For the first time in eight seasons, the Calgary Flames are playing playoff hockey. While the successes of the Flames this season may have rested on the
shoulders of General Manager and Head Coach Darryl Sutter, there is a
lot to be said for the hard work and dedication for those players that
bought into the traditional, hard-working Sutter system.
Among those that bought into the system were Calgary’s four rookies, Matthew Lombardi, Lynn Loyns, Danny Sabourin, and former first
round selection Chuck Kobasew.
While all four players skated in different roles with the club,
contributions from the four certainly helped the Flames acheive their
goal of a post season berth in the 2003-04 playoffs. Here is a review of their performance this season.
(C) – Selected in the third round, 90th overall in the 2002 NHL Entry
After spending the entire 2002-03 season with the Saint John
Flames of the American Hockey League, Matthew Lombardi was able to
crack a relatively thin Calgary Flames roster. Being a center, Lombardi
was given every opportunity to crack the roster in a fourth line role. The
5’11, 191 lb Lombardi seized the opportunity, and was on the Flames
roster to start off the 2003-04 season.
It wasn’t until second line center Steven Reinprecht went down with a
shoulder injury that Lombardi realized the opportunity he was given.
Tossed into the second line center position by head coach Darryl
Sutter, Lombardi flourished, showing he could provide the club with
some offensive depth, should they ever need to rely on the 22-year-old
for finesse and flair.
Described as having great vision, stellar stick handling abilities and
a good shot, this QMJHL graduate has always had a few knocks on him,
one of the reasons that he and the Edmonton Oilers, who had originally
drafted him in the seventh round in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, could not
come to terms on a contract, allowing Lombardi to re-enter the draft
and subsequently be selected by the Calgary Flames.
At times, Lombardi has looked lost in the defensive zone, something
that Coach Sutter has worked on with him. All traces of an
apparent attitude problem appear to be gone as well, another victory
for Sutter. The final knock on Lombardi, his size, didn’t seem to hold
true in a season that saw him register 16 goals and nearly 30 points in
his rookie season.
The Montreal, Quebec native finished the season tops in rookie scoring
on the Calgary Flames, ahead of 2001 first round selection Chuck
Kobasew. All in all, Lombardi finished seventh in team scoring and 11th
in the league scoring among rookies, certainly a year to reflect upon
for Matthew, who will have no time to do that just yet, as he focuses
on helping the Calgary Flames in their quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
(RW) – Selected in the first round, 14th overall in the 2001 NHL Entry
Again, problems with forward depth on the Calgary Flames coupled
with the high profile of the 2001 first round selection allowed Chuck
Kobasew the opportunity to play with the Calgary Flames for a full
2003-04 season after a split 2002-03 campaign with the AHL’s Saint John
Flames and the Calgary Flames.
Last season, Kobasew saw 23 games with the flaming ‘C’ on his chest,
registering four goals and six points through that span. This season,
coming into training camp, Kobasew noticed a Flames squad thin on right
wing, with very little in the way of offensive talent after team
captain and 2003-04 Maurice Richard winner Jarome Iginla.
Although many expected the 6’1″, 190 lb to produce at a much greater
pace, Kobasew struggled with consistency offensively, registering a
mere 6 goals in a span of 70 games, a far cry from his days with the
Kelowna Rockets which saw him register 41 goals in 55 games during the
2001-02 Western Hockey League campaign. Kobasew, who turns 22 on April
17th, saw time up and down the lineup, playing on each of the clubs
An alumni of the Canadian World Junior club program, Kobasew showed
glimpses of his potential upside, an upside that has Flames fans
drooling. Much like Lombardi, however, Kobasew has some demons to
overcome before he will be considered a regular contributor on the
Calgary squad. At times this season, Kobasew has looked lost on the
ice, in particular in the defensive end, and finished an unimpressive
-12 on the season, good enough for dead last on the club.
(C) – Acquired via a trade from the San Jose Sharks for Future
Considerations on January 9th, 2004
Darryl Sutter, familiar with the Lynn from his time with the San
Jose organization, acquired Loyns in a trade in early January, a deal
that saw the Flames give up future considerations. A deal that was
nothing more then an afterthought, Loyns, 5’11” and 205 lbs, was
inserted into the Flames line-up after a string of injuries plagued the
forward core of Calgary.
Dressing for 14 games for the Flames, the most memorable moment
with Loyns on the ice may have come with a fan holding up a sign,
proudly displaying ‘My Loyns Are On Fire!’
Unspectacularly consistent, Loyns plugged the fourth line center
position with a steady defensive forward who could manage some penalty
killing time. A former member of the Spokane Chiefs, Loyns added a
dimension of speed and energy to the Flames, something that fit right
in with Sutter’s style. At 23 years of age, Loyns isn’t expected to
develop into an offensive dynamo, however, is expected to become a good
checking line forward for the Calgary Flames.
(G) – Selected in the fourth round, 108th overall in the 1998 NHL Entry
Goaltender Danny Sabourin got a taste, albeit a small taste, of
the National Hockey League life in 2003-04 after starting goaltender
Roman Turek went down with a significant injury which kept him out for
the better part of the first half of the season. With Jamie McLennan
starting for the Flames, Danny Sabourin was relied upon to act as the
backup goaltender on the Flames, before Head Coach and General Manager
Darryl Sutter exchanged a second round selection in the 2005 NHL Entry
Draft for Mikka Kiprusoff.
Sabourin, seen as a stop-gap until the trade was completed, played in
nearly three full games with the Flames, before being re-assigned to
the American Hockey Leauge. The native of Val d’Or, Quebec has seen
time at three levels of North American professional hockey, dressing in
four games for the Calgary Flames, but also in ten games with the Las
Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL and 14 games with the Lowell Lock Monsters
of the American Hockey League.
Sabourin, 23, may soon see some competition come his way, in terms of
future competition in the Calgary Flames net. With goaltenders Brent Krahn and Andrei Medvedev ahead of him on
the depth charts, Sabourin will need to see rapid improvement in his
game in order to compete regularly for an NHL job.
Rookie reviews for the Thrashers and Capitals 2003-04 season are also available.