Flames goals still offensive

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

In their quest to become better at keeping pucks out of their net, the Calgary Flames now have another problem.

At least in the eyes of their detractors.

The big question mark around the Flames as they open the season tonight at the Saddledome against the Vancouver Canucks is their offence.

You can hear the queries from all corners of the NHL: Do the Flames have enough scoring in them to be considered Stanley Cup contenders?

"We can totally understand the questions," said captain and franchise all-time leading scorer Jarome Iginla.

"You see (Michael) Cammalleri is gone, and he was great for us, and Bert (Todd Bertuzzi) gone, too. Their contributions were huge."

True, losing Cammalleri's team-high 39 goals is a hit. Bertuzzi had 15 tallies, so his impact is up for debate.

It's possible the Flames won't provide as much offence this season as they did last year, but there shouldn't be a big decrease.

All those prognosticators who opine the Flames will suddenly fumble lighting the lamp are way off base.

For starters, last season's Flames squad was among the most prolific in the NHL.

They finished tied with the San Jose Sharks for seventh in the league in goals scored, and third in the Western Conference behind the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks.

They lost one key offensive force from that team, but before you write them off, delve into the players in their lineup.

A full season of Olli Jokinen on the top line with Iginla, while he aims for a new contract, should offset a big chunk of Cammalleri's production.

When it comes to the defencemen, Jay Bouwmeester replaces Adrian Aucoin as far as offensive contribution. Bouwmeester has scored 15 goals in each of the past two seasons. He should be able to make up for the 10 tallies Aucoin provided last year, if not more considering the part he'll play on Calgary's powerplay unit.

Plus, it's a good bet Dion Phaneuf will bounce back from his career-low 11-goal season.

"Our defencemen, they're more mobile now, and can add a lot of offence to our team," said Iginla, with the likes of Bouwmeester and a healthy Mark Giordano in mind.

Where Calgary's offensive ability can be questioned is the supporting cast.

After Jokinen, Iginla and Daymond Langkow, there are no proven snipers in top-six roles, but no shortage of candidates for the pending opportunities.

David Moss and Rene Bourque are coming off their first 20-goal seasons. They both must repeat that feat to make more believers, but no reason exists to believe they won't do it. The onus will ultimately fall on the likes of Nigel Dawes, Dustin Boyd, Curtis Glencross and Fredrik Sjostrom.

Currently, Dawes, whose career best is 14 goals, has the enviable spot beside Langkow on the second line. He receives the first chance to prove he can be a 20- to 25-goal producer.

If he can't do it, you know the others will be champing at the bit to receive their shot, and doing all they can to get it.

Iginla, who has 409 NHL goals on his resume, expects somebody to step forward, and not just because he's a notoriously upbeat person.

"We're going to get more offence just by playing better hockey," he said.

"What Brent (Sutter, the new head coach) has been saying from the start of training camp and the whole time is it's not just defence, and it's not just offence. It's being better positionally in the defensive zone, neutral zone and offensive zone, having the puck more, and that will create offence."

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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