Calgary Flames Season Opener Preview

Sven Baertschi. Picture from Getty Images.

By Ryan Holmer (@RyanHolmerNHL)

The Calgary Flame’s officially begin their season tonight, as they take on the San Jose Sharks at the Scotiabank Saddledome.  This past off-season brought upon a few changes to Calgary’s roster, to attempt to increase scoring and depth.

Additions: Roman Cervenka, Dennis Wideman, Jiri Hudler, Steve Begin (signed via PTO this week),

As with every year, the debate will resume as to who the Flame’s number-one center is. Without a clear-cut decision, Flame’s coach Bob Hartley is likely to cycle numerous players through the number one spot during the first game. In an interview, Hartley said that he told Jarome Iginla to “not be surprised if you get a few shifts at center”. Jarome is a powerful player, and placing him at centre makes sense, however, his playmaking abilities are sometimes in question, and the adjustment period is not a luxury that Calgary can afford right now.

With the signing of Roman Cervenka, Jay Feaster had hoped that he would fill the number-one center position on opening night. Due to possibly complications with medication Cervenka is taking for his blood-clot, Feaster sent him to the United-States to see a Hematology specialist. When questioned on wether Cervenka would be able to participate in the game on Monday, he said he did not know at this point in time. Knowing that, the Flame’s have been preparing the first line, and are rotating Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla through the center position.

Roman Cervenka remains injured for Sunday’s game vs. the Sharks. Picture from Getty Images.

Jiri Hudler, another recent addition, will also miss Sunday’s season opener. Recently, his father passed away and went back to Europe for the funeral. He is still listed, at this moment, as on bereavement. Luck is not on Calgary’s side to start the season, as two of their additions will miss the first game, and Anton Babchuk has a shoulder-injury and will remain out.  Jarome Iginla, who missed a few days of camp, will play sunday. His groin has healed for the most part, and he is in playing form.

Dennis Wideman, the right-handed defencemen will get plenty of power-play time tonight. He was signed in hopes to improve production from the back end, and with 46 points last season, he should add a much needed offensive-punch. He is sometimes liable in the defensive zone, but that is not his role, and people should not put to much weight on that.

The Backup position in Calgary this season was a bit of a mess, in terms of decision-making. Earlier this week, Jay Feaster placed both Henrik Karlsson and Leland Irving on waivers, as they still did not know who would be the backup goaltender. The general consensus was that Karlsson was going to be on the bench, behind Kipper. After Irving won the ‘competition’, Karlsson was told to wait to be assigned, likely to Abbotsford. Irving has had a shaky season in Abbotsford, but did have an outstanding training-camp. I can’t imagine he’ll play more than one, or two games, as Kiprusoff is a work-horse. If he does get the chance to play, he’ll need to show Flame’s fans why everyone is so excited about him.

A noticeable change this year is the injection of youth onto the roster. Sven Baertschi, Mikael Backlund, Roman Horak and TJ Brodie highlight the young players that will be counted on heavily. Mikael Backlund, coming of a strong run in Sweden, hopes to keep his momentum going, and so do the Flame’s who continue to hope that he has what it takes to be a top-six in the NHL. He has yet to show that, but he often shows flashes of what could be.

Sven Baertschi, the rookie sensation teased the Flames’ fans last season, producing 3-goals in 5-games, and definitely has the talent to be an impact-player in the NHL. The worst thing that Feaster could do, is to rush him. Baertschi could use some more bulk, and could improve on his skating. Sending him back to Abbotsford, the Calgary Flame’s affiliate, would not be the worst thing for him. It will be good to see him in a top-six role to start, and how he adjusts to playing at a high level, with a lot of pressure.

Roman Horak is another Flame’s rookie, who impressed Feaster so much last season, that he earned a roster spot. He played 61 games and recorded 11 points. Throughout training camp, he’s shown an extra jump in his step, and has been very impressive. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him record a 30 point season.

The most intriguing part of this upcoming season, is how the new coaching-style of Bob Hartley will change the Flame’s. For the few years, Calgary has been known to have a stagnant, laid-back, defensive system. Hartley has said numerous times that he likes to play an up-tempo, attacking style of play. This is a welcomed adjusting that I’m sure the majority of fans will enjoy. The question remains, can the aging-Flame’s core adjust to such an up-tempo play style? We’ll be able to decided for ourselves come game time.

When it comes to the San Jose Sharks, some believe that the window of opportunity has closed for them, others say this is their final year for a playoff push. Either way it’s said, the Sharks have a solid roster every night, led by Logan Couture, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. It will be a tough task for the Calgary Flames, who do not yet have a number-one centre to compete with Joe Thornton.

Here is a look at the opening night roster.

Forwards:

Glencross – Tanguay – Iginla (Iginla and Tanguay will likely rotate)

Baertschi – Backlund – Cammalleri

Horak – Stajan – Stempniak

Comeau – Jones – Jackman/Begin

Defence: 

Giordano – Bouwmeester

Butler – Wideman

Smith – Brodie

Sarich

Goaltenders:

Kiprusoff

Irving

Injured - Babchuk, Cervenka, Hudler (on bereavement leave)

 

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