2010-2011 NHL season preview: Calgary Flames

jaromeiginla2.jpgLast season: (40-32-10, 90 points, 3rd in Northwest Division, t-9th in Western Conference) The Flames just missed out on the playoffs last year, finishing five points behind Colorado in the standings. For Calgary, times were tough as Jarome Iginla struggled and the team got virtually no secondary scoring. Rene Bourque did his part to help, but this team had no jump late in the season.

Head coach: Brent Sutter enters his second season as head coach. After a rather uninspiring season, expectations for what Sutter can do to help keep the Flames locked in and in the hunt for the playoffs are tenuous at best. There’s good talent here, but there are cap woes to deal with and Brent’s brother, Daryl, brought back some ghosts from Calgary’s past to try and improve things. Brent Sutter’s job is safe as long as his brother is still the GM.

Key departures: F Nigel Dawes, F Chris Higgins, F Eric Nystrom. Not exactly a murderer’s row. It’s not fair to put both Daymond Langkow and Matt Stajan on this list, but clearly their injuries and however long they’re out for this season will have a drastic effect on the Flames chances this season.

Key arrivals: F Alex Tanguay, F Olli Jokinen, F Raitis Ivanans, F Ryan Stone, F Tim Jackman. All right, on paper the Flames improved themselves. However, the quality of that paper is highly questionable. Jokinen and Tanguay both struggled in Calgary and were sent unceremoniously packing out of town, Tanguay after the 07-08 season, Jokinen in an early season trade with the Rangers just last year. Now they’ll be on the first line with Iginla looking to lead the team to the playoffs. Even Curious George finds this situation to be amazing. Ivanans and Jackman will be the muscle on the fourth line while Stone will potentially get forced into action thanks to injuries to two of the Flames top centers. Good times.

Under pressure: Daryl Sutter. If you thought the pressure was on Iginla to carry this team to the playoffs, you’re nuts. He does the best he can with what he’s got. Instead, the focus goes on Sutter because this fascinating creation of a roster is up to him. If his brother Brent can’t get the team to win, the cries for both of them to get out of Calgary will become deafening.

miikkakiprusoff1.jpgProtecting the house: Miikka Kiprusoff is the man and one of the main reasons why the Flames do as well as they have, even when things aren’t all that inspiring. He’ll play more than 65 games if he’s healthy enough to do so and while that might be an issue come playoff time, the Flames would like to get there first. Backing up Kiprusoff will be either Leland Irving or Henrik Karlsson, the loser of that battle heads to Abbotsford of the AHL. Of course the winner gets to play sparsely and mop up if Kiprusoff has an off night. The life of a backup goalie was never said to be a glamorous one.

Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regehr, Ian White, and Mark Giordano make up a fairly solid top four along the blue line. Steve Staios, Cory Sarich and Adam Pardy are there as well. Ideally with these seven, the Flames should have no problems on defense. With all the injury problems the forwards seem to have, keeping the defensive unit healthy and all together is a blessing. These guys won’t score much (Ian White did have 13 goals last season) but keeping the other team off the board will be their job. The Flames won’t dare try to be a run-and-gun team.

Top line we’d like to see: As if there was a doubt? Tanguay-Jokinen-Iginla. This will be the top line unless Brent Sutter loses his mind or youngster Mikael Backlund forces someone’s hand and moves to the top line. This will be like a franchise sport science experiment. The fans are baffled as to why Jokinen was brought back and scratched their heads at the signing of Tanguay. If things don’t pan out, it will be proof that you can’t go home again because the Calgary fans will go ape-nuts if the “chemistry” these three players had at one time doesn’t return. Keep the popcorn ready to watch this season-long soap opera play out.

Oh captain, my captain: Iginla is the captain and rightfully so as he and Kiprusoff have been the sole reason to watch the Flames the last few seasons. Iginla leads the team in scoring year in and year out and leads through his play on the ice. He scores, he fights, he hits, he’s every TV announcer’s man-crush.

Street fighting man: Take your pick between Ivanans and Tim Jackman. Jackman had 10 fights last year with the Islanders in limited duty and Ivanans, a monstrous figure at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, had 14. Should both of these guys get into the lineup at the same time, they might just fight each other if they can’t land an opponent to brawl with.

Best-case scenario: Jokinen and Tanguay use their pride to their advantage and go back to when they were both hugely productive players and help Iginla get to 50 goals while lighting up the scoreboard themselves. Stajan and Langkow recover from their injuries and bounce back with solid seasons. Mikael Backlund has a breakout season while Kiprusoff and the defense do their thing keeping everyone off the board. Mark Giordano adds another solid season to his resume while Bouwmeester ceases to be the invisible man in Calgary leading the Flames to a second-place finish in the division and a spot in the lower pack of the playoff race.

