While it hasn’t been as busy as an off-season for the Calgary Flames as it has been for some other NHL teams around the league, it has been more eventful than some of the past off-seasons since Jay Feaster took over as general manager for the franchise.
Some highlights and lowlights from the Calgary Flames off-season thus far:
A fountain of youth is slowly forming.
With the acquisition of Calgary native TJ Galiardi, the re-signings of Mikael Backlund and TJ Brodie, and the selection of Sean Monahan, Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuck at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the average age of the Flames roster is now lower than it has been in the last 10 years.
And though they be young, they are hardly boys. At the team’s development camp in early July, size and speed was a dominant theme. 18-year old center Mark Jankowski, who grew almost 7 inches in 18 months and gained 14 lbs since last year’s development camp, attributes his solid performance this year to the growth spurt, saying “Over the school year, I’ve gotten a little bigger and a little bit stronger and I feel a lot more comfortable here the second time around. And even going forward, I have a lot more to go.”
Emile Poirier, who caused quite a stir when Feaster announced his name over Hunter Shinkaruk’s at 22nd overall in the draft, made it clear that he was determined to prove the doubters wrong. “[I’m here] to make a good first impression, give all I’ve got and show what I’m capable [of doing].” Poirier certainly did impress on the ice with his confidence and level of competition.
While the question of who will become heir to Miikka Kiprusoff’s throne is still in the air (with such large shoes to fill, the only way to truly answer the question is to see the goalies-in-waiting in action) the netminding situation in Calgary is not as bleak as once thought. The 5 goalies vying for the honours all show promise, but Karri Ramo seems to be the most likely candidate to be the starter once the regular season begins, with Joey MacDonald as the backup.
Youngsters Joni Ortio and Laurent Brossoit will benefit from having another season to develop and hone their skills in the AHL, while 26-year old Reto Berra (the oldest player at this year’s development camp) has a strong chance at taking the back-up position from MacDonald. After all, the Swiss goaltender was touted by Feaster as one of the best goalies outside of the NHL.
All 5 of the goaltenders played solidly during the development camp and scrimmages, and are seemingly ready to take on the spotlight post-Kiprusoff.
With the newly restructured divisions, the Flames are now in the Pacific division alongside the Edmonton Oilers, the Anaheim Ducks, the L.A. Kings, the Phoenix Coyotes, the San Jose Sharks and the Vancouver Canucks. To rank all the teams in this current lineup, the Calgary Flames come in dead last. Although the Coyotes, Ducks and Oilers also have some significant work to do in order to become formidable opponents, they are nevertheless sitting in better situations than the Flames are to start the 2013-2014 season.
Winning is still a long ways away.
While the Flames are on the right path of a much-needed rebuild, the changes made this off-season are not enough to make the team a playoff contender anytime soon. The top 6 on this team would certainly not make the top 6 on any other team. Most of the buzz-worthy players who have recently been added to the roster have yet to play an actual NHL game. And in the midst of an overhaul it is hard to create a solid foundation that will work in the long term. It’s a start, but Flames fans should be advised not to get ahead of themselves.
Graduate of Mount Royal University’s Journalism program and a freelance sports writer from Calgary, Alberta.