SUN Hockey Pool

Midterm marks are in

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

Unlike high school, hockey report cards are subject to a little personal opinion. The Calgary Flames hit the midway point of the 2005-06 season Friday when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs at the 'Dome, so bust out your red pens and follow along with Sun hockey writer Steve Macfarlane.

Feel free to cross out the Sun's grade and insert your own should you disagree but, keep in mind that while the Flames deserve an A+ for their incredible record, the players are graded as individuals based upon performance, expectations, situations and a few intangibles.

With a 24-12-4 record after 40 games of an excruciatingly tight Olympic-year schedule, the team as a whole earns top marks and each player deserves extra credit for that.

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G MIIKKA KIPRUSOFF

What can you say about a guy who leads the NHL in wins (21) and shutouts (5)? Kiprusoff's fifth shutout of the year tied a single-season franchise record and he has another half to take sole possession of the mark. Kiprusoff's play has helped steal more than a couple of wins this season despite his heavy workload. The Finnish netminder's 35 games is second only to Washington's Olaf Kolzig (38). Kipper has been the best Flame of the first half.

2005-06 STATS TO DATE

gp w l t gaa sv%

35 21 10 4 2.34 .911

MIDTERM GRADE: A+

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G PHILIPPE SAUVE

Sauve, son of former NHL goalie Bob Sauve, has done everything asked of him. He has given his team a chance to win when Kiprusoff is being rested. Sauve has faced more than 30 shots in both losses and boasts a winning record. In fact, Sauve's save percentage is slightly higher than his teammate's. Goaltending coach David Marcoux says the 25-year-old's best trait is his competitiveness, although he also shows good reflexes and an attention to angles.

2005-06 STATS TO DATE

gp w l t gaa sv%

7 3 2 0 2.62 .914

MIDTERM GRADE: B

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D RHETT WARRENER

Warrener has unloaded on a few unlucky opponents, including Vancouver Canucks power forward Todd Bertuzzi, to give the Flames a boost on the ice. Generally, he has been reliable in his own end but a few poor performances stand out -- particularly the 5-4 loss in Edmonton last month during which he was on the ice for four goals against. The 29-year-old must have a solid second half of the season to match his plus-8 rating from 2003-04.

2005-06 STATS TO DATE

gp g a pts +/- PIM

37 2 1 3 0 36

MIDTERM GRADE: B-

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D ROBYN REGEHR

Regehr's knee injury, a high second-degree MCL sprain that forced him to miss the first

14 games of the season, was part of the reason for the Flames' horrific start. The workhorse defender has been a force since his return, averaging about 23 minutes a game and playing every situation imaginable. There's a good reason the 6-ft. 3-in. 232-pounder was named to the Canadian team for the Turin Olympics: He's among the NHL's best all-round defenders.

2005-06 STATS TO DATE

gp g a pts +/- PIM

26 3 7 10 10 32

MIDTERM GRADE: A

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D ROMAN HAMRLIK

The veteran rearguard was really beginning to gel with his new teammates when he suffered a sprained MCL a month ago. Hamrlik was a fixture on the powerplay with Dion Phaneuf, also his regular-strength playing partner. His defensive game was steadily improving prior to the injury and the 31-year-old was averaging 21:26 of ice time as a top-four blueliner. With injuries to Rhett Warrener and the departure of Steve Montador, Hamrlik's return will be welcome.

2005-06 STATS TO DATE

gp g a pts +/- PIM

30 4 11 15 2 28

MIDTERM GRADE: B

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D JORDAN LEOPOLD

With the addition of Roman Hamrlik and emergence of Dion Phaneuf, Leopold's role on the Flames blueline has changed this season. He and partner Robyn Regehr are no longer relied upon for offence and while many, himself included, are disappointed with his current goose-egg in the goal department, Leopold's plus-12 rating is the best on the team. Still, Leopold surely expected to have a few more points on the board.

2005-06 STATS TO DATE

gp g a pts +/- PIM

40 0 8 8 12 34

MIDTERM GRADE: B+

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D DION PHANEUF

Any other year, Phaneuf would be a favourite for the Calder Trophy. Unfortunately, Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby -- two first-overall selections -- are up for rookie of the year. Phaneuf is often the best Flame on the ice and, although he has made a few rookie mistakes, the 20-year-old will surely get a few votes from the Western Conference writers. Phaneuf is among the top 20 scoring defenceman and sixth in the overall rookie race.

2005-06 STATS TO DATE

gp g a pts +/- PIM

40 9 14 23 2 30

MIDTERM GRADE: A

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D ANDREW FERENCE

Ference is a risk-reward defenceman. He takes chances in the attacking end and isn't always successful on the pinch, which has lead to a few odd-man rushes the other way -- but he often recovers and stops the play. The 26-year-old has had trouble clearing the front of the net, being smaller in stature than many of the forwards he must defend. Offensively, Ference has been getting a lot of time on the powerplay and is already having a career-best season.

