Flames on cusp of rebuild

Calgary Flames Jarome Iginla chats with referee Marc Joannette during a TV timeout against the...

Calgary Flames Jarome Iginla chats with referee Marc Joannette during a TV timeout against the Detroit Red Wings during NHL hockey in Calgary, Alberta, on December 22, 2011. (AL CHAREST/QMI AGENCY)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:45 PM ET

Flames fans watching their team's spiral downward must be getting a sense of deja vu.

At least if they were paying attention to what transpired a few hours to the north over the past couple of seasons.

And all those Calgary fanatics pining for their team to follow the same route which saw the Edmonton Oilers plummet to the bottom of the NHL standings, with the reward of drafting first overall, may be seeing it take place right before their eyes.

A couple of seasons ago, the Oilers were in the mix for the playoff fight, but then watched it all crumble. A team which likely wasn't good enough to be in the playoffs in the first place fell apart when an injury wave sent them falling to 30th place.

End result, the Oilers won the draft lottery and selected Taylor Hall first overall, who will be a key piece in an eventual turnaround. The script was all too similar in the 2010-11 campaign, and that meant selecting Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with the No.-1 selection.

The Flames, losers of five straight games heading into Saturday night's home date with the Minnesota Wild, may not sink all the way to earning the No.-1 pick, even if things continue at this pace. (OK, they haven't won a game in a couple of weeks, but you know they'll win again.)

But they're on a path which will necessitate those tough decisions the franchise has continuously deferred over the past couple of seasons.

The rebuild is coming, and that will eventually hit the point when cornerstone players such as Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff will move on -- albeit nobody knows when that will actually happen, could be by the trade deadline, could be this summer and could be when they retire.

What's important is the Flames don't make any panic trades at this moment.

That's an aspect of the Oilers rebuild which was so critical.

When their playoff hopes were fading as the spring of 2010, the Oilers didn't make a rash trade -- such as the infamous Dion Phaneuf and Olli Jokinen/Brandon Prust deals Calgary saw two seasons ago, which are seriously hurting the Flames right now -- and opted to give they're young prospects a shot.

The Flames currently have six players out of action, possibly seven if defenceman Scott Hannan's injury suffered in the second period of Thursday's 9-0 drubbing at the hands of the Boston Bruins, keeps him out of action.

Counting Hannan, that would mean three of their top four blueliners on the injured list, plus the likes of Alex Tanguay and David Moss.

Unless Flames GM Jay Feaster can drum up a deal which would actually help this team for the future -- akin to what the Toronto Maple Leafs received in return for Tomas Kaberle last season, just for a starting point -- it's best to make small moves, such as Friday's trade which sent Brendan Mikkelson to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for centre Blair Jones to provide some dearly needed forward depth.

As much as the Flames would like to be playoff bound, it's important for them to find out what they actually have in the system. They've had a long look at young defencemen in T.J. Brodie and must be happy with the results. Joe Piskula had a turn under the microscope. Clay Wilson is in the sights, and others such as Jordan Henry are awaiting their turn.

Same things goes with forwards.

The Flames are at a fork in the road.

Unfortunately, the rash of injuries has submarined this team's playoff chances. Maybe, enough players will step up during this spell and the chances of a second season will improve.

Or, maybe this is the much-needed situation the Flames need to follow through with the intellectual honesty Feaster has talked about since taking the helm.

It's important the Flames don't make their next move the wrong one.

The organization's needs that in the long term.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak


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