Unlimited Potential: The Story of the Calgary Flames

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Unlimited Potential: The Story of the Calgary Flames
(Photo by Mike Ridewood/Getty Images)

If you're a Flames fan, you are tired of seeing them get knocked out in the first round of the playoffs every year. They have some of the best players in the NHL on their team, as well as being arguably the best hitting team in the NHL.

They've got everything that a good NHL team should have. But what's holding them back? Is it bad coaching? Is it a certain player? Well, it's gotta be something, because they have the potential to be a Detroit-type team, no doubt. Now let's look at the Flames as a team.

 

Goaltending

Miikka Kiprusoff...what can you say about the man? Some doubt this man, but I think he is the man! Kiprusoff is one of the best goaltenders in the league. He's got the big saves, he's got the experience, he's got it all.

As Craig Conroy said, "Miikka Kiprusoff is the backbone of the team."

I absolutely agree with the man. Kipper is the drive of the team. Whenever the Flames maybe down and out Kiprusoff always manages to somehow keep them in there. They need him to stay in the game.

He may be having playoff struggles, but I believe he can bounce back. When this man first came to Calgary he was a back up just like he was in San Jose, but when the main guy got injured (or slump or something like that, I believe) they went to Kiprusoff.

There were doubts at first, but after how he carried them to the Stanley Cup Finals that year all the doubts disappeared. That season, Kiprusoff truly made a name for himself in the NHL.

Today we see him as one of the Flames big leaders, along with Jarome Iginla, Dion Phaneuf, and Robyn Regehr.

"He's like the mother of the team, when you are sad, he just bakes you a nice big cookie," Conroy said.

Obviously you see that Conroy is a fan of the man. A well as Iginla and probably the rest of the team. They know that when they're in trouble he will rise to the challenge. They know he's not the only good guy on the team, but they know he plays a major role on them. So if the Flames are going to become a Detroit/San Jose-level team, they need their netminder to be at his best!

They also need a better back up. No disrespect to the current guy (can't remember his name, it's something like McElhinney or something like that). It would be good for them if they get a back up like CuJo again. Or even Ty Conklin would be a good guy to have. You saw that he can lead a team as well so we wouldn't mind a guy like him either. Basically...

Kiprusoff has to play at his best,

AND

They need a good back up!

 

Defense

The Flames have a pretty solid defense! When you have people like Phaneuf, Regehr, and Cory Sarich, your goalie probably feels really comfortable in net. Calgary has one of the best if not the best defense in the NHL in my opinion. There are other strong defenses like San Jose and Detroit, but Calgary's is up there too.

You got a defenseman that is one of the best hitters in the NHL. He also has a great shot. He puts on great numbers. And he's the goalie's roomate (in hotels), so they're tight.

Yes, I'm talking about Phaneuf. He did kind of have a slow season last year, but he has the potential to be the next Zdeno Chara. He's got the big shot which actually injured a few guys. He's got the hitting ability. And most important he has the leadership potential. Right now Phaneuf has a great teacher with him in Calgary. I believe Regehr can help Phaneuf become a Chara/Lidstrom-level defenseman.

Speaking of Regehr, he is the next defensive topic. He is an amazing defenseman. He's probably the best on the Flames team, but there is just something that is keeping him from being that big guy that everyone fears. I think he and Phaneuf need to help each other improve in the areas where one is good at and the other isn't. If this does happen in the near future, then the defensive line can be solidified.

The next Calgary defender we take a look at is Sarich. The year that Calgary made it to the finals, Sarich was on the other side. When it was Calgary vs. Tampa Bay, Sarich was celebrating instead of sobbing.

But now Sarich has come to the other side after joining Calgary for the 2007-08 season. He is a great presence to have on defense, especially when you need a big hit or a momentum change. Sarich is a premier defenseman on the Calgary team and provides great leadership for the younger guys on the team.

The same goes for another who goes by Adrian Aucoin. He brings that veteran feeling into the locker room. He also brings that drive that the team needs. As well as many other great qualities.

Basically, when it comes to the Flames' back end, it's pretty solid. There is room for improvement, but I think it's in a good place right now.

 

Physical Game

The Calgary Flames are known for being that big hitting team that no one wants to play. Yet somehow they still come out on the losing end. The Flames were one of the most penalized teams because of their style of play. They play old school hockey and that's tough it out to the finish.

