Not too long ago, it seemed that if Jarome Iginla didn’t carry the club offensively, the Flames simply weren’t going to win. That’s no longer the case. The Flames had two strong scoring lines last year. They’ll be looking for a repeat this year.
Iginla remains the club’s catalyst and clutch performer. Last season, he scored 39 goals (13 on the power play, seven game winners) and 94 points (two points less than his career-best 2001-02 season). But the measure of the 30-year-old superstar’s value is not just in offensive stats. Whether it’s throwing a big hit when the team is flat, dropping the gloves at just the right time, playing a strong shift immediately after the team’s given up a goal or winning a faceoff (a team-best 53 percent winning percentage on 406 draws taken), Iginla makes his presence felt even when he’s not scoring.
The addition of Alex Tanguay last season paid off as he averaged a point-per-game (81 points in 81 games), including 59 assists. The 27-year-old is a virtual lock every season for 20-plus goals and 70 or more points. He played considerably better at home than on the road last year.
In order to maintain their scoring balance, the Flames will need Daymond Langkow and Kristian Huselius to come close to matching their career seasons from a year ago. After returning to Calgary from the Los Angeles Flames, Craig Conroy returned to form and provided strong support to the nucleus. He posted 21 points in 28 games for the Flames. He’s also one of the top faceoff men in the NHL.
Likewise, Matthew Lombardi (20 goals, 46 points, five power-play goals, four shorthanded goals) gives opposing teams something else to think about as he complemented Iginla and Tanguay. After the Flames exited the playoffs, he was brilliant for Andy Murray’s gold-medal winning Team Canada squad at the 2007 IIHF World Championships in Moscow.
The Flames had four players – three forwards plus Dion Phaneuf – who scored double-digit power-play goals in 2006-07. Conversely, the Flames ranked among the bottom third of NHL teams in penalty killing last season, despite being tied for second in the NHL with 14 shorthanded goals.
Up and Coming
Dustin Boyd -- The Flames selected him in the third round (98th overall) in the 2004 Entry Draft. … Coming off a fine rookie AHL season with Omaha is which he was the league’s seventh-leading rookie scorer (66 GP, 26 G, 60 PTS). … Received his first NHL recall in the first half of the 2006-07 season and had two goals and two assists in 13 games. … Regarded as a potential impact offensive forward in the NHL.
Brandon Prust -- The Flames selected him in the third round (70th overall) in 2004. …Not particularly big (5-foot-11, 195 pounds) but fearless and extremely aggressive (211 PIM for Omaha in 2006-07, 294 PIM as an AHL rookie the previous season. … Played 10 NHL games with the Flames in 2006-07, registering 25 penalty minutes and no points.
Eric Nystrom -- The Flames selected the left winger in the first round (10th overall) of the 2002 Entry Draft. … Son of Islanders’ great Bobby Nystrom. … Lost most of the 2006-07 season to shoulder surgery, playing 12 regular season games (2 G, 2 PTS), and five Calder Cup playoff games (no points) for Omaha.
Daniel Ryder -- The Flames selected him in the third round (74th overall) in the 2005 Entry Draft. … Shifty player who has enjoyed an excellent junior career. … The 20-year-old is slated to make his pro debut in 2007-08. … Named OHL Playoff MVP in 2005-06 for the champion Peterborough Petes after racking up 31 points in 19 games. … Helped lead the Plymouth Whalers to the Memorial Cup tourney in 2006-07… Finished last season with a stellar plus-33 rating while posting a combined 40 goals and 92 points in 57 regular games with Peterborough and Plymouth.
Owen Nolan -- Nolan has said that his timing was off for much of the early part of the 2006-07 season. That was to be expected, given that he hadn’t played since the season before the lockout. He held up remarkably well physically last season, although there were always be fresh concerns every season for the 35-year-old power forward.
While Nolan, if healthy, is still capable of topping 20 goals and wreaking some secondary power-play unit havoc, the real measure of his acquisition will come in the spring. He’s being counted on to be a warrior down the stretch and in the playoffs.