Off season moves

By Anthony Patrick

Possible off-season moves that could affect the Flames depth chart.

The minor league affiliate in Saint John had a stellar season, winning the Canadian Division crown, then going on to capture the Calder Cup as league champions. The success on the farm and the failure of the NHL squad should have some sort of impact on the roster in the upcoming season. The uninspired play of many veterans may also force a shuffling of personnel. So what can we really expect between now and training camp?

Promotions, Demotions, Minor League Shuffling

On the Farm

The success for a minor league affiliate is normally great news for any NHL team. Especially when the average age on that team is 22 years of age. It usually means that the minor league team is stacked with some great talent that could help out a weak NHL squad. But the Flames are not lucky enough to fall into that category. While the team they played in the Calder Cup finals, the Wilkes Barrie-Scranton Penguins, sported young AHL scoring stars like Milan Kraft and Andrew Ference, the Saint John Flames success can be tied to their great team play. There is not a single NHL star player in development in Calgary’s farm team. There is no expected impact player to be delivered that could change the NHL team’s fortunes. But there are a few players that could help out the Flames become a better scoring team, and provide more depth and balance to the roster.

Former first round pick Daniel Tkaczuk had an amazing run after coming back from a late season concussion. He stepped in and became the leader the Flames hoped he would be when they drafted him. His 19 points in 14 playoff games, coupled with inspired two-way play, turned many heads. Sergei Varlamov also had a great post season run after bouncing back from a potential season ending knee injury. His 15 goals in 19 playoff games was very impressive. When you consider that he almost attained a rather lofty personal goal of scoring a goal in each game that Saint John would win in the playoffs, it shows that this player may be ready for prime time. Darrell Scoville bounced back after a disappointing season and had a very good playoff, leading the team in plus/minus as well as scoring the Cup clinching goal. Derrick Walser, an unrestricted free agent, also had a very strong playoff finishing 5th in team scoring. He has stated that he would like to look at options, but would listen to any offer that Calgary had first. Martin Brochu showed that he may be worthy of a serious look next year as well. He only stumbled once during the playoffs and had one game that could be considered questionable. That consistency may give him a shot at the backup job in camp next year. There is a contract issue surrounding Brochu as well, but the feeling is that he will be resigned and ready to go by camp.

Injuries Have Their Impact

The Flames had a couple of injuries that could affect the team long term. Brad Werenka suffered a serious concussion in the middle of the season and has yet to be clear of symptoms. There is reason to believe that Werenka may very well retire rather than risk further injury. Jeff Shantz suffered a traumatic knee injury and required surgery. He will not be available until Christmas.

On the Bubble

The Flames have several borderline players on the roster. There are guys that could be AHL bound if the right player came along. Clarke Wilm, Jeff Cowan, Chris Clark and Dwayne Hay all fall into this category. Should someone from the farm surprise in camp, or should a trade take place where extra bodies are brought on, these are the guys that are most likely to be shipped out.

To review, there are numerous areas where the club could find slots for new bodies and not have to worry about creating new ones. With one veteran defenseman looking to return, the club could use a couple more bodies in that area. With gaping holes on the front lines, this is an area where the team needs dramatic improvement. With the kids pushing to find their way onto the NHL roster there could be much movement from within.