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2013 Flames Preview: Fire Starter

Zach Kukkonen

Zach Kukkonen

Zach Kukkonen writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

After a third season of contending in the first half of the season only to fade down the stretch, the Flames finally decided to blow things up and start over.

Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff, the centerpieces of the franchise for so long, are gone. Veteran defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Cory Sarich were shipped off in trades, as was assist machine Alex Tanguay.

So now begins a new chapter in Calgary Flames lore, and it may not be a pretty opening season. The goalie situation is up in the air with career backup Joey MacDonald and KHL stud Karri Ramo likely to compete for the starting job, and the roster is full of unproven talent. While the situation should improve in the next couple seasons as the Flames rebuild, 2013-14 is going to be a struggle.

There may not be any surefire stellar fantasy players on the Flames, but you may be able to pick up a few guys on the cheap. Defenseman Dennis Wideman still scored a point every other game last season, and winger Sven Baertschi is one of the more exciting prospects in the NHL. Steady producers Michael Cammalleri and Curtis Glencross also return to guide the youngsters along through the growing pains.

While this season may be ugly for Calgary fans, it's better than muddling through mediocrity for another few seasons. The cupboards are not bare, and there are glimmers of hope for the future.

The Big Guns

Michael Cammalleri (C): Cammalleri tied for the team lead in points with 32 in 44 games last season. Cammy seems to have been in the NHL forever, but he is actually only 31 and should still have quite a few good years left in him. He has found a nice fit in Calgary and has averaged a little less than a point a game in his two tenures there. He will be the frontrunner to center the top line and since somebody has to score for the Flames, Cammalleri is certainly a quality candidate to lead the team in points again. He's not among the top echelon of centers fantasy-wise, but should be good value in the middle rounds.

Curtis Glencross (LW): With the purge of veteran talent over the last year in Calgary, Glencross is one of the best remaining forwards in Calgary. In the shortened 2012-13 season, he potted 15 goals and notched 11 assists in 40 games, which translates to 30 goals over a full campaign. With players like Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay gone, Glencross will be expected to help carry the offensive load in 2013-14. He will likely man the wing on a line with either Lee Stempniak or Jiri Hudler, and be centered by Michael Cammalleri, which actually is a decent combination for point production. He will get a lot of power play time as well and could certainly top 30 goals and 60 points -- both career marks -- next season.

Dennis Wideman (D): Wideman was brought in to big fanfare in 2012-13, signing a large contract in the hopes of turning around Calgary's defensive issues. Needless to say that didn't happen, although it wasn't all Wideman's fault. He still had a decent season with 22 points and 100 blocked shots in 46 games, but for a fickle Calgary fan-base, he wasn't the kick-start they were hoping for. He will anchor the blue line once again in 2013-14 and should produce his usual 35 to 45 points along with a lot of time on the power play.

On The Rise

Sven Baertschi (LW): Baertschi struggled to adjust to the expectations and workload of the NHL early in 2012-13, as the highly prized prospect scored only one point in his first 13 games and he was sent down to the AHL. However, Baertschi caught fire down the stretch upon his recall, scoring at least a point in each of his last seven games. His demotion to the AHL seems to have sparked Baertschi and put a chip on his shoulder, which bodes well for his future. If he can continue his torrid pace from the end of last year, Baertschi could certainly (and quickly) become the best scorer for Calgary. He's likely a future star in the league and should put up 50 to 60 points in 2013-14.

T.J. Brodie (D): Brodie is one of the budding defensemen in the Calgary organization, as he has shown the ability to hang with the big boys in the NHL over the last two seasons. He has 14 points in each of the last two years and has shown the ability to both score and lay into people. He has the potential to be a decent fantasy defenseman, but still needs to fully realize that potential before anyone drafts him for single-year formats.

Two To Watch

Mikael Backlund (C): It's a do or die year for Backlund, who has failed to live up to expectations in his first four years in the NHL. The first-round pick (2007) has only 62 points in 170 games and has struggled with inconsistency and injuries. Nonetheless, with Calgary rebuilding, perhaps some of the pressure will be off Backlund and he can finally start to live up to his draft promise. He will compete for the No. 2 center spot, but his inability to score consistently should scare most fantasy owners away, at least until he can fulfill his potential.

T.J. Galiardi (LW): Galiardi starts his first season with the Flames after being traded to Calgary from San Jose in the offseason. He should find his way onto the third line, as he had 14 points in 36 games with the Sharks, but could surprise given an expanded role.

Don't Overrate

Mark Giordano (D): The Flames thought they had a star in the making when Giordano scored 43 points in the 2010-11 season -- a bruising defenseman that could put up big numbers as well. Yet much like Dion Phaneuf before him, Giordano couldn't live up to those lofty expectations and combined for only 42 points over the last two campaigns. He is still a good all-round defenseman, but isn't likely to put up another 40-point season again unless he and Dennis Wideman somehow catch lightning in a bottle. Expect around 25 to 30 points and 75 to 80 PIMs from him in 2013-14.

Matt Stajan (C): After struggling in the previous two seasons with Calgary, Stajan began to turn things around in 2012-13, with 23 points in 43 games. He also was a plus-7, one of the precious few Flames with a positive plus/minus rating. He should get a shot at the center spot on the second line and could be a decent producer if paired with someone like Sven Baertschi. That being said, Stajan hasn't topped 50 points since 2009-10 and does not score enough to warrant much fantasy consideration except in the deepest of leagues, especially if he drops to the third line.

Top Prospects

Sean Monahan (C): The Flames' No. 1 pick has all the tools to make it to the NHL in relatively short time, as he can do everything on the ice. He burned up the OHL last season as one of its leading scorers and should make some noise again this season. Monahan isn't likely to see much time in Calgary this season -- as much as fans would like him to -- as he could use another season to refine his game. But stranger things have happened. We'll know more after the first nine games of the year. That's his "free" audition period before the Flames burn a year of eligibility with him. He might be too good to send back, particularly with the desperation the Flames have for offense.

Mark Cundari (D): Cundari had about as good a start to his NHL career as could be expected, with three points in his first four games. He was the centerpiece of the Jay Bouwmeester trade, so the Flames certainly hope he can put up solid numbers as his career goes on. He should have a decent chance at making the team, especially as they hope he will be a big part of the rebuilding process. But temper your expectations from a fantasy perspective -- the NHL is a difficult place for young defenders to excel and there will be some growing pains.

Akim Aliu (RW): Aliu is one of the players the Flames want a hard look at as they rebuild for the future. He is a big, gritty winger who had 11 points and 111 PIMs in 42 AHL games in 2012-13 and should earn a roster spot in this fall. In a year or two, he may have some worth in leagues that count penalty minutes, but Aliu still needs to prove he can use his size and grit in a good way in the big leagues. Otherwise, his propensity for mindless penalties will only put his team at a disadvantage.