With the Calgary Flames preseason underway, there is a common narrative among players and coaches.
It’s the story of second chances and how they can have a positive impact.
Ranging from players like Alex Chiasson, Linden Vey, Lauri Korpikoski, Chris Higgins, to Nicklas Grossmann — the Flames have shown early that they are not afraid of reclamation projects. Granted, all but two of these players are signed to an actual contract (Chiasson, Vey) the rest are on PTOs (try-outs).
Flames bench bosses have something to prove as well; Dave Cameron, as the former Ottawa Senators head coach, comes in as an assistant to former Dallas Stars head coach, Glen Gulutzan.
With great opportunity comes great responsibility. As cliché as that is, the subject matter seems pertinent towards Gulutzan and company. The Calgary Flames are, in themselves, a reclamation project. As they failed to qualify for the playoffs last season, they will look to reinvigorate their potent top-6 and solid d-corps in hopes of making another playoff push.
But let’s delve into this further, looking at our second-chance members:
Chiasson is one of the names I have eyes on, for good reason. There is a lot to look forward to in Chiasson. He is a big body (6’3″, 208 lbs) coming off of a less-than-stellar 14 point (8 goals, 6 assists) campaign with the Ottawa Senators.
This is in stark contrast to the hard-hitting, line-walking forward we saw two years prior in Dallas.
With familiarity in Calgary, Chiasson and Gulutzan are reunited, perhaps Chiasson can use this opportunity to capture lightning in a bottle. What does Chiasson need to do to be considered a success in this organization? Should we not temper our expectations with him?
Chiasson was acquired by sending controversial defenseman Patrick Sieloff to the Senators. Who, if you didn’t see, made news by hitting Clarke MacArthur, in training camp resulting in another concussion diagnosis.
Sieloff, who was a borderline NHLer, to begin with, now has lowered his stock further by sullying his name within their organization.
For Chiasson to be a success in Calgary, he will need to play his game; being physical, dominating and driving possession by utilizing his big frame in the dirty areas of the game. I don’t anticipate exorbitant numbers from Chiasson, but rather sound 2-way play placing emphasis on his abilities away from the puck.
Seems reasonable, well, at least to me it does.
If Chiasson can replicate the 35-point campaign he had just two years ago, I will be ecstatic. I concede I do not expect that number, though. Twenty to twenty-five points from Chiasson would be considered as a success in my opinion.
After the much-publicized court case revolving around his father’s conspiracy to commit murder, it’s hard to imagine how Vey will be able to play to his fullest potential with such distractions.
Vey’s quality of play in the Canucks organization saw him flip-flop between Utica (AHL) and Vancouver. Never setting roots in either league, Vey’s game was always seen as a liability, though this could have been influenced by off-ice distractions.
Vey comes to Calgary with an opportunity to make the big club right off the bat, with the recent news of Mikael Backlund’s concussion.
Not to say that Vey will be a mainstay on the Flames’ roster, but this gives the right-handed center an opportunity to make the opening day lineup and possibly vault himself into the favour of the Flames brass and fans alike, with his hard-hitting, fast-paced game. Vey, at 6’0″, 200 lbs, plays with an edge akin to someone much larger.
Lauri Korpikoski, Chris Higgins and Nicklas Grossmann
The invitees are in a precarious position as they have the most to gain and the most to lose; as their NHL careers likely hang in the balance.
This threesome of past NHLers has to come into camp with the resolve of someone who longs for continued employment.
Not short on experience, this group imbues me with the thought of hopefulness. Korpikoski (540 GP) is coming off of a 22 point campaign with the Oilers and specializes at playing a heavy game, much like current enforcer Brandon Bollig.
Higgins, at 711 GP, brings a slightly more offensive edge to his game. Although, in recent years we have seen a drop in his production, going from .46 ppg in 2014, to .12 ppg in 2015, which is the main reason Higgins saw himself relegated to the Utica Comets, where he would remain for 22-games and never get another opportunity at the NHL level.
Nicklas Grossman (589 GP) comes in with a stay-at-home defensive game. This is not necessarily a bad thing for the Flames, but as d-corps go, the Flames have a very solid group. Though some members are seemingly on the outs or would be borderline 7th d-men on another roster (Engelland, Smid).
Grossman can play favour in the eyes of Flames management this camp. If his play exceeds expectations, Grossman could likely receive a low-cost contract.
Given the recent news that Ladislav Smid will miss the entire 2016-17 season as a result of an injury. An NHL calibre defenseman is something the Flames need.
Glen Gulutzan and Dave Cameron
Glen Gulutzan and Dave Cameron are likely the most intriguing aspects of this story, as Gulutzan is preaching a new culture of inclusivity amongst the Flames players.
Gulutzan will likely ask for the players’ best every night, and his new system could mesh well with the fragility of the dressing room given the Flames tumultuous 2015-16 season.
He seems to have a grasp on the human side of the game and looks to include family and familiarity at every turn. Looking to establish pairs, Gulutzan expects a ride-or-die attitude from the now tenured young core of the Calgary Flames.
As for Dave Cameron, his responsibility revolves around the league-worst special teams (22nd ranked PP, 30th ranked PK). Can he turn it around? As head coach of the Senators, Cameron posted a 70-50 record, even leading the team to the playoffs in 2014-15.
With so much at stake, these reclamation projects have an opportunity to make a name for themselves. One’s I’m sure they are looking to revamp.