Filling Holes: What to Make of the Flames Lineup Thus Far

As the summer presses on and rosters begin to take shape, I decided to take a look at what the Flames have achieved thus far this summer and what remains on their proverbial to-do list.

Fowards:

Alex Tanguay- Daymond Langkow- Jarome Iginla

Rene Bourque-OlliJokinen-Niklas Hagman

Curtis Glencross-Matt Stajan-David Moss

Ales Kotalik-Mikael Backlund-???

Raitis Ivanans-Ryan Stone/Brett Sutter-Tim Jackman

The addition of Tanguay and the (re)addition of Jokinen certainly makes the Flames' top six a lot more sturdy looking on paper, especially compared to this time last summer. It's a solid group, but management is banking on a return to form, or at least some degree of it, from Tanguay, Langkow, Jokinen, and Iginla and that Bourque and Hagman can, at the least, maintain their production from last season. That's investing a fair chunk of change into hope and to some extent, luck, IMO. Any way you slice it, Jokinen at $3M and Stajan at $3.5M is too much to pay for a third-line centre, but neither has proven an ability to successfully take on the opposition's best. With Bourque and Langkow being the only forwards in that group that really made a difference in terms of possession last season, they can't be the only ones shouldering the responsibility of moving the puck in the right direction against tough competition, especially if they play on different lines. If Tanguay and Iginla struggle to hold their own against the opposition's first and second lines next season and the team doesn't have another top six forward capable of doing just that, there is certainly cause for concern. 

I think a third line of Glencross-Stajan-Moss would be more than capable of inflicting damage against a similar calibre of opposition, but after that it gets rather murky. Kotalik's contract situation is unclear after he went unclaimed on waivers last month and was not bought out by the club, and Backlund's position on the team remains up in the air. I'm of the opinion that he could use another season on the farm, as sticking him on a line with two scrappers isn't going to work to his benefit, and nor will a seat in the press box. At the same time, slotting him in at 3C if Langkow can't go to start the season and no other additions (i.e. Conroy) are made may be beyond his capabilities at this point in his young NHL career. At this point, it looks as if Stone and Sutter could be competing for the 4C spot, but if Stone is healthy and plays wing, they could both potentially have jobs with the big club next season, assuming one or both of Ivanans and Jackman spends the majority of their time either on the bench or in the press box. The addition of another fourth line winger certainly wouldn't be a bad idea. 

Defencemen:

Jay Bouwmeester- Robyn Regehr

Mark Giordano- Cory Sarich

Steve Staios- Adam Pardy

*Ian White (RFA)

With White's impending arbitration date only nine days away and only $650K in cap space remaining, Sutter has yet to move a body from the blueline. Steve Staios and Adam Pardy seem like the most likely targets for a demotion while Sarich and Regehr could potentially bring something back in return, notwithstanding health concerns. Bouwmeester and Giordano look to to be the only "untouchables" on the back-end right now, although Regehr also has an NMC in his contract. However, subtract Regehr and this group suddenly looks awfully thin. Ideally, the organization would probably like to make space for a cheap bottom pairing defenceman like Matt Pelech; the former first rounder recently signed a one-year deal worth $600K at the NHL level, and with the Flames strapped for cash and in need of affordable, replacement-level depth, now is as good a time as any for the 22-year-old to make his NHL debut--if he can stay healthy. Staffan Kronwall, who had a decent season in the AHL last year, finishing tied for second on the Heat in scoring amongst defencemen with 28 points in 44 games played, is on a one-way deal at $500K, and is also an option, but at 27-years-old, has much less room for improvement than Pelech does. 

Goalies:

Miikka Kiprusoff

Henrik Karlsson 

With David Shantz no longer in the fold and both Matt Keetley and Leland Irving quite some time away from challenging for the role of Kiprusoff's back-up,  Karlsson seems like the clear-cut #2 in Calgary. The only question is how many starts the unproven Swede will get, and the answer is largely dependent on the play of his superior. In the unlikely event that Kipper turns in a repeat performance of his heroics last season, Karlsson could see limited action in back-to-back games or when Miikka gets the hook. Kipper will be 34 this coming season and if Karlsson manages to find the consistency that the Flames' many recent back-ups have lacked and Miikka struggles, the starts could be more split. I don't know how much, if any, of a learning curve exists in the transition between the KHL and the NHL for goalies, but I suppose it's Jamie McLennan's job is to manage that. The situation at back-up is not unlike any of the past few summers in that we as fans likely either have low expectations for the incoming 'tender or no idea what to expect whatsoever. In this case I suspect it's the latter. 

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