Theo the real deal

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

As he walked through the Saddledome the other day, Theoren Fleury was told how much he'd proven over the past couple of weeks.

Even the biggest curmudgeon had to admit Fleury's performance in the pre-season was a surprise.

After all, six years away from the NHL and all his off-ice battles should have made it impossible for a 41-year-old to not look completely out of place.

Four points, a shootout winner and a plus-4 rating in four games showed he can compete, at least when it comes to scoring points.

Fleury stopped, thought about what he'd been told and responded: "I'm 56th in all-time scoring. Given the chance, I can figure it out. I know I'm not a 30-minute player anymore, but I know when I'm out there, I have to make something happen."

He did.

No matter what, you can't argue that point.

It just wasn't enough to make the Calgary Flames of 2009-10.

Not with the team's forward depth.

Not with 14 forwards signed to one-way contracts.

Not if he was to be a top-six player.

However, Fleury certainly showed he has enough in the tank to play somewhere.

Don't think he can play in the NHL?

Take a gander at who some other teams have as their second-line wingers.

- Atlanta Thrashers: Rich Peverley.

-Colorado Avalanche: Cody McLeod.

- Nashville Predators: Ryan Jones.

- New York Islanders: Sean Bergenheim.

Then, consider all the third-line wingers out there. There are teams which could use the former Flames captain and former all-time leading scorer on their roster.

He could be a help on their powerplay or in a shootout.

Somebody out there should give him a chance.

Maybe it'll take a trip to the minors to prove he deserves more consideration.

Say he goes to a AHL and lights it up.

Is it impossible to believe Fleury could put up 20 points in 15 games for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Milwaukee Admirals or Lake Erie Monsters?

(It's hard not to believe he could score points for the Abbotsford Heat, too, but obviously the Flames don't want him to be part of their minor-league system.)

He could rack up points, put butts in seats and be in "game shape" for a NHL team that could use more of the same.

That's not to say Fleury's time with the Flames this pre-season was flawless.

When he had the puck on his stick, he was still able to make things happen. Away from it, though, he didn't always have enough juice to zip into the play.

As head coach Brent Sutter said: "It's unfortunate, when you haven't played the game for six years and at the age he's at, the legs just aren't where they need to be. That's certainly not his fault. It just happens."

Would 20 to 30 AHL games help him get completely up to the speed they want here?

Likely not.

However, he certainly would knock off more rust and have his body a little more in tune with the pace of today's game.

In the end, he'd be more effective than Claude Lemieux was for the San Jose Sharks.

Fleury could also consider playing in Europe -- lord knows the KHL could use his drawing power and energy.

However, that would require even more upheaval for the player who obviously is taking his time this weekend to decide whether he really wants to uproot a family for something like that.

It'll be a few days before we find out what's the next step in Fleury's comeback story.

Could be a trip to Europe, another NHL organization or a retirement in good standing.

Hopefully, it's his choice and on his terms.

After all Fleury has done to achieve what he did in the pre-season, he deserves that much.

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA

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FLEURY WATCH

RECAPPING THEO'S GAMES

SEPT. 17 VS. NEW YORK ISLANDERS

Skated on a line with Nigel Dawes and Daymond Langkow.

Time on ice: 10:56

Goals: 0

Assists: 0

Plus/Minus: +1

The triumphant return. In his first game as a Flame since 1999 and first NHL action in more than six years, Fleury scored the shootout winner in a 5-4 win over the New York Islanders.

SEPT. 20 VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS

Skated with Daymond Langkow and Curtis Glencross.

Time on ice: 12:17

Goals: 1

Assists: 1

Plus/Minus: +2

As part of the most effective trio in the game, Fleury thrilled the Saddledome faithful again with a couple of points in a 5-2 win.

SEPT. 21 AT VANCOUVER CANUCKS

Skated on a line with Daymond Langkow and Curtis Glencross.

Time on ice: 12:13

Goals: 0

Assists: 1

Plus/Minus: Even

A second assist, Jay Bouwmeester scored, kept his scoring streak alive. Fleury survived games on back-to-back nights when the Flames lost 5-4 in a shootout. He was on the bench when the team could have won the shootout.

SEPT. 23 AT EDMONTON OILERS

Skated mainly with Curtis Glencross and Jamie Lundmark

Time on ice: 11:45

Goals: 0

Assists: 1

Plus/Minus: +1

Arguably his best game of the pre-season. He set up a goal for Glencross and had a glorious chance himself in the club's 5-3 victory to make it a happy Battle of Alberta.


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