The Calgary Flames made their fits roster cuts of 2013’s training camp, sending 19 bodies to either the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat (including 2008 first round pick Greg Nemisz) or back to junior (including 2013 first round picks Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk).
The cuts leave 38 contenders in training camp vying for 23 opening-night roster spots. Here’s a look at how each has fared in camp thus far.
Three prospective goalies are in camp, so the Flames likely have one cut left here. Joey MacDonald and Karri Ramo have each made a pair of pre-season appearances thus far, while Reto Berra has only played once. MacDonald has played four and a half periods – as has Ramo. Ramo was reportedly very good in the pre-season game in Regina against the Islanders, while MacDonald has been solid if unspectacular. Berra was said to be strong in the latter parts of Calgary’s game in Edmonton, particularly in the shootout.
#Flames G Karri Ramo just made a terrific save on Matt Moulson on a two-on-oh in Regina. He has been very solid tonight.
— Wes Gilbertson (@SUNGilbertson) September 18, 2013
It should be noted that MacDonald has a one-way contract worth $925,000 at the NHL level this season, which is precisely the salary limit that can be buried in the American Hockey League without impacting the NHL salary cap. However, even if MacDonald is the number-three goalie in this trio, they may send Berra to Abbotsford to stay busy as the team’s number one – the Swiss goalie hasn’t played in North America before, so being back-up in Calgary wouldn’t help him adjust much.
The Flames have 13 blueliners left in camp. Among them, likely five or six would be considered locks for the team: T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Shane O’Brien, Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman have all been strong in pre-season so far. Chris Butler and Derek Smith are arguably NHL regulars but both saw press-box time last season, and Butler was reportedly going to be a healthy scratch for Calgary’s game in Regina before Patrick Sieloff’s cheekbone injury forced him back into the line-up.
Looks like Flames D Chris Butler is in for Pat Sieloff which is interesting only because Hartley said this AM Butler would be scratched.
— Kristen Odland (@KristenOdlandCH) September 18, 2013
Then we have the guys trying to take jobs from Butler and Smith. Chief among them are three brand-new pros: John Ramage, Patrick Sieloff and Tyler Wotherspoon. All three have international experience from the World Juniors – Ramage and Sieloff both have U20 gold medals – and all three have been poised and not a bit out of place compared to their NHL brethren at camp. After Calgary’s home pre-season loss to Edmonton, Mark
Giordano had a lot of positive things to say about Ramage and Sieloff, who were a pairing in that game, explaining that he felt both guys kept things simple. Sieloff missed Calgary’s game in Regina after suffering a cheekbone injury in a fight in Saskatoon the night prior, but the Flames announced that he won’t need surgery.
.@PatSieloff will need to wear full face protection while practicing/playing for the next 6-8 weeks.
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) September 19, 2013
Also in camp, although not expected to fight for those last two spots, are AHL veteran Chad Billins, the impressive Keegan Kanzig (6’7″, 240 pounds and 7 per cent body fat) and Chris Breen, who’s still rehabbing a shoulder injury.
The Flames have retained 22 bodies up-front, meaning likely eight more cuts are coming. The majority of the shuffling may be in relation to the center position. Right now, three spots up the middle appear to be solidified, in the sense that Mikael Backlund, T.J. Galiardi and Matt Stajan will probably start the year at that spot. Galiardi has been transitioned to pivot by the Flames coaching staff and he’s been strong, particularly in the Flames home win over the Islanders. Beyond that trio, the Flames have a series of decent options: Sean Monahan has been very good in pre-season, while Roman Horak formed a very effective trio between Tim Jackman and Lance Bouma during one such contest. Corban Knight has also been making up ground after a slow start at prospect camp. Markus Granlund, Ben Street and Steve Begin remain as depth options. Arguably the biggest decision the Flames must make is whether to return Monahan to the OHL or not – a decision made more complicated by the fact that he’s been one of the team’s best players in both prospect and main camp.
On the wing, the locks appear to be Mike Cammalleri, Curtis Glencross, Jiri Hudler, Tim Jackman, David Jones, Brian McGrattan and Lee Stempniak. Beyond those gentlemen, Lance Bouma – fully recovered from a knee injury early last season – has arguably the best case for a roster spot based upon his pre-season efforts. At this point, there’s a debate about what’s the bigger surprise at camp: how good Josh Jooris has been in his first NHL camp, or how quiet Sven Baertschi has been. Baertschi, Calgary’s first rounder two years ago, probably has a decent shot at a roster spot, but it’s a bit shocking how little he’s shown in camp thus far.
Then again, camp has been rather packed with players and given that Baertschi sometimes plays a strong but quiet game, it’s equally probable that he’s been doing the right things but getting a bit lost in the shuffle. Michael Ferland and Blair Jones, both aiming to be physical depth guys, round out the players remaining in camp.
A LOOK AHEAD:
The Flames have 38 players remaining in camp. There will be 15 cuts made between now and October 1, either through re-assignments or placing guys on injured reserve. The goaltending position seems fairly solidified with Ramo and MacDonald. Beyond that, things get dicey. There are likely five defensemen (Butler, Smith, Ramage, Wotherspoon and Sieloff) contending for three roster spots, while six forwards (Baertschi, Bouma, Horak, Knight, Monahan and Reinhart) are fighting for four roster spots.
With less than two weeks until roster cut-down day, decisions will only get harder from here on out for Flames management, and practices and pre-season games will only become more and more crucial for those players on the bubble.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.