Edmonton Oilers v Calgary Flames

Are the Calgary Flames legitimate playoff contenders?


For better or worse, the Calgary Flames put together an impressive run to finish just a few strides short of a playoff spot during the 2010-11 season.

On the bright side, that run convinced them to keep Jarome Iginla rather than trading him away; even if the likable star is getting older and ranks as expensive ($7 million annual cap hit for two more seasons), it’s doubtful that the Flames would have received an acceptable trade return for their captain. On the not-so-bright side, that run also allowed the Flames to put off a rebuilding plan that many clamor for. It’s tough to justify the Flames’ status as one of the NHL’s biggest spenders right now. (They spent big last season and currently own the league’s fourth highest payroll according to CapGeek).

Flames GM Jay Feaster seems to believe that the resurgent second-half Flames are the true version of the team. That was his message to the Calgary Herald’s Vicki Hall, at least.

“When you watch what we accomplished in the second half, the way we played and the things we did, I don’t believe it needs to be ripped apart,” he said, pointedly. “I know the that soup de jour are those teams that finished 30th for five straight years or 29th for five straight years. They draft all the sexy names, and it’s going to be wonderful some time down the road. And that could very easily happen for some franchises.

“There are other franchises who have been in that position. They’ve drafted in the top-five or the top-eight year after year after year, and they’re still wandering in the desert. That’s not something anyone here is prepared to do.”

Is Feaster correct in keeping the band together? Are the Flames going to be genuine contenders next season? Here’s my take on both sides of the argument.

Offense: Making Iggy happy

While the experiment didn’t work out so well in Tampa Bay, Alex Tanguay ended up delivering on the expectations that he would be one of the league’s best bargains last season. His new contract ensures that he won’t be severely underpaid anymore ($3.5 million per year for the next five seasons), but it also keeps Iginla happy.

I’m not crazy about the term of that contract – Tanguay has a lot of mileage for a guy who’s 31 years old – but the two wingers developed a nice chemistry in Tanguay’s two stops in Calgary. The hopeful strength of that combo represents their best chance to make the playoffs because the rest of their offense is pretty suspect.

source: Getty ImagesDefense: Essentially trading Robyn Regehr for Scott Hannan

It’s interesting how much the Flames defense changed over the last few years, with Regehr and Dion Phaneuf shipped out of town via the trade route. The logic behind moving both players was reasonable (even if the decisions were debatable), but the returns were lukewarm in each case. Now there’s even less of a question that the leaders of their blueline are Jay Bouwmeester and Mark Giordano (the team’s top two players in ice time last season). While both players have some positives going for them, it doesn’t really bode well for the team’s hopes of ranking among the elite.

Getting rid of Regehr’s approximate $4 million cap hit seemed like a rebuilding move until the Flames basically kept the band together to a considerable expense, but at least they closed some of the gap by signing Hannan to a frugal $1 million deal. If the price were the same, I’d rather have Regehr, but Hannan can absorb tough minutes and bring a physical game to the ice too. (Just not quite as well, in my opinion.)

Goalies: Another big workload for Miikka Kiprusoff

I’m a big proponent of teams adding quality backups. The most obvious reason is the randomness of injuries, but if you look at the way the league is changing at the position, it pays to give your top guys rest. Tim Thomas played in just 57 regular season games and Roberto Luongo played 60, yet both were Vezina Trophy and Stanley Cup finalists.

Kipper, on the other hand, has six straight seasons with 70+ games played. That workload is taking its toll as he’s only had one above-average individual season (.920 save percentage in 2009-10) in the last four. The Finnish goalie probably enjoys getting almost every start, but it’s hard to say that the Martin Brodeur Model is really working in Calgary.


The Flames finished three points and three wins short of a playoff spot at 10th place last season. If that’s your definition of a playoff contender, then Calgary should be able to reach that mark. It’s hard to imagine that group shooting for much more than a seventh or eighth seed in the stacked Western Conference, though.

Video: Hextall comments on AHL d-man Pyett, who was diagnosed with sarcoma in leg

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) Defenseman Logan Pyett of the Philadelphia Flyers’ AHL affiliate has been diagnosed with a form of cancer and will be out indefinitely.

The team said Friday the 27-year-old Canadian has a sarcoma in his upper leg. Flyers general manager Ron Hextall says the club offers “heartfelt thoughts and prayers.”

Pyett signed a one-year contract with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms after being at the Flyers’ training camp. He was selected by Detroit in the seventh round of the 2006 NHL entry draft. He signed as a free agent with the New York Rangers in 2012 and spent two seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League.

Update: Wisniewski tore ACL 47 seconds into ‘Canes debut

James Wisniewski, John-Michael Liles, Elias Lindholm
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Last night, we passed along news that veteran d-man James Wisniewski — acquired from Carolina at the draft — suffered what looked to be a serious injury just 47 seconds into his ‘Canes debut, and was ruled out for the remainder of the night.

Now, he’s been ruled out for a lot longer than that.

From the club:

Ron Francis, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, today announced that defenseman James Wisniewski will undergo surgery on his left knee after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during Thursday night’s game in Nashville.

Recovery time for the injury is estimated at six months.

This is, obviously, a tough development for both player and club. The ‘Canes were counting on Wisniewski to be a regular contributor on defense this year, and help improve last year’s middle-of-the-pack power play.

Wisniewski, meanwhile, was looking to bounce back from a disappointing ’14-15 campaign. He was shipped out of Columbus at the deadline to Anaheim but never made an impact for the Ducks, failing to see any playoff action as Anaheim made it all the way to the Western Conference final.