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Cullen: Aside from Iginla, Flames lacking impact players

Scott Cullen
9/20/2011 11:14:55 AM
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Save for a couple of prime producers, the Calgary Flames aren't a team that boasts tremendous fantasy value.

Even at 34-year-old, Jarome Iginla remains a premier option. After all, he's scored 86 points or more in four of the last five seasons, making him one of three players in the league (Alexander Ovechkin and Joe Thornton are the others) to hit that threshold four times in the last five years. Early reports from camp had Iginla suffering from back spasms, which could be a warning sign, but if it doesn't linger, expect his production to remain at a high level.

Despite ongoing inconsistency, Miikka Kiprusoff retains a certain value because he plays so much, playing at least 70 games in each of the last six seasons. More troubling is that Kiprusoff's save percentage has been .906 or lower in three of the last four seasons, so it ends up being a balancing act, weighing a subpar save percentage against winning at least 35 games every year.

Returning to Calgary was definitely the right move for Alex Tanguay, who followed up the worst season of his career with 69 points, his most since 2006-2007. Tanguay has a good connection with Iginla, so as long as they are together, Tanguay has good value, at a position not offering a lot of offensive options.

Defenceman Mark Giordano continues to improve and scored a career-high 43 points last season. He's also played all 82 games in each of the last two seasons, so that adds a measure of safety to selecting Giordano, who adds enough PIMs (148 over the last two seasons) to enhance his fantasy value.

Even though power forward Rene Bourque matched his career high with 27 goals last year, his career-worst plus minus (minus-17) and declining penalty minute total (42, down from 88) hurt his overall value. Nonetheless, Bourque was healthy and has three straight 20-goal seasons to make him an attractive option, particularly in deeper leagues.

At one time, Olli Jokinen was an elite fantasy performer, scoring more than a point-per-game while rarely, if ever, missing games. Jokinen is still similarly durable, but his production has dipped, between 50 and 57 points in the last three seasons and, at 32, it doesn't seem likely that he's going to recapture his past glory.

Veteran winger Lee Stempniak was acquired from Phoenix in exchange for Daymond Langkow, alleviating a bit of a logjam down the middle (where the Flames had quantity, if not quality) and giving the Flames a streaky scorer that has twice topped 25 goals in a season.

It's not easy to recommend a 36-year-old centre that hasn't scored 50 points since 2006-2007, but Brendan Morrison has been fairly efficient and could be a nice late-round pickup. He had a modest 43 points last season, but that was in 66 games and he's been a double-digit plus in each of the last two seasons. It doesn't hurt that he spent most of his time centering Tanguay and Iginla, so if that continues, Morrison will have value.

Though he doesn't play a lot, defenceman Anton Babchuk can put the puck in the net, tallying 27 goals over his last two NHL seasons, sandwiched around one year in the KHL. Babchuk was surprisingly durable last year, playing all 82 games, so that may not happen again, but his offensive potential and big shot on the power play make him worth consideration.

Strangely enough, Babchuk is likely a better fantasy option than Jay Bouwmeester, the highly-priced blueliner who has seemingly forgotten how to score, managing 24 points last season -- his lowest total since 2003-2004. Bouwmeester hasn't missed a game in the last six seasons, so that durability is nice to have, but he was much more appealing when he was scoring goals in double figures, like he did in his last three seasons in Florida.

Hard-working winger Curtis Glencross tallied a career-high 24 goals and 43 points last season, which gets him on the fantasy radar, particularly when he's been a plus-39 over the last four seasons, but his offensive upside is limited, so he'll only have value in deep leagues.

Beyond that group, the Flames have others that might work their way into prominent roles, but may not have significant enough roles right now, including David Moss, Matt Stajan and Mikael Backlund. If any of those players can become consistent offensive producers, that would surely help the Flames in their bid for a playoff spot.

Having missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, the Flames are banking on improvement and, it appears that a lot of that improvement will need to come internally.

NHL Depth Chart - Calgary Flames

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.  For more, check out TSN Fantasy Sports on Facebook.




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