Flames need to develop depth beyond stars

RANDY SPORTAK

, Last Updated: 8:00 AM ET

As impressive as it is for the Calgary Flames to have their veteran core of players signed for the long term, there is a serious problem with this team's roster.

It's the lack of home-grown, drafted-and-developed players.

A big reason the San Jose Sharks dispatched the Flames in the opening round of the playoffs was the supporting cast, and the Sharks roster is filled with players found and groomed in comparison to that of the Flames.

The team's draft choices who played in that seven-game series were: Dion Phaneuf, Eric Nystrom, Matthew Lombardi and David Moss. (Dustin Boyd was around but didn't play).

Of those, Phaneuf is the only one to be drafted since 2003.

By comparison, here's the Sharks' list of drafted players who were part of that seven-game set:

- 2005: Devin Setoguchi and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

- 2004: Torrey Mitchell.

- 2003: Milan Michalek, Matt Carle and Joe Pavelski.

- 2001: Marcel Goc, Christian Ehrhoff and Ryane Clowe.

- 1999: Douglas Murray.

- 1998: Jonathan Cheechoo.

- 1997: Patrick Marleau.

- 1994: Evgeni Nabokov.

It's worth noting the Sharks also traded 2003 pick Steve Bernier to land Brian Campbell.

Unless the Flames find those players to fill in the gaps at reasonable salaries -- in line with players what Ehrhoff, Clowe, Pavelski, Mitchell, Vlasic and Setoguchi give the Sharks -- having so many high-end players won't matter.

It looks like Boyd, Brandon Prust, Mikael Backlund and John Negrin will do that job soon enough, but even more must step forward, including Adam Pardy and David Van der Gulik.

But without those young, cheaper skaters who can't be easily found via free agency, the Flames will at best be a team that finishes in the playoffs but gets bounced early year after year after year.

At worst, they'll finish on the outside looking in but never poorly enough to draft a blue-chip top-five talent.

FLAMING C-NOTES

For all those carping on head coach Mike Keenan for yanking G Miikka Kiprusoff after the fourth goal, did you notice the netminder mishandle a long shot that went right to his trapper just before? A little play like that is often a tell-tale sign a goalie is losing his focus. That said, maybe Keenan should have called a timeout and asked G Curtis Joseph to boost Kiprusoff's spirits ... Sharks D Brian Campbell was sure underwhelming in the series with the Flames and didn't look anything like a franchise player who deserves a lucrative contract. Even if he bombs the rest of the way, though, some team (maybe the Chicago Blackhawks) will try to nab him if the Sharks don't sign a deal by July 1 ... A few Flames prospects from Finland are heading home: RW Juuso Puustinen (149th overall in 2005) signed with the Espoo Blues this week after two years in the WHL; and RW Tomi Maki is going to play for Jokerit ... Sticking in Europe, former Flames player Dwayne Hay is parlaying his play for the senior men's team in Bentley that came close to winning the Allan Cup last week into a contract with Orebro HK in Sweden.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Anybody else see the Phoenix Coyotes design in the new jerseys unveiled by Hockey Canada for the 2008 IIHF World Championships? ... Just a gut feeling, but the Minnesota Wild may take a step back next season. It just seems players are starting to tune out head coach Jacques Lemaire ... What will be left of Montreal if the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup? Granted, it was idiots who rioted after a first-round win, but it sure looks awful. Just as bad was hearing "fans" at the Bell Centre boo the U.S. national anthem ... A belief exists teams that have a tough go in the first round are better prepared to win the Stanley Cup. Based on that, you have to like a Habs-Sharks final. The Pittsburgh Penguins are probably going to win the East, but it's hard to get a read if they were that good or if the Ottawa Senators were that bad in that four-game sweep.

HOCKEY TALKY

Curious to see how new Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis mends fences with Edmonton Oilers counterpart Kevin Lowe. Gillis represented Michael Nylander, who had agreed with the Oilers to a contract -- which was reportedly confirmed and signed by Gillis -- but then backed out and signed with the Washington Capitals. Lowe said Gillis acted "unethically," which is a hard stigma to erase among the fraternity, especially when talking trades ... The rules state Anaheim Ducks D Scott Niedermayer has to play a $500,000 fine for missing training camp and joining the team. So why are people trying to have that fine nixed? Hopefully, it discourages more veterans from "contemplating retirement" for half-a-season and then returning when they have a contract ... It would be great if G Dominik Hasek takes the net for the Detroit Red Wings against the Colorado Avalanche to see how he reacts to LW Ryan Smyth's rear-end in his face for six or seven games.

You don't say ...

"Those things are for girls."

-- Penguins' LW Jarkko Ruutu regarding C Sean Avery's appearance in Vanity Fair magazine. Avery also plans to be a summer intern for fashion magazine Vogue.


Videos

Photos