For a guy whose 5'6", 160-pound frame makes him the NHL's
smallest skater, Theo Fleury had a lot of fight in him last
year: He ripped Flames coach Pierre Page and two teammates.
Fleury, the Calgary captain, felt the dictatorial Page was too
enamored with game strategy and breaking down videotape and
didn't spend enough time relating to players. Fleury feuded with
power forward Gary Roberts, who questioned Fleury's work habits.
And in a reference to netminder Trevor Kidd, Fleury said,
"Eventually we're going to need to get some goaltending."
Fleury won't have those three to kick around this season. Page
resigned after the Flames (32-41-9 in 1996-97) missed the
playoffs for only the second time in 17 seasons. Then in August,
Calgary traded Roberts and Kidd to the Hurricanes for playmaking
center Andrew Cassels and netminding prospect Jean-Sebastien
Unfortunately for Calgary, Fleury did more damage to teammates
than to opponents last season, scoring only 67 points (down from
96 in 1995-96). This season the Flames need their Napoleon to
play bigger. Of the 74 players in camp, Fleury was the only one
who had scored 30 or more goals in an NHL season. "It's time for
me to put up or shut up," says Fleury, 29. "Everybody expects a
good year from me."
That includes new coach Brian Sutter, who replaced Page on July
3, the day after Fleury resigned the captaincy he now says he
never wanted. Sutter says he wants "a f--- you attitude" from
the Flames. "Everyone together," he says. "No excuses."
Some of his players have no problem with togetherness. James
Patrick and Zarley Zalapski, Calgary's only defensemen with
offensive punch, are former Canadian Olympians who joined the
Flames in the same 1994 trade and underwent season-ending knee
surgery on the same day at the same hospital by the same doctor
last December. In May the two players opened a health-food store.
Last season the Flames set an NHL record by using five
first-year defensemen in a game, but Calgary's best rookie
talent was up front. Right wing Jarome Iginla's 50 points and
left wing Jonas Hoglund's six game-winning goals were tops among
NHL rookies. Still, this year's squad will be short on talent,
if not intensity. Says Sutter, "I want my players' heart and
There will be peace and harmony in Calgary. Or there will be
hell to pay.