2005-06 STATS TO DATE

gp g a pts +/- PIM

40 2 17 19 -5 32

MIDTERM GRADE: B-

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D BRYAN MARCHMENT

Darryl Sutter added Marchment for depth after Robyn Regehr suffered a knee injury late in the pre-season. Because of further depletion of the blueline, Marchment has played much more than was anticipated, most often alongside Dion Phaneuf in Roman Hamrlik's absence. For the past three games, Marchment has been the fifth Flames defenceman, paired with callup Richie Regehr. The veteran isn't fleet of foot but has offered big hits and hard work.

2005-06 STATS TO DATE

gp g a pts +/- PIM

20 0 2 2 3 33

MIDTERM GRADE: C+

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D RICHIE REGEHR

Robyn's brother was called up from AHL affiliate Omaha for depth and got into his first NHL game in Calgary's 4-2 win against the Nashville Predators Dec. 29 because of a strained muscle that has kept Rhett Warrener out. Regehr made an immediate impact, earning an assist on the game-winning goal in the third period with a shot Steven Reinprecht deflected into the net. Averaging almost 12 minutes of ice time is a good sign for the future.

2005-06 STATS TO DATE

gp g a pts +/- PIM

3 0 1 1 1 0

MIDTERM GRADE: N/A

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C JASON WIEMER

Wiemer appeared in 17 of the Flames' first

20 games but was barely noticeable on the ice. He was a healthy scratch for all but two of the next 11. Recently placed on a line with Chris Simon and Shean Donovan, Wiemer has been a much more energetic player, using his size and relative speed to create chances on the forecheck. It seems the chances he has been given in his second stint with the Flames are paying off.

2005-06 STATS TO DATE

gp g a pts +/- PIM

27 1 2 3 -3 65

MIDTERM GRADE: C

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C STEPHANE YELLE

Yelle can't come back from his 'lower-leg injury' fast enough. The defensive specialist is a critical part of the game plan and the Flames have allowed more shots against per game in his absence. Goals against have climbed, too. The Flames' GAA has climbed to 3.6 from 2.5 before the injury. Yelle was hurt while blocking a shot at the Saddledome Dec. 17, minutes after scoring a shorthanded goal -- his second marker of the season.

2005-06 STATS TO DATE

gp g a pts +/- PIM

32 2 6 8 7 30

MIDTERM GRADE: A

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C DAYMOND LANGKOW

Langkow has rotated between the top and second lines this season but deserves to play between Iginla and Huselius on a full-time basis. His 28 points are second most on the team and Langkow has been one of the best forwards recently, scoring nine goals and adding four assists in the last

13 games. Many speculate Darryl Sutter will make a move for a centre this season but Langkow's play certainly makes that less of a priority.

2005-06 STATS TO DATE

gp g a pts +/- PIM

40 13 15 28 -1 34

MIDTERM GRADE: A

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C BYRON RITCHIE

A nasty-looking submarine hit at the knees courtesy of Jaroslav Spacek Monday may keep the sparkplug centre out of action for a while. Ritchie doesn't get a lot of ice time and needs to use his speed more frequently to create offence when given a chance to help his plus/minus rating. Darryl Sutter needs the fourth-line centre to help kill penalties but Ritchie has been replaced by Matthew Lombardi and Shean Donovan in those situations recently.

2005-06 STATS TO DATE

gp g a pts +/- PIM

29 1 0 1 -6 32

MIDTERM GRADE: C+

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C MATTHEW LOMBARDI

A scary crash into the 'Dome boards against Phoenix resulted in a serious ankle sprain that kept him out of 24 games this season. Darryl Sutter said he was one of his best players prior to the injury, playing on a line with Steven Reinprecht and Chuck Kobasew. Lombardi has shown glimpses of his potential since returning, scoring important goals in his last two games. We get the feeling there are more good things to come.

2005-06 STATS TO DATE

gp g a pts +/- PIM

15 2 6 8 1 12

MIDTERM GRADE: B

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C/RW STEVEN REINPRECHT

Reinprecht was an early-season candidate to play the majority of time with Iginla on the top line. The centre has been streaky all year long, breaking up periods of great play with pointless streaks of six, four and seven games. Reinprecht is currently on a hot streak with four goals and four assists in his last eight games. He played just 44 games in 2003-04 because of injuries. He already has one more goal and seven helpers shy of that season's total.

