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Original Issue

27 Calgary Flames

Greg Gilbert came into training camp this summer insisting that
he would dole out playing time on a merit system, which is a
polite way of saying that the Flames' coach doesn't have the
players to justify a talent system. Calgary has all the ragtag
traits of an expansion team: paltry scoring, a young and unproven
defensive corps and a castoff starting goaltender--and this
franchise has been around for 29 years. But the Flames haven't
won a postseason series since 1989 (when they hoisted their lone
Stanley Cup) and appear headed for their sixth straight
nonplayoff season.

"Winning isn't easy," says Gilbert, who took over last March. "It
takes a consistent, hard effort day in, day out. We want our guys
to understand that."

Assuming Gilbert is serious about winning, the Flames' off-season
acquisition of goaltender Roman Turek was an interesting place to
start. Turek won 42 games in 1999-2000 and backstopped the Blues
to the conference finals last spring before falling apart against
Colorado (14 goals in four games); he's been looking for alibis
ever since. "I know I didn't play well against Colorado," Turek
says, "but I don't think it was only me. Other players didn't
score important goals or they didn't play well, but after the
season everything was goaltending."

By shipping Valeri Bure to Florida in June, the Flames rid
themselves of a bad attitude--Bure had made no secret of his
desire to be traded--but also lost a 27-goal scorer and one of
their few offensive threats. Right wing Jarome Iginla scored 31
goals last year and crafty center Marc Savard had 23, but only
two other Flames had more than 12. Calgary needs to see a second
wind from center Rob Niedermayer, 26. A good fit for Gilbert's
aggressive forechecking system, Niedermayer was acquired from
Florida in the Bure deal. Niedermayer scored 26 goals in 1995-96
but has averaged only 12 in five subsequent seasons.

The Flames have high hopes for their callow but talented
defensemen. In Derek Morris (23), Denis Gauthier (25), Robyn
Regehr (21) and Toni Lydman (24), Calgary has as good a blend of
youthful skill and grit as any in the league. If Flames
management allows them to grow up together and resists shipping
them off in return for quick fixes, Gilbert may find merit to
this season after all.


Fast Fact

With 71 points in 2000-01, Jarome Iginla became the fourth player
in the past four seasons to lead the Flames in scoring. The
others--Valeri Bure, Cory Stillman and Theo Fleury--were traded.



FORWARDS 27 Mediocre group after Iginla and Savard
DEFENSE 29 Lots of potential, but depth is questionable
GOALTENDING 19 Turek must put another playoff disaster behind
SPECIAL TEAMS 30 Will miss Bure's 16 power-play goals
MANAGEMENT 30 Many dubious moves by second-year G.M. Button