 2003)
The City of Calgary broke through the 1 Million residents barrier this summer. It is experiencing an economic boom, and people are living the good life. This is good for the Flames. The Calgary Flames fans still remember Lanny McDonald, Jim Peplinski and Al Macinnis raising the cup in 1989, and the run to game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004. They are as Cup Crazy as ever. Last season could have been nicknamed ‘sellout season’ and ticket sales will be great again this season. Seasons tickets went on sale a couple of days ago, and they are already being snatched up like wildfire. With solid ticket sales, loud and crazy fans, and a city that supports their team, the Calgary Flames look like they are a real contender this season. I look forward to partying with you all on the Red Mile next spring!!!