SUN Hockey Pool

Tough decision

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

Eric Godard's first impression was a good one.

The rest of the game has already faded into the abyss that is pre-season history but few will forget the sight of the 6-ft. 4-in., 230-pounder beating up on a willing but overmatched Zack Stortini when the Calgary Flames hosted the Edmonton Oilers last week.

Godard followed up with a less memorable bout with Mathieu Roy Saturday night at Rexall Place.

But with 13 forwards already on one-way contracts, there may not be room for the NHL heavyweight on the roster.

Heck, Tie Domi's retirement has re-ignited a debate over whether there's room for classic prize fighters at all in today's free-wheeling, speed-first league.

"It used to be where your fourth line was three tough guys -- Tough, Tougher and Killer," said Flames winger Darren McCarty.

"Now there's maybe one a team but they have to have some skill and be able to play, too. There's still a place in it for the game but the game's changed."

Head coach Jim Playfair will make the final decision on Godard's future and he agrees with McCarty: The fighter may be an endangered species but he's not yet extinct.

"I think there's always going to be a place in the game for that battle level.

I think the bottom line is the heavyweight, the aggressive players, have to be able to skate," said Playfair. "The ones who can't skate at a high tempo and a high pace and can't be part of your top 12 forwards -- or at least 13 forwards -- they don't play anymore.

"A guy like Eric, that's probably the biggest area he has to be concerned with. Can he keep up with the pace of the play?"

So far, Godard appears capable of getting around the ice -- moreso than the Flames' last heavyweight, Chris Simon -- in a defensive role.

The 26-year-old pugilist says he knows what is expected of him.

"There's always gotta be that willingness to stand up for the guys. Have a feel for the game -- when you can (fight), when you can't," said Godard.

"You've got to (avoid) penalties. Not take the tripping, the hooking. You've just got to be reliable and accountable."

Playing a pre-season with a crew as close as the one in the Saddledome locker-room has provided Godard with plenty of motivation when it comes to wanting to protect his teammates.

"It's been awesome. Since even before camp. It's a close team," said Godard.

"When you see the guys out there working as hard as they can, I want to stand up for these guys."

Godard inked a two-way contract this summer and would have to clear waivers should he be sent down to the Flames' AHL affiliate Omaha Knights.

If Playfair and the rest of his staff like what they see from the tough guy over the next week, he could earn a spot in the press box in a part-time role.

It's also reasonable to think the Flames would be willing to risk losing Godard through waivers to save a little money and bring him back for games that may require an enforcer -- maybe when Georges Laraque and the Phoenix Coyotes are in town.

The possibility of earning a full-time role is slim. He'd have to displace a veteran such as Darren McCarty, Marcus Nilson or Jeff Friesen to do so.

But his first fight in Flames red certainly made Playfair take notice.

"That's a good start," said Playfair with a laugh. "Wasn't it?"


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