emphasis on D has lowered the scoring totals of most of the Flames—with the
notable exception of center Joe (Noodles) Nieuwendyk, 22. Nieuwendyk made a
seemingly effortless transition from Cornell to the Flames last season, pumping
in 51 goals. This season he has 44 goals, putting him on pace for another
Nieuwendyk is a
classic example of the Flames' no-stone-unturned scouting policy. The NHL's
central scouting service had him rated 63rd in the 1985 entry draft, but the
Flames took him in the second round. They knew something, just as they did in
1981 when they made Vernon, a sawed-off goalie from Calgary, their third-round
pick. While Montreal's Patrick Roy gets most of the publicity accorded to
goalies, Vernon, whose record is 29-6-4, has the most wins.
"By the time
we pick in the draft, the superstars are gone," says Fletcher. "We have
to find other ways to be competitive." The Flames were among the first NHL
clubs to mine U.S. colleges for talent. They reached overseas to sign forwards
Jiri Hrdina from Czechoslovakia and Hakan Loob from Sweden. And they have eight
full-time and eight part-time scouts—twice as many as most NHL teams.
drafting and the exploration of nontraditional avenues for talent, Fletcher has
stocked the Flames' system with unusual depth. Down on the farm in Salt Lake
City, a half dozen young NHL-caliber players wait to be traded, or for someone
on the big club to get hurt, which tends not to happen. "One of the
advantages of all this depth is that we have very few injuries," explains
defenseman Al MacInnis. "Touch wood."
A look at the
Flames' current media guide gives the impression that Fletcher's preferred
method of amassing talent is buzzing his secretary and saying, "June, get
[Blues general manager] Ron Caron on the phone." No fewer than six former
Blues are on Calgary's roster. No wonder Hockey News cartoonist Dave Elston
last spring depicted Caron, stripped down to his shorts, asking, "Anything
else you need, Cliff?"
In fact, as
Tuesday's trade deadline approached, the Flames had no pressing needs. Oh,
another solid defenseman would be nice. And they could use a major enforcer. It
is no secret that Fletcher was interested in acquiring the Flyers'
attitude-adjustment specialist, Dave Brown, who instead was grabbed last month
by the Oilers.
But as Crisp
knows, the Flames may not need more skaters as much as they do another dose of
that certain virtue, the name of which Crisp is wont to doodle after difficult