Northwest Division Preview: Calgary Flames

Faiz-Ali VirjiCorrespondent IAugust 18, 2008

Continuing my preview of of the Northwest divison with the Calgary Flames. (My preview of the Colorado Avalanche can be found here and my preview of the Vancouver Canucks can be found here)

Calgary has been thought to be the favorite in the Northwest Division the past two years. This year, however, there has been some doubt, especially after losing both Alex Tanguay and Kristian Huselius.

In goal the Flames seem to be solid with Miikka Kiprusoff as their starter, and under Iron Mike Keenan, he should see at least 70 starts this year. As long as he doesn't burn out, the Flames will be fine for those games. Curtis McElhinney will get his chance to prove he belongs in the NHL and can be a suitable back up for Kiprusoff. Last year, he only got into 5 games before the Flames decided to bring in veteran netminder Curtis Joseph. If he can provide some decent goaltending for the 10-12 starts he gets this year, the Flames will be fine in the goaltending department.

Calgary's defence, led by star Dion Phaneuf, looks to be good as usual the past few seasons. Along with Phaneuf, the Flames have Robyn Regher (arguably one of the best defensive defensemen in the league), Adrian Aucoin, Anders Ericksson, Cory Sarich, and Rhett Warrener. If injuries strike, Calgary should be ok with James Vandermeer and Mark Giordano as reserves.

Offence is the weak point of the Flames. While they have superstar Jarome Iginla, who scored 50 goals last year and doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon, Daymond Langkow, and newly acquired Mike Cammalleri, there isn't much after that. After these three, with Huselius and Tanguay gone, the next highest goal scorer on the team is Curtis Glencross, who netted 15 goals last year. After him, the next best two are Mathew Lombardi, who still hasn't broken out like he was supposed to, and Todd Bertuzzi, who is just a shell of his former self. If they all reach their potential, however, then Calgary's second line could be alright. But that is a big if.

If Calgary hopes to contend in the divisionthis year, they are going to need Kiprusoff to play to his Vezina-winning form, while the defence needs to be rock solid, so that they can counterbalance their lack of offensive depth. Iginla cannot afford to slow down from his MVP like performance last year, while Langkow and Cammalleri have to be at their absolute best. Of course, Keenan may be able to work his magic and turn Bertuzzi back into one of the games best power forwards, leading to Lombardi to finally play to his potential. Or the Flames will be one round and out again. If they even make the playoffs.