CALGARY - It seems to be annual tradition that, as the NHL’s trade deadline approaches, rumours swirl about the Calgary Flames’ quest to acquire a No. 1 centre.
This year should be different.
This year, it’s obvious they already have one.
Olli Jokinen was once again the Flames’ top forward in Tuesday’s 5-1 drubbing of the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Saddledome, scoring once, adding an assist and providing the type of reliable defensive presence that bench boss Brent Sutter raves about. He also set up a screen in front of Leafs netminder Jonas Gustavsson on the fifth goal of the evening.
The big Finn now has six goals and three assists in his past six outings.
It’s been a dozen years since somebody other than Jarome Iginla was the Flames’ leading point-producer at the end of a season, dating back to Valeri Bure’s team scoring title in 1999-2000.
Jokinen now has 48 points on the campaign, two more than Iginla.
More important than the team lead, they’ve developed some serious chemistry with on a line with left-winger Alex Tanguay. Together, they were easily the top trio on either side in Tuesday’s game.
That annual search for a top-flight centre to skate alongside Iginla?
Forget about it.
They’ve got one.
OFF THE GLASS
Hard to imaging, but the already-awful Dion Phaneuf deal could eventually look even worse for the Flames. Keep in mind that 6-foot-6 defenceman Keith Aulie, who was also shipped to Hogtown in the blockbuster trade, is only 22. He was a healthy scratch for Tuesday’s contest at the Saddledome, but Toronto’s staff believes he’ll soon be a big part of their blueline brigade. Phaneuf believes it, too. “I just think, as a player, he’s grown since my time with him in Calgary,” Phaneuf told reporters after Tuesday’s morning skate. “You can see the maturity, not so much off the ice but on the ice as a player. He’s smart. He’s learning the game. He’s got that long reach and he uses it very well and uses his stick very well. And he sees the game well. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about him and where his game is going.” … Phaneuf had a reputation in Calgary as a surly sort, but he was anything but after Tuesday’s morning skate. He signed autographs for several young fans and was accommodating as he chatted with the media.
IN THE CORNERS
A long-term contract was signed when one Flames fan proposed to his soon-to-be wife during a surprise ceremony in the first intermission. No word on whether the lucky lady demanded a no-trade clause, too … The Flames got another injury scare when Matt Stajan twisted his right knee in the opening period and needed assistance getting back to the ice. Stajan is much-maligned, but he mans the middle and this team simply can’t afford to lose another centre to injury ... Would love to see Tuesday’s total tally of Google searches by Calgary’s male population. Specifically, who was the most popular search target — Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition cover-model Kate Upton or Rick Nash, the Columbus Blue Jackets sniper who’s apparently available on the trade market? … Honestly, how tall is Flames winger Paul Byron. Even 5-foot-7 seems like a stretch.
On Twitter: @SUNGilbertson