Worst-case scenario: Unabashed chaos breaks loose when Jokinen and Tanguay can’t reignite the old chemistry with Iginla and the line is broken up. Langkow and Stajan’s injury recoveries go slowly and with the lack of offense, the weight on Kiprusoff’s shoulders becomes too heavy to bear. Losing too many 2-1 games would make anyone crazy. Pressure to do something causes Flames ownership to step in and relieve the Sutter brothers of their jobs and start figuring things out for next season after finishing out of the playoffs.

Keeping it real: This is a perfectly average team. In the Eastern Conference they’d be able to sneak around better and their shortcomings wouldn’t be as painful and making the playoffs would be conceivably easier. In the Western Conference, however, times are tougher. What will keep Calgary motivated and afloat is that their division is not good. Getting to play a slew of your games against a potentially bad Minnesota team, a very young and goaltending-iffy Oilers team, and a Colorado team allergic to defense will keep you in the hunt. Forget about beating Vancouver though. The Flames can hang around and challenge for a seven or eight seed in the playoffs if things go well enough.

Stanley Cup chances: On a scale of 1-5, with one being the worst and a five being the best, the Flames are a practical 3. They’re not terrible, they’re not great, they’re an ideal middle-of-the-pack team in the West. If they make the playoffs, they could cause problems for a round if things go right, but overall you look at the team and you’re left unimpressed.

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    Islanders agree to terms with Dennis Seidenberg

    BOSTON, MA - JUNE 08:  Dennis Seidenberg #44 of the Boston Bruins skates against Mason Raymond #21 of the Vancouver Canucks during Game Four of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 8, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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    Word surfaced on Wednesday morning that the New York Islanders were expected to sign veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg.

    On Wednesday night, the team announced that it has officially agreed to terms with him on a one-year contract. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but according to TSN’s Darren Dreger earlier in the day the value is reported to be $1 million.

    Seidenberg is currently playing a significant role for Team Europe, a surprise finalist against the heavily favored Canadians.

    The 35-year-old defenseman was unexpectedly bought out by the Boston Bruins over the summer. He had two years remaining on his contract, with a cap hit of $4 million.

    Seidenberg was a key part of the Bruins’ Stanley Cup champion team in 2011, but injuries limited him to just 61 games last season, and his average ice time fell below 20 minutes for the first time since he was with the Hurricanes in 2007-08.

    He’ll likely take on a bottom-pairing role with the Islanders, below Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Johnny Boychuk, and Calvin de Haan. He may even be the extra defenseman, pushing the likes of Thomas Hickey, Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, and Scott Mayfield for a spot in the lineup.

    Related: Seidenberg shocked by Bruins’ decision

    Rieder’s agent thinks trade from Coyotes is best for both parties

    GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 02:  Tobias Rieder #8 of the Arizona Coyotes in action during the NHL preseason game against the San Jose Sharks at Gila River Arena on October 2, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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    It seems that Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba isn’t the only unsigned restricted free agent that might be looking for a fresh start somewhere else.

    Arizona Coyotes forward Tobias Rieder also seems to be ready to explore other options.

    It’s already been known that Rieder is frustrated in his current negotiations with the Coyotes and will not attend training camp once he is finished playing for Team Europe at the World Cup.

    On Wednesday afternoon, his agent, Darren Ferris, told Arizonasports.com’s Craig Morgan via email that he thinks it would be best for both parties if the Coyotes simply trade his client at this point, and that Rieder is “really disappointed” with the team.

    More from Arizonasports.com:

    “It’s unfortunate that a good kid gets treated this way. He never balked at the defensive role they made him play, and they don’t seem to value the intangibles he brings to the team.”

    The Coyotes do not seem to have any interest in actually dealing Rieder at this point.

    There’s a lot of rhetoric here, and that really should not be a shock considering the circumstances, but when looking at the numbers that are being talked about this doesn’t seem like a situation that should be beyond repair. A middle ground isn’t that far off.

    According to Rieder’s agent, he is seeking a two-year deal worth $2.5 million per year. The team is reportedly holding strong with either an offer at $2.2 million per year, or a lower one-year qualifying offer. Again, that’s not a huge gap in terms of asking price. In actual salary it’s a total of $600,000 over two years, while the cap hit is only an extra $300,000 each year. For a young player that is already fairly productive and still has some upside to get better.

    The middle ground in those two numbers would be a cap hit of $2.35 million per season.

    The 23-year-old Rieder has played two full seasons in the NHL with the Coyotes and is coming off of a 14-goal, 37-point performance.

    Originally a fourth-round draft pick by the Edmonton Oilers, the Coyotes acquired Rieder in a 2013 trade for Kale Kessy. Seeing as that Kessy has yet to play a single game in the NHL and only recorded 12 points in 56 AHL games a season ago it’s been a pretty good deal for the Coyotes.

    Now they just need to find a way to make sure they can continue to benefit from it by trying to bridge this (relatively speaking) small gap in contract talks.

