Training camp ran the better part of three weeks for the Calgary Flames and what did we learn? In some cases a lot, but on the other hand at the end of the day the opening day roster was very predictable.
A couple of the things we learned about the Flames bode well for the future.
The last couple of drafts have been very, very good for the Flames. Last year's first round pick Mikael Backlund got a good hard look at training camp and will most likely be an everyday player as soon as next year. John Negrin will be an NHL d-man pretty quickly; he was also selected in June of 2007 in Columbus. The crop of guys drafted in Ottawa this past June showed very well albeit briefly, with another blue liner in TJ Brodie turning a number of heads in a pair of rookie games.
Although they didn't make the team, there appears to be no shortage of guys in Quad City that will impact the NHL roster soon. They include Matt Keetley, Matt Pelech, Brett Sutter, David Van Der Gulik, Kris Chucko, and John Armstrong.
Remember that name John Armstrong; Darryl Sutter said that he didn't get near enough attention from the media during camp. I have talked to some of the coaches who believe that if it wasn't for his injury that the 19 year old may have cracked the line up.
As I said before, I think that despite all of the talk while camp was going on the final roster was pretty predictable, but some team play issues intrigue me heading into the regular season.
Off the top of my head I believe the Flames had four pre-season games of 40 plus shots on goal -- that number is very Detroit-like. The old adage "it is never a bad thing to put a puck on net" seems to be the mantra of this year version of the Calgary Flames. Watch for Iginla, Phaneuf, Moss, and Cammalleri to lead this team in shots this season.
Team speed was noticeably up over the past couple of years, but before we credit the players I have been told to look at the system. The Flames have made a concerted effort to impress on the players to play a more up tempo game, more north south, and less east west. With all of that said Wayne Primeau looks like a different player out there, and as a big body and to have that kind of speed on the fore-check should come in handy for the Flames.
The third and fourth lines look like they will be able to contribute. That remains my biggest issue from the last couple of years; that outside of the top two lines and the top d-man the offence took a significant dip. You look at the pre-season and the likes of Moss and Dustin Boyd and the play of newcomer Curtis Glencross, and it's hard not to get optimistic about this team's ability to win games beyond the top players.
Speaking of top players, all of which has been discussed in this blog today will only work out if the Flames core players by in and remain the driving force of the team.
Having just watched seven pre-season games I don't know why this team can't challenge for the division title. But at the end of the day just making the play offs isn't the goal, so we will have to wait seven months or so to determine whether or not we learned anything in the pre-season.
Rob Kerr is the Hockey Host at The Fan 960 radio and the play-by-play man on Flames Pay-Per-View in 2008-09