Thankfully, many of the most pressing questions have already been answered. While not all questions have been so handily answered by the genius that is our GM (the incomparable Darryl Sutter), I feel very confident that this season’s Calgary team will have addressed the issues that have resulted in Calgary’s four straight first-round exits since the end of the NHL lockout.
Since the lockout and Darryl Sutter’s resignation from the head coaching position at the end of the 2005-2006 season, the Flames have never been the same team—a team that was first in overall defense both the season before and the season after the lockout; a team that did not score many goals but still performed at a much higher level.
However, with Darryl’s brother Brent at the helm, the prospects of the Flames returning to their former hard-edge defensive style have increased; and unlike Scott Burnside, who, in writing for ESPN, seemed to think Darryl had invidious motives for the move, I believe that the deal to bring Darryl over from New Jersey was not simply an issue of family, but instead the best option available for Calgary, other than having Darryl take over the team—something he has been reluctant to do.
Entering the offseason, the Flames had a few major issues to deal withother than finding a new head coach.
The Flames need a truly reliable backup goalie for Miikka Kiprusoff. The season Calgary reached the Stanley Cup finals, it had the services of both Jamie McLennan (now a coach for Calgary) and Roman Turek. Last season, it took Curtis McElhinney the entire season to record his first win (it came on the final day).
Yet, Calgary seems content to let him grow slowly, resigning him before Pittsburgh had won the Cup. Leaving the issue unresolved however, will not bode well—Kipper has proven he can’t hold up over the course of the entire season and be expected to perform in the postseason, and the Flames will do well to find themselves a veteran (perhaps Ed Belfour, who is currently shopping for work) to support Kiprusoff.
During the offseason, Calgary knew that it would probably lose a few members to free agency. Somesuch as Todd Bertuzzi, Rhett Warrener, and Adrian Aucoin are expendable and probably won’t be wearing a Flames jersey come October. Others such as Adam Pardy and Jamie Lundmark have become important parts of the Calgary side and Calgary would do well to make them offers.
Of all the free agents going on the market from Calgary, however, Mike Cammalleri is the toughest to swallow. With Calgary’s signing of Jay Bouwmeester, Calgary has swallowed $6.6 million of its $10 million cap space, virtually ensuring that Mike Cammalleri will not be returning next season.
The first player to lead the Flames in goals other than Jarome Iginla in years, he was a major factor in Calgary’s building up its 10 point lead in the Northwest Division (before the Flames collapsed to end the season) in the middle of the season. Unfortunately, his awesome season will result in a pretty massive pay increase, and Flames fans will most likely miss him when the players report for the start of the season.
Calgary’s final issue to deal with over the offseason is with its defensemen. Signing Jay Bouwmeester was the first step in bolstering the Flames’ defense. Calgary drafted a defenseman in the first round (Tim Erixon), and should try to resign at least Adam Pardy, if not Adrian Aucoin as well to round out their defensive pairings.
I am really looking forward to the start of hockey season. Some of the most energizing Flames’ seasons have revolved around defense, and with the arrival of Brent Sutter and Jay Bouwmeester, the Flames’ should expect better results.