Lancione takes a look at the fantasy hockey outlook for the Calgary Flames.
The Calgary Flames have missed Lord Stanley's Playoffs for four seasons running; a trend with no end in sight. In fact, the 2013-14 Flames outfit will be hard-pressed to avoid finishing in the deepest shadows of the NHL's basement. The fire sale that media, pundits and fans alike had been clamoring for several years for, finally began this past spring when franchise player Jarome Iginla, big money rearguard Jay Bouwmeester and depth winger Blake Comeau were dealt. Alex Tanguay returned to Colorado in the offseason and the all but official farewell of the Saddledome's crease junkie of the past decade, Miikka Kiprusoff, certainly marks the end of an era.
To be quite frank, save for one glorious run in the spring of 2004, where Calgary came within one Martin Gelinas call away from a second franchise championship, this era was indisputably an unmitigated disaster. Immediately preceding that magical run which took us through the red mile a decade ago, the Flames hopeful had witnessed a horrid run of seven straight seasons failing to qualify for the playoffs. Following that run and the subsequent 2004-05 work stoppage, the club endured four straight first round exits, followed by the current four year playoff drought and counting… (For those of you running the numbers at home, that's –count it– five playoff appearances and only one venture past the first round over the past 16 years!)
It really is a shame this large scale overhaul was put off for so long by an upper brass in denial, led by GM Jay Feaster. It goes without saying that had the fire sale been activated three years back, the ransom that could have been fetched for Iginla (two low level prospects in 13'), Kiprusoff(nothing), would have been dramatically more significant. It could have sped up the turnover period drastically, but instead we have watched those once high profile assets wither away in value, due to advanced age, diminished abilities and impending retirement.
The core of the team as currently constructed consists of Mike Cammalleri and Jiri Hudler, a goaltending tandem of Joey MacDonald and Karri Ramo, as well as defenseman, Mark Giordano. Ouch! That being said, the prospects have been silently travelling up the Alberta pipeline to Calgary despite regional rival Edmonton gaining all of the attention for the higher profile blue chippers heading that way. Despite Calgary surprisingly only having had a single top-20 selection over the past decade before this summer's No.6 overall selection of Sean Monahan, some promising picks have gradually been amassed. I.e. The fully groomed Mikael Backlund, Sven Bärtschi (now primed for his first full season), 2013 U.S. World Junior standout: John Gaudreau, Markus Granlund and the newly selected Monahan– not too shabby a collection of young talent.