Wednesday, August 31, 2011

2012 Projections: Calgary

The Calgary Flames are a curious beast, which very few can understand the inner-workings of.  Over the past few seasons, they have seen Jekyll & Hyde like performances, which has been about the only consistent thing about them, especially in their non-playoff years.  They can be dominating and impossible to beat for good stretches, but they could also be easier to beat than a video game from the bargain bin at most retailers.

I think a lot of this can be stemmed from their best players and the ups and downs that they experience through a season, which has somewhat of a trickle down effect through the roster, but the downs can be much more damaging to the team's overall depth numbers than it will be to their top players.  Both Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff will give a pool team great seasons, although some weeks you are pulling out your hair, but they won't make you regret picking them in the end.

The same can't be said for some of the other players in the past, but the 2012 season will look to displace some of those feelings, with a new open brand of feeling in the dressing room, a lot less stress from the management chairs above, but they will have to deal with some expectations of making the playoffs in a playoff-hungry Canadian city.

Jarome Iginla85Marc Giordano45Miikka Kiprusoff85
Alex Tanguay70Anton Babchuk30Henrik Karlsson15
Olli Jokinen60Jay Bouwmeester30
Brendan Morrison50Chris Butler25
Rene Bourque45Cory Sarich15
Curtis Glencross45Scott Hannan15
David Moss40
Mikael Backlund40
Lee Stempniak35
Matt Stajan30
Niklas Hagman20
Tom Kostopoulos20
Tim Jackman15
Greg Nemisz30T.J. Brodie15
Lance Bouma15Brett Carson5
Brendan Mikkelson5

Pool Worthy Forwards (Inside the top 160, 35 points)
There really is no reason why the Flames shouldn't have a lot of players taken in the pools this year, they should be able to get some scoring from a lot of guys on a good number of nights.  The Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay combination is poised to be another good one again this year and whoever can fill the void in the middle (which may rotate fairly often again) should be able to redeem his ice-time for points.

At centre, it was looking like it was going to be a three-way logjam down the middle with some capable names that could go anywhere between lines one through three, but a deal this week eased the stress and added a winger.  Now, Olli Jokinen and Brendan Morrison will vie for the number one spot down the middle, with the runner up getting the second line.  I think there will be some swapping back and forth, which may see their numbers even out, but these will be the top two to watch, especially early on.

I think a lot of outfits looking at this Flames team are mostly in agreement that Mikael Backlund is now poised to make a move.  I can see some improvement in his numbers this year, but it will be hinged on how the team sorts itself out down the middle and who he gets to play with that makes the biggest difference.

Pool Worthy Defensemen (Inside the top 80, 20 points)
Four out of the top six defensemen, I think, are going to be pool-worthy, with the inclusion of Chris Butler, who the Flames received in return in the Robyn Regehr deal with Buffalo.  If all things go well for the 24-year old blueliner, he might be able to find some points with some good hands and better teammates.

Marc Giordano will continue to have the pressure piled on his shoulders, taking the lead job into training camp, while Anton Babchuk should feel more comfortable with added contract security for his bomb of a slapshot.  I would like to say Jay Bouwmeester steps up into a more prominent role with the team, having the big contract and all, but it's hard to be convinced of that at the moment.

Pool Worthy Goalies (Inside the top 40, 25 points)
I think we all have to expect Miikka Kiprusoff to dominate the minutes played column again for the Flames, which will likely keep Henrik Karlsson from being pool-worthy again this year.  Kiprusoff will be good for a lot of points again in 2012, but 37 wins in 2011 was not good enough to lift the Flames into the playoffs.  On paper, I don't really see an improvement in the Flames, so 40 wins may be a stretch, but Kiprusoff should still be able to ring out some shutouts to boost his points.

Pool Worthy Rookies
The Flames may have some seeds planted in their prospect system, but some of what is already blossoming may not be ready for the big show just yet.  I suppose the closest youngster to make the leap will be T.J. Brodie, the 21-year old defenseman, just because the Flames are probably going to keep the seventh defenseman spot open for a while.

Greg Nemisz could be the closest forward and with the bottom six players under a watchful eye, Nemisz might be able to find his stride working his way up the depth charts.

Key Injuries

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