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Sports Illustrated Ranking: 22
By Kelley King
Who knew that Grant Fuhr would one day be the source of
inspiration, rather than humiliation, for the Flames? Fuhr, who
spent the better part of his 18-year goaltending career shutting
down Calgary en route to winning five Stanley Cups in Edmonton,
was acquired by the Flames from the Blues for a third-round
draft choice on Sept. 4. The move was an act of desperation by
beleaguered general manager Al Coates to raise the spirits -- if
not the steadily eroding ticket sales -- of a franchise that has
spent the last three years near the bottom of the Western
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The Flames, who were 30-40-12 last season, have been busy. They
welcomed Fuhr, their 37-year-old erstwhile enemy, with open arms;
traded (for better or worse) puck-hogging scoring leader Theo
Fleury; and lost two unrestricted free agents, first-line center
Andrew Cassels and starting goalie Ken Wregget. While Calgary
boasts a veteran defense anchored by Steve Smith and Phil
Housley, its offense is characterized by youth and inexperience.
That can translate into an inability to execute: Witness a
12-game stretch last spring in which the Flames scored just 17
goals. At 29, Steve Dubinsky is Calgary's oldest forward; after
22-year-old wing Jarome Iginla, who had 28 goals last year,
25-year-old forward Cory Stillman (27 goals) is the Flames' most
promising scoring threat.
"It would be a mistake to rely on one guy to come in and be the
messiah," says Smith, Fuhr's former teammate with the Oilers.
"But there's more confidence in our dressing room. Some had
questioned our ability to win; now we believe we can." Such
expectations put a huge weight on Fuhr's shoulders, which, like
his recently rebuilt knees, are chronically aching. "A lot
depends on how the body allows me to play," says Fuhr, who
appeared in only 39 games for St. Louis last year, though he
finished with a career-best 2.44 goals-against average. The
backup netminder is 26-year-old Fred Brathwaite, who had been
playing with the Canadian national team last season when a
series of injuries struck the Flames' goalies and the team was
forced to sign him. In 28 games with Calgary, Brathwaite had a
2.45 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage.
The team's best chance to compete for a postseason spot, however,
rests with the indefatigable Fuhr. Smith, for one, believes that
"Fuhr has the ability to win a hockey game on his own." If goals
needed only to be prevented and not scored, the Flames might have
finally found their redeemer.
Issue date: October 4, 1999
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The all-rookie line of the team's last three No. 1 picks -- Daniel Tkachuk, Rico Fata and Oleg Saprykin -- has been impressive in camp and may end up being the No. 1 line.
G Grant Fuhr, who still makes his offseason home outside Edmonton, is reportedly feeling rejuvenated and may be reconsidering retirement after this season. His name brought some much-needed ticket sales and if he is happy and healthy, it could bring some extra wins.
The same small-market concerns still exist and the Flames may not be long for Calgary. Management needs to stretch every dollar and get this team into the playoffs.|
Brian Sutter wants five or six more goals each from guys like C Jason Wiemer, C Jeff Shantz and LW Rene Corbet, and a combined 12 more from C Cory Stillman, RW Valerie Bure and RW Jarome Iginla (who was unsigned well into camp).
People, Places and Things
GM: Al Coates
Coach: Brian Sutter; 3rd year (56-81-17); 10th overall (329-278-93)
Assistants: Rich Preston; Jamie Hislop
Captain: Todd Simpson
Last year: 30-40-12 (20th overall)
PP: 19th (14.3%)
PK: 26th (79.8%)
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Sat., Oct. 2: Opening night at San Jose
Wed., Oct. 6: Home opener vs. St. Louis
Tue., Oct. 26: The Flames visit their old haunts in Atlanta
Mon., Dec. 6: At Madison Square Garden to play Theo Fleury for the only time this season.
81: Combined goals for the trio of Jarome Iginla (28), Cory Stillman (27) and Valeri Bure (26). The rest of the team (excluding the departed Theo Fleury's 30) combined for only 100.
"Tomorrow isn't good enough around here anymore. The time is now. The Calgary Flames have to win hockey games this year, and lots of 'em early. By trading for Grant Fuhr, the organization is showing everyone -- including the players in here -- that they're serious about that." -- veteran defenseman Steve Smith