NHL season previews often sell you an impressive bill of goods before you realize, at the end of the season, you're holding an empty box. Which makes using advertisements and infomercials the appropriate template for Puck Daddy's 2009-10 NHL Season Previews, presented each day throughout September.
Last Season's Ad Copy (See also Flames eulogy): Fifth in the Western Conference (46-30-6, 98 points) and second in the Northwest Division. Lost in the conference quarterfinals to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.
The second half of last season wasn't very kind to the Flames. They slipped out of first place in the Northwest Divison, saw Rene Bourque(notes) -- who was having a breakout season -- miss half of February and all of March with an ankle injury, and found themselves so riddled with injuries on some nights (and capped out) that the team couldn't ice a full lineup at the end of the season.
One coaching change and top-line defensive addition later, the '09-10 Flames are hoping a much-needed focus on lowering the team goals-against average (23rd in the NHL last season) will help its eighth ranked offense.
Latest Gadgets (Offseason Additions): Jay Bouwmeester(notes) was one of the big fish available on the free agent market this summer, but GM Darryl Sutter was able to acquire his rights and agree to a five-year deal hours before the Alberta native hit the open market. Brian McGrattan(notes) and Brandon Prust(notes) will add some toughness up front while Fredrik Sjostrom(notes) and Nigel Dawes(notes) bring depth to the forward unit.
To The Recycle Bin (Offseason Subtractions): We'll touch on the defensive losses later, but while new head coach Brent Sutter will infuse a more defensive style of play in Calgary, the loss of Mike Cammalleri and his 39 goals and 82 points will have to be picked up by everyone not named Jarome Iginla(notes). The losses of Todd Bertuzzi(notes) and Wayne Primeau(notes) mean less size up front for the Flames.
The Pitchman (Top Offensive Player): Iggy Pop still runs the show in Calgary, and he'll be sure to be missing Cammalleri who was the only other Flame to score more than 30 goals and 80 points last season. As much as Iginla gives to the Flames, he needs to be surrounded by a better supporting cast. Rene Bourque had a nice season before falling prey to an ankle injury and Olli Jokinen(notes) may have been a little shell-shocked finally playing for a team that wins on a regular basis. A full season of Jokinen and a healthy Bourque should see Iginla threaten to break the 100-point barrier for the first time in his career.
Introducing .... (Potential Breakout Player): If you're inspired by last year's numbers (81-20-19-39 pts.), then David Moss(notes) could be ready to find a regular home on Calgary's second line next to Daymond Langkow(notes). The 27-year old Michigan native could be another in the long line of late bloomers if he can replicate his success from last year.
Operators Are Standing By (The Defensemen): Losing three defensemen -- in Calgary's case, Adrian Aucoin(notes), Jordan Leopold(notes) and Jim Vandermeer(notes) -- is a blow to any team's depth, but with Sutter bringing in Bouwmeester from Florida, it ensures one defensive pairing featuring J-Bo and Dion Phaneuf(notes) that can provide plenty of offense while being defensively-responsible and a second pair that is all about shutting down opposing top lines in Cory Sarich(notes) and Robyn Regehr(notes).
The Spokesmodel (The Goalies): Since Miikka Kiprusoff(notes) has been carrying the load of games for Calgary at the start of his Vezina Trophy-winning '05-06 season, he's averaged 75 games a year and the Flames haven't found their way out of the first round of the playoffs all four years. Is that enough cause for concern to begin giving Kipper more than eight games rest a year? That'll all depend on how well Curtis McElhinney(notes) performs in his spot duty spelling Kiprusoff.
The Inventor (The Coach): Having cut out of his contract with New Jersey a year early, Brent Sutter re-unites with his brother Darryl -- who fired Mike Keenan after the team's first-round exit -- and comes home to Alberta. Rumors that Sutter was suffering from homesickness swirled during his time in New Jersey. Now, finally in comfortable surroundings, Sutter is given the task of guiding an underachieving Calgary team who will see their fourth coach behind the bench since the lockout.
And Now, a Short Message From Cory Sarich:
2009-10 Preseason Report Card:
Goaltending: B+ (McElhinney needs to assure Sutter it's okay Kipper a rest)
Special Teams: B- (Power play got a boost with Bouwmeester's arrival)
Coaching: B (Sutter has yet to get out of the first round)
"What I expect from this year's Flames: defensive improvement. Upon firing Mike Keenan, Darryl Sutter went on record saying the Flames 23rd ranked GA total was unacceptable. In the off-season, the acquisition of Jay Bouwmeester and the hiring of Brent Sutter all point to a return to the strong defensive hockey that marked the team before Sutter the Elder booted himself upstairs. Look for the Flames to, at the very least, place in the top 10 in the league in terms of shots against and probably in the top half in terms of goals against."
"The Calgary Flames will have a slow start to their season as the players adjust to Brent Sutter's game while Miikka Kiprusoff shakes off the rust and builds-up his confidence. This summer's new signings will start to pay dividends in November and December and the infusion of talented young players will be important to the team throughout the second half of the season."
"The Flames' success or failure hinges on two things: whether or not Miikka Kiprusoff continues his calamitous descent into the Raycroftian hinterlands and how Brent Sutter adjusts to the Western Conference. My guesses: "yes, sadly" and "just fine." They'll finish second in the Northwest and third in the West points wise in spite of the former."
Don Draper Says ...
"You take a man, put a stick in his hand, and he's a man with a stick. You give that man a woman ... the right woman ... and it gives him purpose, even for a moment, That's why, gentlemen, Phuthbert matters to the Calgary Flames. That, gentlemen, is why Phuthbert should matter to you."
Results May Vary (Biggest Issues Facing the Team): Sutter's defensive style to coaching will help the league's 23rd worst defense from '08-09. The addition of Bouwmeester will beef up the blue line and contribute to a tougher team to score against out West. The health of Kiprusoff is always an issue and you can expect critics will watch closely at the amount of rest he's given to ensure being fresh when the playoffs roll around.
Warranty Expires (Prediction): In the playoffs, but out again early. While Darryl Sutter boosted the blue line with the addition of Bouwmeester, salary cap concerns didn't allow him to improve the offense. The depth of forwards outside of the top line will be a major hindrance for the Flames. Can Daymond Langkow and David Moss contribute 20-plus goals again? Can Dion Phaneuf bounce back from his worst offensive and defensive year as an NHL'er? Brent Sutter's coaching system may yield positive results defensively, but who will help Iginla put points on the scoreboard?
- Brent Sutter
- Darryl Sutter