2005-06 STATS TO DATE

gp g a pts +/- PIM

40 8 15 23 8 20

MIDTERM GRADE: B-

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C/LW MARCUS NILSON

Nilson has been a perfect complement to Stephane Yelle on the penalty kill since coming from Florida late in the 2003-04 season. He has continued to block shots and stifle the opposition's attack. He's even spent time on the top line, although he will never be relied upon as a goal scorer. He took a hard hit from Finn Tuomo Ruutu Monday but odds are the tough Swede will return in time for the Flames' game Friday against the Maple Leafs.

2005-06 STATS TO DATE

gp g a pts +/- PIM

40 5 7 12 11 15

MIDTERM GRADE: A

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RW JAROME IGINLA

It's difficult to criticize the captain of a team that leads the toughest division in the league but everyone is expecting more from Iginla. He played solidly against Chicago Monday and it could be a sign Iginla is about to embark on his traditional second-half scoring spree. He is still ahead of his pace from the last NHL season but the dominant force fans saw in 2004 when the Flames charged to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final has been relatively quiet.

2005-06 STATS TO DATE

gp g a pts +/- PIM

40 16 16 32 9 40

MIDTERM GRADE: B

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RW SHEAN DONOVAN

Donovan has been on a tear the last couple of games, using his speed to go to the net rather than circle the ice aimlessly as he often did while struggling early in the season. He snapped his 34-game goal drought and is now showing the kind of confidence that produced a nine-goal streak in a six-game stretch in 2003-04. Despite his struggles, Donovan has been a dependable defensive forward and an important part of the Flames penalty kill.

2005-06 STATS TO DATE

gp g a pts +/- PIM

39 4 5 9 2 25

MIDTERM GRADE: B-

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RW CHUCK KOBASEW

Kobasew started a promising season with four goals in his first eight games. After

22 games, the 23-year-old netted nine of his

11 goals but has been quiet over the last 17 contests, scoring just twice. Granted, he started the season playing on the top line but the Flames need Kobasew to provide more scoring. He showed off his skills with AHL Lowell during the lockout, scoring 38 goals and

37 assists in 79 games.

2005-06 STATS TO DATE

gp g a pts +/- PIM

40 11 5 16 -5 34

MIDTERM GRADE: B-

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LW CHRIS SIMON

Like current linemates Shean Donovan and Jason Wiemer, Simon has stepped up his play lately. The rugged winger was only noticeable when making mistakes early in the season -- possibly due to a little lockout hangover. He has to be positionally safe because of a lack of foot speed and seems to be getting back into the groove. His stick check in the Canucks' end that led to a highlight-reel goal proves what kind of play he is capable of.

2005-06 STATS TO DATE

gp g a pts +/- PIM

32 3 6 9 0 29

MIDTERM GRADE: C+

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RW/LW TONY AMONTE

Amonte is not the goal scorer he once was but is on pace to match the 20 he scored with the Flyers in 2003-04. Grittier than credited, a lack of consistency on offence is the only thing keeping his grade down. Amonte missed a dozen great scoring chances during the early days of the new season and struggled through a nine-game goal drought in late October and early November. He has since potted seven with a couple of memorable games.

2005-06 STATS TO DATE

gp g a pts +/- PIM

38 10 11 21 2 31

MIDTERM GRADE: B

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RW/LW DARREN MCCARTY

It's all in the timing. McCarty is willing to sacrifice his body to block a shot, drop the gloves to spark his teammates and do anything possible to score a big goal or provide a key assist at the most opportune moment. His play on the winning goal Monday afternoon, making a perfect pass to Matthew Lombardi from his knees with Blackhawks defenceman Jassen Cullimore draped all over his back, is a testament to the kind of grinder McCarty is.

2005-06 STATS TO DATE

gp g a pts +/- PIM

33 2 5 7 -1 63

MIDTERM GRADE: B+

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RW/LW KRISTIAN HUSELIUS

Nothing short of spectacular, the gifted Swede has scored five goals and 11 assists in 13 games since joining the Flames in a trade with Florida for D Steve Montador a month ago. The biggest knock on Huselius is his tendency to turn the puck over at the opposition blueline. He also goes through spurts of invisibility after taking a big check but he has shown the ability to pull the puck out of the corners and feed any open man a perfect pass.

2005-06 STATS TO DATE

gp g a pts +/- PIM

37 10 14 24 -4 20

MIDTERM GRADE: A

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GM/HEAD COACH DARRYL SUTTER

Sutter may appear hard on his players as a coach but there's no denying his defence-first philosophy has worked over the last couple of years. The Flames' identity -- the hard-working image talked about often by the players and coaches -- helped them to the Stanley Cup final and has them in first place in the tough Northwest Division at the midway point. As GM, Sutter has put the pieces in place he believes will, first, get the Flames into the playoffs and, second, help them succeed in the post-season. Many feel he will make a deal for the future well before the trade deadline but his team appears to have all the ingredients.

MIDTERM GRADE: B+


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