24 Calgary Flames Don't expect this playoff-starved team to escape the bottom half of the conference

October 12, 2003

The eternal flames burn in Calgary--eternally hopeful though
absent from the playoffs for what seems an eternity. The streak
of futility is at an NHL-high seven seasons, and although there
is a creditable young defense and a star forward in Jarome
Iginla, the Flames likely will live down to their reputation
again this season. By finishing 11th or 12th in the Western
Conference the past four years, the Flames have been neither good
enough to build any sort of momentum nor egregious enough to land
a franchise player high in the draft. But Darryl Sutter, who took
over as coach for the fired Greg Gilbert last December, might be
the man who inches the Flames forward.

After Sutter went behind the bench, Calgary played above .500
over the final 46 games; after Sutter succeeded Craig Button as
general manager in April, the club traded for second-line center
Steven Reinprecht, dumped some bad contracts, got all players
signed before training camp and reinforced the third and fourth
lines with new players who have size and abrasiveness. None of
that solved the lack of goal-scoring, but quick left wing Dean
McAmmond, who was reacquired from the Avalanche last March,
should help. When McAmmond, Iginla and two-way center Craig
Conroy played together two years ago, they combined for 100
goals.

The pressure will be on the top defensive pairs--tough Robyn
Regehr and 2002 Hobey Baker winner Jordan Leopold, and slick Toni
Lydman and newcomer Rhett Warrener--as well as goalie Roman
Turek, 33. In a four-hour meeting after last season, Sutter asked
Turek for a bigger commitment. The netminder, who weighed 220
pounds in '02-03, reported to camp 11 pounds lighter.

Sutter thinks getting out of the gate fast should be Calgary's
priority. But no matter how quickly the eternal Flames
begin--they started 13-2-4-2 two years ago--they seem to wind up
in the same place. --M.F.

COLOR PHOTO COLOR PHOTO: ADRIAN WYLD/AP JAROME IGINLA

SI RANKING
( 1 Best - 30 Worst)

OFFENSE 28
DEFENSE 20
GOALTENDING 24
POWER PLAY 28
PENALTY KILLING 17
G.M. AND COACH 24

INSIDER

The Flames will reflect blue-collar coach Darryl Sutter and
outwork most teams. Unfortunately, that won't be enough to
overcome a lack of talent up front and mediocre goaltending from
Roman Turek.... Keep an eye on second-year F Chuck Kobasew, who
showed a nose for the net when he was sent to the AHL last
season.... Sutter loves the way checking C Stephane Yelle plays,
so don't be surprised to see him get tons of ice time and thus
more points than he has in the past.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)