Friday, August 26, 2011

Calgary Flames 2011-12 Preview

Does Jarome Iginla have a supporting cast to get the Flames into the playoffs?

What is the Calgary Flames identity? Former GM Darryl Sutter forged a rugged team build around superior goaltending and sound defensive play.  When that didn’t pan out as desired the past few years, Sutter was out and Jay Feaster was in.  Feaster seems to prefer a more offensive style, as evidenced by attempts to sign Brad Richards, among others. 

This season, the Flames will hope to stay healthy and showcase some new-found depth at forward.

Jay Bouwmeester anchors a blueline that has lost Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regehr in recent years.  J-Bo has struggled since joining the Flames, and Mark Giordano is the real fantasy option on the blue line. 

This year, the Flames will look to prove that their second-half surge last season was no fluke, and have their sights set on a return to the post-season. 

The Western Conference is tough, but the Northwest division is a bit easier.  Look for the Flames to finish second in the Northwest behind the Canucks, and battle for the 8th spot in the Western Conference.

Calgary boasts a series of cast-offs from other teams that must gel together for any hope at success.  Does Jarome Iginla have enough help?  Which Olli Jokinen will show up in 2011-12?  Will Mikael Backlund break through?
Jarome Iginla
The ultimate leader of the Calgary Flames, Iginla has lacked a supporting cast for a few years now.  His best days are behind him, but the grizzled veteran should still be good for 30 goals and 70 points.

Olli Jokinen
The enigmatic Finn used to be rather consistent, but some streaky play with the Flames will have many fantasy experts pulling out their hair.  Jokinen is at best a 70-80pt man, and at worst 40-50.  Let’s split the difference and aim for 60.

Rene Bourque
The oft-injured winger has been hot and cold in Calgary.  50 points is a good baseline for Bourque, assuming he plays at least 70 games.  Hopefully for his sake he exceeds that this season and breaks through for good.

Alex Tanguay
Somewhat of a castaway after his great run in Colorado, Tanguay rejuvenated himself last season with a 69 point campaign.  Expecting similar this year might be a leap.  55 points are well within reach for this slick playmaker, especially if he lines up beside Jarome Iginla for the majority of the year.

Mikael Backlund
Perhaps the most interesting long-term fantasy option for Calgary, the silky Swede notched 25 points last year in his first full season.  With some experience under his belt and a rejuvenated franchise beneath his feet, expect 40 points or more this time out.

Daymond Langkow
The veteran Langkow is growing long in the tooth and returning from a devastating injury.  His ice time will likely be reduced but he’s still a valuable player for the Flames.  40 points is a reasonable expectation if all goes well for him.

Curtis Glencross
The gritty forward seems like the type of player every team wants.  A rugged winger with size, heart and a decent touch around the net.  He’s proven to be a bit streaky, but 40 points seems like a good estimate for this versatile player.

Mark Giordano
The Journeyman defenseman has revitalized himself in Calgary.  An all-around defender, Giordano amassed solid point totals, along with shot blocks and all around gutsy play.  Perhaps the top defender of choice on a blue line that includes Jay Bouwmeester.

Jay Bouwmeester
The Alberta native has found himself in tough times with the Flames.  After signing a big contract, J-Bo has yet to meet his level of play from his Florida days.  That being said, you have to expect him to grab at least 35 points this season.  With Regehr in Buffalo, he’ll take on more of a leadership role.

Anton Babchuk
Unlike Bouwmeester, Babchuk thrived in his time in Calgary last year. He boasts a rocket of a shot and still has some upside.  40 points are within reach.

Miikka Kiprusoff
‘Kipper’s stats have slipped in the past few years.  With GM Feaster’s move to a more offensive style of play, and the departure of Robyn Regehr,  Calgary may let in more goals than usual.  Still, Kipper is the man between the pipes for the Flames

Prediction -  36 Wins

Henrik Karlsson
The big Swede made a fairly impressive debut in a back up role last season.  His solid play should take some pressure off Kiprusoff and actually give him a few nights to rest.  Expect a modest increase in wins this season.

Prediction -  9 wins

Rene Bourque
Bourque has tantalizing skills and size, but has been unable to put it all together for a full season.  Marred by injuries, or inconsistent linemates, Bourque has the potential to improve upon his already impressive point totals.  27 goals last year is a sign that 30-35 are within reach.

If Jarome Iginla is your first fantasy option for the Flames amongst the forwards, Rene Bourque may be your best bet at number two.

RW—Greg Nemisz
The 6’3” forward is one of Calgary’s only young forwards with offensive potential who is close to making the club.  That being said, Nemisz shows potential to be a 25-30 goal scorer some day, and he may be rushed into the lineup to take over from the aging Flames forwards, or is some of the vets are unable to hang onto their jobs out of training camp.

Potential Breakout Player

Mikael Backlund
Backlund’s second full year in the NHL should see an increase in scoring.  Moreover, when you consider Olli Jokinen’s complete lack of chemistry with Jarome Iginla, and Daymond Langkow’s advanced age, Calgary may be looking for Backlund to become the team’s top center sooner than you might think.

If Backlund can start the year strong, he may wind up alongside Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay, which will ensure plenty of opportunity to pick up some extra goals and assists.

Either way, Backlund remains one of the few options up front for the Flames if you’re in a keeper league.

Fantasy Hockey Toolkit Central 2011-12 Season Previews
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