SUN Hockey Pool

Flames dream of hittin' jackpot

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:25 AM ET

The possibility of the Calgary Flames picking first overall in the next NHL Entry Draft is very real.

Yet, seeing as the league will go to some form of a lottery to decide which team will receive the No. 1 selection -- phenom Sidney Crosby -- it still seems something of a dream.

Not just for fans, either.

It's the same for Calgary's director of scouting, Tod Button.

Asked whether the possibility of getting to pick first overall makes this year's draft more exciting -- especially after going to the Stanley Cup final in the NHL's previous season -- Button couldn't contain himself.

"Are you kidding? I go to bed dreaming about that," he said with a laugh.

"That's exciting for everybody. We'd get those final meetings done in a hurry. There wouldn't be much discussion."

Which is where the Flames are these days. Having wrapped up a series of meetings involving GM/head coach Darryl Sutter, amateur scouting director Mike Sands and all the scouts, Button said his team will be ready to spring into action when the 2005 draft is held.

"We're 80 percent ready," he said. "We need about two days of solid meetings to finish off and know where we draft so we can plot strategy, so to speak, for how the draft picks will play out, who we want where and who we think we can get at what spot. It's just a matter of getting everybody together in a room and getting done that final 20 percent."

Of course, if the bingo ball -- or whatever format the league uses to decide who picks first -- falls in Calgary's favour, that decision will be very easy.

"It's exciting to know you'd have a chance at that," he said. "You're talking about a kid in Sidney Crosby who's a tremendous player. He's a franchise player you can build a team around."

Of course, there are other players expected to make a mark in years to come, such as Sudbury forward Benoit Pouliot, American defenceman Jack Johnson and Vancouver Giants scorer Gilbert Brule.

"I wouldn't say it's deep in high-end talent but it's got depth to it," Button said of the draft class. "You're not going to find 10 studs in it but you might find three or four good players throughout each round."

There's also the possibility a pair of immensely talented but unsigned Philadelphia Flyers prospects in Mike Richards and Jeff Carter could go back into the draft.

With the excitement of picking first comes plenty of uncertainty. After all, the Flames, like every other team, could be drafting anywhere from first to 30th.

"It hasn't been more difficult but it has been a different process," Button admitted.

"We've had to know more about more people because we don't know where we're picking. We haven't been able to narrow it down as much as we have in the past.

"But altogether it's not a bad thing knowing more about more people and it hasn't been a difficult process. It's just been a little bit different.

"We try to break it down into thirds -- these are the guys in the top 10, same with 11 to 20 and 21 to 30.

"We have to be prepared for every scenario."

By most accounts, a new collective bargaining agreement is a couple of weeks away and a draft would take place as soon after as possible -- likely a week later.

Yet, Button isn't feeling too antsy about getting the job done.

"I think through the course of the year we've developed a lot more patience and understand the process takes time. When it gets done, it gets done and we'll be ready," he said. "Yeah, we want to get it done but we have to let it play out."

And pray for that bingo ball to come up for the Flaming C.


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