    NHL odds: Coyotes biggest long shot to make playoffs in 2016-17

    GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 26:  (L-R) Christian Dvorak #18, Luke Schenn #2, Radim Vrbata #17, Dakota Mermis #43 and Max Domi #16 of the Arizona Coyotes celebrate after Schenn scored a first period goal against the Los Angeles Kings during the preseason NHL game at Gila River Arena on September 26, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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    With Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Dylan Strome all in place, the Arizona Coyotes have an exciting core of young talent that should have a bright future in the NHL.

    From a big picture outlook, there are plenty of reasons for optimism surrounding the Coyotes.

    Vegas, on the other hand, isn’t a big believer in the Coyotes chances for the 2016-17 season.

    The folks at Bovada released their playoff odds for the upcoming season and the Coyotes opened as the biggest long shot to make the playoffs (-600 to miss the playoffs; +400 to make them).

    Here are the odds for every team, via Bovada.

    Playoff Odds (From Most Likely to make the playoffs to least likely to make the playoffs)

    Washington Capitals – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -1000 (1/10)
    No +600 (6/1)

    Tampa Bay Lightning – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -850 (17/2)
    No +525 (21/4)

    Chicago Blackhawks – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -800 (1/8)
    No +500 (5/1)

    Pittsburgh Penguins – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -800 (1/8)
    No +500 (5/1)

    St Louis Blues – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -800 (1/8)
    No +500 (5/1)

    San Jose Sharks – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -700 (1/7)
    No +475 (10/4)

    Los Angeles Kings – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -300 (1/3)
    No +240 (12/5)

    Dallas Stars – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -280 (4/15)
    No +220 (11/5)

    Florida Panthers – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -280 (4/15)
    No +220 (11/5)

    Nashville Predators – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -280 (4/15)
    No +220 (11/5)

    New York Rangers – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -280 (4/15)
    No +220 (11/5)

    New York Islanders – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -250 (2/5)
    No +200 (2/1)

    Anaheim Ducks – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -180 (5/9)
    No +150 (3/2)

    Boston Bruins – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -165 (20/33)
    No +135 (27/20)

    Montreal Canadiens – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -165 (20/33)
    No +135 (27/20)

    Philadelphia Flyers – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -150 (2/3)
    No +120 (6/5)

    Minnesota Wild – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -140 (7/5)
    No +110 (11/10)

    Winnipeg Jets – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes -115 (20/23)
    No -115 (20/23)

    Calgary Flames – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes +120 (6/5)
    No -150 (2/3)

    Edmonton Oilers – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes +120 (6/5)
    No -150 (3/2)

    Detroit Red Wings – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes +125 (5/4)
    No -155 (20/31)

    Colorado Avalanche – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes +150 (3/2)
    No -180 (5/9)

    Vancouver Canucks – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes +180 (9/5)
    No -225 (4/9)

    Buffalo Sabres – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes +240 (12/5)
    No -300 (1/3)

    New Jersey Devils – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes +250 (5/2)
    No -325 (4/13)

    Ottawa Senators – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes +250 (5/2)
    No -325 (4/13)

    Toronto Maple Leafs – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes +250 (5/2)
    No -325 (4/13)

    Columbus Blue Jackets – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes +275 (11/4)
    No -350 (2/7)

    Carolina Hurricanes – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes +300 (3/1)
    No -400 (1/4)

    Arizona Coyotes – To make the Playoffs?
    Yes +400 (4/1)
    No -600 (1/6)

    If you’re feeling bold, the Coyotes aren’t the worst bet to make here. They are certainly not a lock to make the playoffs, but the biggest long shot seems like it is a little much as well.

    Getting into one of the top three spots in the division is going to be tough because Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose had a pretty commanding lead for those spots. But the Coyotes still weren’t that far out of a playoff spot this past season, finishing in 10th place in the Western Conference, nine points out of the second wild card spot. It’s not like they were a bottom-feeder in the NHL. Plus, they made the move over the summer to bring in veteran defenseman Alex Goligoski to help on the blue line and should have Strome, the No. 3 overall pick from a year ago, ready to make his NHL debut.

    Report: Ekblad cleared by Panthers doctors

    NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 30:  Aaron Ekblad #5 of the Florida Panthers poses for a 2016 NHL All-Star portrait at Bridgestone Arena on January 30, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Sanford Myers/Getty Images)
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    Aaron Ekblad has been medically cleared by Florida Panthers doctors, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger.

    That’s a big relief for everyone involved after Ekblad was injured while representing Team North America in the World Cup. The injury was originally reported as a “mild” concussion, though it was later called a neck injury.

    The 20-year-old has since been back on the ice working out.

    “Ekblad is going to be fine,” Panthers coach Gerard Galant said. “You see him out there skating already. I think it was a little scary, but he feels real good. He’s going to skate and see how he feels, but everything looks good.”

    The first overall pick in the 2014 draft, Eklbad had already dealt with at least one concussion during his playing career. He suffered one in an international exhibition game during the summer of 2014, just prior to his outstanding rookie season with the Panthers.