SUN Hockey Pool

Can't you do better?

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

The list of Calgary Flames players who must elevate their game is long.

However, some have farther to climb than others.

Here's our top-10 list of most underachieving Flames:

10. Rhett Warrener: A pre-season knee injury has limited his skating ability and ice time. He hasn't been a physical force.

Excuse: His knee, which may never be 100% again, won't let the rugged rearguard battle like he has in the past.

Reality: The knee is a big problem, without a doubt. However, Warrener is trying to figure out what he can do in those physical battles and not receive a penalty. At this point, he is erring on the side of caution too often.

9. Jamie Lundmark: A poor training camp/pre-season left the centre on the outside looking in when the season began. He hasn't provided offence or played with any assertiveness.

Excuse: With Daymond Langkow and Matthew Lombardi the top two centres, and Stephane Yelle and Marcus Nilson better checkers, Lundmark can't find a role with the team.

Reality: Lundmark has the skill to be a second-line centre. He should be pushing Lombardi for that spot but hasn't.

8. Miikka Kiprusoff: The team's MVP last season has been good but not great.

Excuse: The team is surrendering more than 30 shots game after game.

Reality: The Flames need Kiprusoff to steal some games. Plus, he's surrendered a couple of stoppable goals at the wrong time -- think of Richard Zednik's wraparound in the Washington loss -- for a team that is fragile.

7. Roman Hamrlik: The team's highest-paid defenceman -- US $3.5 million -- was supposed to help the powerplay and add offence from the blueline.

Excuse: Barely used with the man-advantage and still finding his groove.

Reality: Hamrlik's offensive output has been impacted by the lack of powerplay time. However, he is on the second unit and not having much of an effect.

6. Jeff Friesen : No goals, not much impact offensively and a minus-3 rating.

Excuse: A four-time 20-goal scorer, Friesen isn't in a position to snipe and is reduced to a checking role.

Reality: At US$1.6 million, the free-agent acquisition can't be a four-goal scorer like last year. Friesen is still a good enough skater and strong enough physically to generate offence.

5. Robyn Regehr: He's playing 23 minutes a game and is a plus-2 but the cornerstone defenceman has to take his game to a higher level.

Excuse: Is there one? He doesn't appear hurt, couldn't have lost a step due to age and should be reaching his prime.

Reality: It's time for Regehr to be a leader in all ways.

4. Matthew Lombardi: Nine points in 11 games is a great start but consistency remains an issue. He was given a chance to start on the top line and didn't exploit it, falling to fourth-line duty Wednesday in Detroit.

Excuse: He's young and in his first year as a top-six player.

Reality: A fifth-year pro and 24 years old, it's time for Lombardi to take the biggest step of his career. The Flames are counting on him to provide offence and need his speed every game.

3. Kristian Huselius: A 20-goal scorer last year, he's only tallied twice and hasn't generated enough for himself or hislinemates.

Excuse: Calgary's confining system won't let the club's most creative player work his magic.

Reality: Other than turning the puck over, the Flames are allowed to do what they can to score goals. Huselius isn't using his shifty moves or making great passes.

2. Chuck Kobasew: Another two-goal scorer so far, the 20-goal shooter of a year ago hasn't found consistency, his biggest quest.

Excuse: Slumps happen. Plus, the Flames' powerplay struggles have impacted him.

Reality: At this rate, Kobasew will take a big step backward. The 24-year-old should be going to a new level this season and providing another right-wing threat on a regular basis.

. Alex Tanguay: The big off-season acquisition has six points and only two goals. Capable of 30 goals, he's failed to get a shot on goal in the last two games.

Excuse: He's adjusting to a new defensive system.

Reality: Tanguay's confidence is at an all-time low but he's not playing with enough tenacity in the offensive zone, isn't shooting the puck with authority or playing with enough creativity. He simply hasn't been gritty enough.


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