Flames fantasy flawed
A suffering fan’s hockey-mare
Well, the 2012-13 NHL season is upon us. Finally!
Just one day before the NHL’s apparent deadline for a full 82-game season, the league and the players agreed to a deal that worked for both sides. And, it just so happens to be my birthday. Exactly the gift I needed.
The season will finally begin on Nov. 2 with the Calgary Flames playing host to the Vancouver Canucks.
So this brings up the question, “Just where do the Flames sit heading into the season that almost didn’t happen?”
First off, let’s take a look at the four new Flames to watch this season:
Roman Cervenka (Centre)
Signed by the Flames this past summer to a one year deal worth $3.775 million, Cervenka was given the highly un-regarded title of “best player not playing in the NHL.”
With the likes of Fabian Brunnstrom and Jonas Gustavsson as former holders of this illustrious title, the immediate reaction is to not get so excited about the newest member of the Flames. However, Cervenka is a little different.
He has been playing in the KHL for the past two seasons in Omsk. Prior to that, the 26 –year-old centre played for HC Slavia Praha in his native Czech Republic for four seasons.
Over his six seasons, Cervenka has been putting up more than reasonable numbers, such as 61 points in 51 games in 2010-11 and 39 points in 54 games last season in Omsk.
General Manager Jay Feaster was pleased the team was able to sign the Czech, and says that they won a bidding war between several other teams. From all reports, he has a lot of skill and could possibly posses something the Flames don’t currently have — some creativity.
He played two years with Jaromir Jagr in Omsk and was highly regarded by the future hall of fame player. His ascension to the NHL only adds to the growing group of Czech players on the Flames, with Roman Horak and newly-acquired Jiri Hudler.
Besides the monetary investment, the risk is low as the Flames gave up nothing to get him and the deal is only for one year.
If it goes bad, then you let him walk at the end of the year and if it goes good than score one for Mr. Feaster and his team of scouts for thinking outside the box.
Jiri Hudler (Centre)
The former Detroit Red Wing was the Flames big splash in this summer’s free agency period, signing the 28-year-old Czech to a four-year deal worth $16 million.
A lot other teams and the media scoffed at the dollar amount the Flames paid for him, given his track record for being lazy and jumping ship (he left Detroit in 2009 to go play in KHL for a year before returning), but the team is confident in this signing.
Wings’ Coach Mike Babcock complained about Hudler being out of shape and it subsequently showed on the score sheet, as Hudler only put up 37 points in his first season back in North America.
Last season, however, Hudler regained his scoring touch a bit, potting 25 goals and adding 25 assists for a respectable 50 points on a deep Detroit roster.
Given this, Feaster wanted to go out and grab the skilled forward and believes Hudler could be plugged into the top six forward rotation.
He will definitely add another dynamic variable to an inconsistent power play and provide the coaching staff with another option during the “who do we put Iginla with” debate that will undoubtedly rage on.
In saying that, it will be interesting to see how Hudler plays out in Calgary, as I believe he could be an early goat if he doesn’t immediately perform.
I commend Feaster for taking a risk and getting a more skilled player rather than a familiar grinder.
This one could cost him however if Hudler realizes that Calgary doesn’t win games with the ease that the Red Wings did for so many years.
Dennis Wideman (Defence)
The Flames acquired Dennis Wideman prior to the July 1 free agency period and immediately signed him to a 5-year deal worth $26.25 million.
Overpaid you might ask? Umm yes.
Defensive liability you might ask? Umm yes.
Having an ability to put points on the board? Umm, actually…yes.
Wideman is a power play specialist and has proven valuable for the Capitals, Panthers, Bruins and Blues before he landed in Calgary. You might wonder why a coveted player, has he moved around so much?
Well, it’s because of his ongoing inability to stop the puck from going into his own net. A career -39 in eight career seasons, Wideman’s glaring weakness is his play in his own zone.
That’s not to say that he can’t improve, but why would the Flames pay $26 million for a project when they have capable payers like TJ Brodie and Derek Smith ready to jump into the power play role?
The signing just doesn’t add up in my mind and I have a feeling Feaster might rue the day he made this move.
Sven Baertschi (Left Wing)
Touted as the most exciting forward prospect the Flames have had since Iginla, Baertschi looks to have all the skills necessary to lead the Flames into the post-Jarome era—whenever that happens.
In five games with the Flames last season, he scored three goals and brought energy into the dressing room and onto the ice that the team had been seriously missing.
So far, in his time with the Flames farm club in Abbostford this season, “Sven-sational” has been el fuego, putting up six points in the team’s first four games, including three goals.
He should immediately impact the Flames line-up and give them even more options up front. I just hope that the Flames don’t mess with the kid like they have done with so many other promising prospects in the past.
So there you have it. A preview for the season that isn’t actually happening.
The Lockout rages onward. The Flames are off playing in Abbotsford, or Switzerland, or golfing in the Bahamas.
I have to work today.
Tonight I have to eat a whole birthday cake watching Hoosiers on TSN.
So much for that birthday present.
I guess, sometimes, dreams are too good to be true.