They got plenty of amazing hitters on the team such as Dion Phaneuf, Jarome Iginla, Todd Bertuzzi, Cory Sarich and many others. This team is also No. 1 or No. 2 when it comes to body checking. So basically what I'm saying is that they've got the toughness, they've got the power. Yet they still do not play like the best. Well I've got a theory for this.

I don't think the coaches embrace this kind of game. Not all coaches like the idea of a violent hitting team. Some of the coaches in the past did indeed tell Calgary not to use this style of play, but the players did not listen.

Calgary has always been a physical team and they were not going to give it up. They did take the physical game too far at one point. Because a few years back they we're the most penalized team in the year I believe and as well as the team with the most years. But the ironic thing is...

That's the year they made it to the Stanley Cup Finals!

Didn't see that coming did you? The thing is the next coach Calgary gets has to embrace this style not try and stop it because the facts show that they are successful with this style of play. If they do that I think we will see them winning and lifting the Stanley Cup some time soon.

 

Mr. Calgary

If you don't already know who Mr. Calgary is I'll give you a few hints.

He wears the big "C" on his jersey. He is considered the most approachable NHL player in the game today. He is the man that never backs down from a fight. Got it now?

Well just in case you don't I'm talking about Jarome Iginla. Iginla is known as the face of the franchise. When you think of the Flames you think of this guy first. And for the face of the franchise he could honestly be playing better.

He use to be one of the best players in the league, don't get me wrong he still probably is, but he could be putting in more. I think Iginla is a good well rounded player. He can get it done in the offensive zone no doubt and unlike some other players, he knows that there is a goalie that needs his help too. If I had to pick five guys to build my franchise around he would be one of them.

Despite Iginla's offensive contribution being pretty good he could be better. I mean you almost always hear about how Iginla is on a seven-game goalless streak or something like that. He still puts up good numbers, but honestly Cammalleri played better than him last season.

Cammalleri put up the second or third most goals in the NHL. That is a good sign considering that you usually have people like Kovalchuk and Malkin up there. Anyway, Iginla should really consider about working on that.

I personally think his defensive game is really good compared to some other players. He and Henrik Zetterberg are guys who always come back to help their goalies and they will get recognized for it. You can always find Iginla scrambling for the puck back in the corner. So big plus there for Jarome.

Jarome is also a big hit with the media, and when you're the franchise man you have to have that quality so another big plus. Overall Iginla is doing pretty well, but like I said before his offensive game could use some improvement.

 

Offense 

Offensively, the Flames get a four out of five. They are a good team when it comes to the offensive end, but there are some things they can improve. This isn't a big field where they need adjustments though they only need slight upgrades here.

For example they're passing could use some work. I can't count how many times I saw them on the power play passing the puck around and they lost control of it. Either when it's lost at the blue line or when they pass along the boards to Cammalleri or Iggy. They need to work on that.

Another thing that needs improvement is the shots. They don't take too many quality shots anymore. Most of them these days either hit the side of the net or they don't even hit the net. So that's another area they can improve on.

There are also a few big players that can work on their offensive game. Besides for that, I think the Flames offense is just fine.

 

Staff

Well, with the recent firing of Mike Keenan, I just couldn't take this topic off the list.

Overall, the Flames staff is pretty good. They got themselves a really good general manager, in Darryl Sutter. And he has hired himself a great staff, from the assistant GM all the way to the goalies coach. The only real question here is who is going to be their head coach.

I think it would be more than suiting to bring in Brent Sutter from the New Jersey Devils. You would be uniting two brothers on one team. Be careful, though; you don't want those family feuds/arguments to go down.

Anyway I'll make this short, they got a good staff to work with in Calgary.

 

Final Thoughts/Conclusion

  • Flames need a good head coach that will understand their situation
  • The defense needs to do a better job so Kiprusoff won't be tired as hell by the end of the game
  • A better backup is needed in Calgary
  • Phaneuf needs to make his presence felt
  • Iginla needs to better his offensive game
  • Flames need to work on passing and shooting
  • Calgary's physical game must be embraced and not shunned for the team to be successful
  • If all these steps are taken care of, then the Flames should win the Stanley Cup in the next two or three years (wishful thinking?)
  • Flames Rule!
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