Key Offseason Losses: Nigel Dawes, Christopher Higgins, Eric Nystrom, Brett Palin
Key Offseason Additions: Alex Tanguay, Olli Jokinen, Tim Jackman, Henrik Karlsson
Last Season Ranking: Ninth, West
Offense: This is the area where they can’t get any worse. One of the worse scoring teams in the entire league last season, the Flames have to improve. They started the season well, when they had 19 wins and 41 points in 30 games. Then the wheels came off the scoring wagon when they played the other 52 games with 21 wins. GM Darryl Sutter’s main goal for the off season was to add scoring. He couldn’t find a sniper or playmaker, but in adding Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen added players who was good 3-4 years ago but struggled recently. Captain Jarome Iginla should have a bounce-back season just like everyone else with the flaming C on their chest. He failed to score in the last 12 games and barely reached 30 goals. Expect him to score at least 35 goals this season. If the offense can play like thhe top-10 team they were in 2009, they can become a dangerous team in the postseason.
Defense: When coach Brett Sutter took over for Mike Keenan last season, his focus was to make the team better defensively. He accomplished that in his first year. They were fifth in goals against last season, a far improvement from 23rd in 2009 under Keenan. They are also going for a balanced defensive system with their top three defensemen anchoring each of the lines with someone from the bottom three. They return Robyn Regehr who is now fully recovered from a knee injury. The top blue line pairing is likely to be Jay Bouwmeester and Ian White. Both are solid and should see time on special teams. The third defensive pairing of Mark Giordano and Cory Sarich is functional enough to score key goals when necessary.
Goaltending: Similiar to when I wrote last week about Jonas Hiller and Anaheim, Mikka Kiprusoff is a given to play at least 70-plus games for Calgary. What they have tried-and failed- to do in recent season was find a suitable backup to take some of the load off Kiprusoff. The revolving door of backup goalies has fallen to Henrik Karlsson this season. Karlsson is a big goalie at 6-6 and 215 pounds. He was in the San Jose system last season. Top prospect Leland Irving is still a couple years away from being a full-time goalie and still needs to prove he can hold his weight in the AHL instead of bouncing back and forth between the AHL and ECHL.
Season Outlook: This is Darryl Sutter’s time to shine season. He’s been over six years since he guided the Flames to the Stanley Cup finals in his first season as GM. They haven’t won a playoff series since. Fanbases in Canada don’t give their GM’s a lifetime free pass, as you can see teams like Edmonton and Vancouver have gone through multiple GM’s since Sutter have been in charge. You can argue Vancouver is a better team than Calgary, and at least Edmonton has been to a final since 2004 and have changed general managers in recent years. Expect Calgary to be better on offense, and do enough to make the playoffs and hopefully win a series.