Loading up for a charge at Stanley

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

The moves are too big to be termed tinkering.

New head coach, new sniper, new-found push for success.

They don't add up to much on the transaction ticker, but the Calgary Flames see those changes as the final elements to go from a solid contender to Stanley Cup champion.

After their mixed-blessing season of 2005-06 -- winning the Northwest Division title but bowing out in seven games in the first round of the playoffs -- it was obvious the Flames needed to make a couple of key changes.

Darryl Sutter, who'd held both jobs of GM and head coach for a couple of seasons with remarkable results, knew the time had come to leave the bench.

On the ice, it was painfully obvious Jarome Iginla needed much more help with the offensive duties.

Sutter swiftly and decisively decided to achieve both tasks not long after the summer solstice.

First, he made a big splash at the draft by acquiring Alex Tanguay from Colorado, to provide another skilled winger capable of pumping 30 to 40 goals.

Then he kicked himself upstairs, handing the head coaching job to Jim Playfair, who'd spent a few years honing his skills as an assistant.

Tanguay, who promptly signed a three-year, US$15.75-million contract, knows exactly what he's stepped into by moving north along the Rocky Mountains.

"I think this team is entering its prime and I'm glad to be here. I was in the same situation when I got to Colorado," he said. "The expectation is to win. I think this team is due for some good things and hopefully I can be a part of that."

Certainly nearly all the elements necessary are in place.

Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff remains the backbone of an excellent defensive crew that has only become better with the emergence of Dion Phaneuf.

Up front, Calgary makes up for its lack of offensive prowess with a deep group of forwards built for the grind of the playoff chase and postseason run.

But that's not to say they're a sure bet to hoist the Cup.

Until proven otherwise, critics have a right to question whether the Flames have enough offence in the new NHL.

The steady Daymond Langkow can be counted on for roughly 25 goals and fourth-year NHLer Chuck Kobasew is coming off his first 20-goal season.

However, questions remain around the enigmatic Kristian Huselius, veterans Tony Amonte and Jeff Friesen -- who only scored 14 and four, respectively, last season -- and young centres Matthew Lombardi and Jamie Lundmark. You can add defenceman Roman Hamrlik to that list.

Should all of them, or at least most of them, reach their potential, the Flames will be fine.

If not, then trouble could be brewing in Cowtown.

Sutter is so sure he's built a team more than capable, he was willing to freely hand over control.

"When you know you have a good team, seize the moment. We know we have a good team," he said.

Make no mistake, the players know the heat is on.

"This is a huge year. It's a very big year for us," said Darren McCarty. "Especially after last year. It was so disappointing. Everybody's chomping at the bit."


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