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Now that the first round is almost complete there are certainly a few trends impacting a bunch of the regular season's high-end teams. TBL, Pittsburg, Calgary and Winnipeg are all gone in major upsets, with Boston, Nashville and SJS hanging on by a thread. Are there common themes and learnings we can take back to the Flames?
Part 4 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Perhaps I surprised some of you with this one? Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #27: Calgary Flames Top Fws: Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay, Mike Cammalleri Top Ds: Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Giordano Top G: Miikka Kiprusoff Top 3 Under-23s: 1. F Mikael Backlund (23) 2. D TJ Brodie (22) 3. F Roman Horak (21) Top 5 Prospects 1. F Sven Baertschi (19) 2. G Leland Irving (24) 3. F Maxwell Reinhart (20) 4. F John Gaudreau (19) 5. F Markus Granlund (19) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: C Bluechip Talent: C Diversity: D Overall: C Organizational Strengths: The Flames have an abundance of scoring wingers, seemingly too much. As far as on paper, the Flames look like a team that has a lot of potential offensive threats and with 4 well-balanced lines, Calgary looks like it'll be able to get contributions from up and down the lineup on any given night. Kiprusoff remains one of the league's top goalies, and the defense is mobile and has some depth at the NHL level. Organizational Weaknesses: The Flames have the oldest core group of players in the league; Iginla and Kiprusoff remain the linchpins on offense and defense, but both are north of 35. The defense currently lacks grit and snarl beyond Cory Sarich and occasionally Mark Giordano. The biggest weakness up front is at center; no other team has as unproven a group of centermen as the Flames. Prospect Strengths: The Flames under Feaster have done a complete 180 to the Sutter era. With an emphasis on speed and skill among forwards being placed, the Flames have benefited from that change in philosophy by building a group of forward prospects that possesses both skill and grit. The defensive group has an intriguing group of darkhorse-style prospects and there is depth at the goaltending position. Prospect Weaknesses: While there is depth in general throughout the organization's prospects, the RW side in particular is abysmally thin behind Greg Nemisz. At defense, the lack of a bluechip puckmoving defender remains the biggest issue in the pool. A lot of the forward prospects are boom-or-bust selections, and some of the more-skilled players are a few years away from contributing at the NHL level. Outlook: There has been a changing of the guard in Cowtown. While the two faces of the franchise remain constant, the Flames have quietly been phasing in younger players onto their main roster. The Flames have gone out of their way to find potentially rewarding talents (such as Roman Cervenka) and names like Sven Baertschi and John Gaudreau have given hope to a franchise that has long lacked a young homegrown talent. That being said, there is still a lot of work to be done before the Flames can legitimately be considered a rising team. There are a lot of question marks surrounding every single one of the Flames roster, including the two superstars. And the Flames still need more talent coming up through their ranks. While the drafting has improved, it will still be a while before any of their gambles will take fruit. If everything should pan out, the team could be a major playoff contender in the West. It is more likely however that the Flames will be among the group of teams fighting for the last 4 playoff positions.
My mission is to see the Flames play in all 30 NHL arenas, a mission that began in October of 2005 while at a local pub watching the Flames take on the Oilers. With the previous season’s work stoppage, and the season before’s run to the Stanley Cup Finals, Flames tickets had become a very hard item to come by. I was then struck with the idea of combining two of my favourite activities; watching hockey and travelling. You can follow my quest to visit all 30 arenas right here… November 24, 2010 – Newark, NJ I'm now at the halfway point in my mission to see the Flames play at all 30 arenas, after seeing the Flames play the Devils at the Prudential Center in downtown Newark, New Jersey. Unfortunately, for Calgary, the game was yet another loss, although this time in a shootout. I guess I'll begin at the entrance to the arena, where fans are greeted by a large, four storey atrium that features the Devils logo on the floor and red lights. I suppose it's to simulate your descent into hell, because that's where devils live? Or maybe it just matches their jerseys. What's interesting about the atrium however, isn't the decor or the anything to do with the building, but rather the uniforms being worn by the door staff and ticket takers. Unlike, say, the Saddledome, whose staff wear ugly vomit-brown blazers, the staff at the Prudential Center wear suits you'd expect to find staffing the Waldorf Astoria or re-living the 1920's. They combine black tuxedos with long red overcoats, and it wouldn't seem odd if they were also wearing a top hat or monocle. Such a dramatic change from outside the arena, in one of the country's...um....less nice cities. The inside of the arena is not unlike any other newer arena, with wide concourses, a steep seating bowl and a variety of concession offerings. As with many new facilities, I fear the day the Saddledome is replaced, as the new building wouldn't have nearly as much character. The seating bowl here is very similar to those in Anaheim and Phoenix's arenas. One unique feature in the concourse was the pee wee jerseys they had on display throughout much of the arena. Featuring teams from around Northern New Jersey, most of them tended to be similar to some NHL jersey, including a few different Flames copies. When it comes to concessions, there isn't anything too unique in the food department. We did have an order of 'Zeppoles,' which from the best I could tell were balls of deep-fried dough, covered in powdered sugar. It seemed like something that would be at home on the midway, but wasn't anything to write home about in this case. (yet ironically, I am) The beverage options were very unique however, as each vendor offered a large variety of beers, opposed to most arenas that offer the usual, one regular beer and one light beer. Or, in other arenas, each vendor might sell two or three different beers. In the Prudential Center, every vendor offered a wide variety, usually over 10 different types, meaning they had something for everybody. One odd thing however, was that most of the beers come in plastic bottles (why don't we have these in Canada?), but the cup holders on each seat are too large for the bottles, causing the bottle to fall through the bottom. Living up to their stereotype as rough-around-the-edges, foul-mouthed people, New Jersey fans seems to use the word 'suck' a lot. At the start of the game, when the PA announcer is calling the Flames' starting lineup, they would follow each name with 'SUCKS!' Then, after the Devils' goal, the arena would play 'Rock and Roll Part II' and fans would first yell 'HEY' with the song, then follow that with 'YOU SUCK!' It's odd to see seven year olds yelling 'you suck,' but then it's odd seeing seven year olds at a hockey game period. The arena was only about half full, which from talking to some Devils fans, tends to be the case most games. I was told the only time the arena fills up is when the Habs or Leafs are in town; making it much like watching a Flames game in Phoenix or Anaheim I suppose. As with most arenas in the States, there seemed to be a lot more children at the game as well, which I attribute to the cheap tickets. I guess people don't want to spend $150 on a ticket for their son who's going to spend most of the game playing with his armrest. The fans did seem quite knowledgeable however, and the arena didn't need to have Peter Puck explaining the rules of hockey on the jumbotron, as I've seen at so many other arenas. The one benefit of having so few people at the game is the amount of time available at intermission. Unlike the Dome, where you often must decide whether to get a beer, something to eat, or go to the bathroom, at the Prudential Center there's more than enough time to do everything. In fact, in the first intermission, I went to the bathroom twice, and visited the concessions twice, and didn't miss a second of game time. After the game, we ended up going to a bar across the street with other Flames fans, as well as some Devils fans who were spending Thanksgiving with their in-laws and looking to avoid going home. Nice arena, bad game for the Flames. Prudential Center Fast Facts Seats: Section 16; $45 (face value $98), Stubhub Score: Flames 1, Devils 2 Arena Rating: 7.0 Unique Concession: Cigar Stand Souvenir Stick: Martin Brodeur, goalie stick, white, plastic Public Transit: Various options from New York and Northern New JerseyUnique Arena Trait: Only 12km from a different NHL arena. Swag: none -TheRev You can read about my previous Flames road trips at www.thesportsroundup.com