Where's the beef?

ERIC FRANCIS -- CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 1:32 PM ET

Filling out his roster just in time for Stampede, Darryl Sutter indicated last week his team is now essentially set in stone.

However, Flames fans should hope when the coach and GM watches some of the world's toughest competitors take part in the rodeo, he'll be inspired to add one more key ingredient -- a fighter.

Indicating he has not had a conversation with former Flames tough-guy-turned unrestricted free agent Chris Simon, the Flames suddenly find themselves devoid of the sort of toughness that forces the opposition to show respect at all times.

Take, for example, the Flames' top line, which will likely have either Daymond Langkow or Kristian Huselius playing alongside Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla.

When an opponent inevitably takes liberties with any of the aforementioned, Iginla is the only one of the four capable of dropping the gloves.

In fact, he's the only one on the team capable of doing damage with his fists.

Yet, as tough as he is, no one wants him fighting more than a few times annually.

Nor do you want top defencemen Dion Phaneuf or Robyn Regehr throwing their knuckles into the side of Jofas.

A look at the rest of the Flames forwards finds only two men at all capable of answering the bell: 5-ft. 9-in. Byron Ritchie and Darren McCarty.

Although both are admirably game to grapple, neither wins more than they lose.

As McCarty laughed this year: "I'm more of a bleeder."

Granted, today's NHL is all about speed, leaving a long list of bigger, slower players such as Simon lost in the shuffle.

According to hockeyfights.com, scrapping was down from 0.64 fights per game in 2003-04 to 0.38 last season.

However, the art of fighting and intimidation still plays an important role in the game, which was glaringly obvious this spring when Iginla's rare loss to Francois Beauchemin in Game 6 marked the moment the series turned in Anaheim's favour for good.

Few things can lift a team's spirit or turn the tide in a game like a good butt-whooping. The key is, if nothing else, your fighter has to be able to, well, fight.

The Flames had one of the league's best in Krzysztof Oliwa two years ago when he won the large majority of his 31 bouts.

That same year, the Flames could also count on Chris Clark, Simon or Steve Montador to take exception to opposition indiscretions.

Now, all are gone, leaving the Flames a gritty, hard-hitting yet far-from-intimidating bunch. That's not Sutter's way.

Several other teams are letting their goons go, including Edmonton and Toronto, who said goodbye to Georges Laraque and Tie Domi, respectively.

Like Simon, who made $1.2 million US last year, they were getting too expensive in today's cap world.

But even cheaper goons such as Wade Brookbank and Eric Godard were recently cast into the open market.

That said, Jody Shelley just re-signed in Columbus, as did Derek Boogaard in Minnesota.

Oliwa, who played three games in Jersey last year before reportedly becoming a bouncer, would gladly sign for the league minimum $450,000 to return.

Surely, Sutter would rather have a cheap chucker such as Ryan Vandenbussche, Darren Langdon, Brookbank, Godard or even Calgary native Dale Purinton at his disposal for those intense divisional battles.

With the Flames' payroll likely to be around $42 million once Matt Lombardi signs, perhaps Simon, who improved his play late last season, offers up the best solution if he would accept a lowball offer around $600,000.

Otherwise, things could be embarrassing around here when push comes to shove.


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