The Opossum-Palooza

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9.20.2006

NHL Preview: Calgary Flames

Okay, now that we've got this weekend's shenanigans behind us, we're back on track with our thirty part series previewing the NHL's thirty teams. Today, we move into the Western Conference with the Calgary Flames. We also bring back DefDude, whose Atlantic division previews were the talk of the proverbial town.

Defense wins championships-a fundamental principle of sports, perhaps one of the most widely embraced tenets of team athletics in the United States. Just look at some of the greatest defenses from throughout history: The Pittsburg Steelers “Iron Curtain” of the 1970’s; The dominance of the Detroit Pistons the past few seasons in the NBA; The New Jersey Devils of the late 90’s and early 2000’s-all great defenses, all championship teams. Why then, one might ask, did the Calgary Flames and their league-best defense, led by Vezina-winning goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, not only fail to win a championship last season, but fail to even advance beyond the second round of last year’s playoffs?

Well, as the Flames and their anemic offense discovered, a defense doesn’t score the goals, and in hockey, goals must be scored in order to win. To that end, the Flames made every effort this summer to improve on their offense, which ranked 4th worst in the entire league last season. Calgary dealt a top blueliner, Jordan Leopold, to division rival Colorado in exchange for the gifted playmaker Alex Tanguay, who provides both the versatility to play either center or left wing, and finally gives perennial All-Star Jarome Iginla a talent of his own caliber to play with. Additionally, the Flames brought in solid left wing Jeff Friesen who, despite a dreadful year last season split between Washington and Anaheim, has a Stanley Cup ring, and is still a well-regarded depth forward who will help to increase scoring, and signed prospect Andrei Taratukhin, who is coming off of an impressive season in the Russian Superleague.

While the offense will hopefully improve, the focus of this team will certainly continue to be its rock-solid defense, led by second-year veteran Dion Phaneuf who, had he not been lumped into a rookie class involving such names as Crosby and Ovechkin, would have almost certainly won the Calder last season, along with veterans Robin Regehr and Roman Hamrlik. Standing behind these imposing presences will then be the league’s best goaltender, the aforementioned Kiprusoff, who has the uncanny ability to stop pretty much any shot, ever. With no drop-off on the defense in sight, and the offense having nowhere to go but up, expectations will be high in Calgary for this upcoming season. And they should be; they’re my preseason pick to win the Stanley Cup.

If you need more Calgary Flames blogging, never fear. Check out Red Mile, as well as Calgary Flames Blog. And don't forget one of the best hockey blogs around, The Battle of Alberta.

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