Training Camp Guide: Dark Horses
Taking a look at the players who may just surprise everyone with their play this season.
CALGARY, AB -- Every season, certain players seem to break out of their shell and come up with a season that surprises everyone.
Last year, Rene Bourque had a career year that saw him score 27 goals and 58 points in 73 games. The season prior, Michael Cammalleri went to town on goalies across the league, wracking up 39 goals in 81 games.
The Flames have plenty of players looking to make the 2010-11 season their comeback year, trying to crack the roster or just trying to earn some more ice time. The potential for a dark horse within the ranks is quite likely.
This season, the Flames are hoping another player can kick their game up another notch.
In this section of the Flames Training Camp Guide, we look at potential dark horses that may put up some pretty impressive numbers.
Niklas Hagman - With Ian White and Matt Stajan garnering most of the attention after being dealt to the Flames, Hagman is often the forgotten component of the blockbuster Flames-Leafs trade that saw seven players swapped between the two franchises.
However, fans should not overlook the left winger this season.
Over the past five seasons, Hagman has scored 97 goals and 171 points. Last season, he had 25 tallies, just two behind his career-high in the 2007-08 season, and posted a career-high in points with 44.
Now that he has gotten more accustomed to the coaching style and his teammates in Calgary, Hagman will be expected to put up similar numbers and help keep the Flames afloat offensively.
While trying to gauge potentional linemates before the roster is solidified is tough, our best guess is that Hagman will be spending the bulk of his ice time with Stajan and David Moss if Daymond Langkow is cleared to play.
If Moss can bounce back from a subpar season, these three may be able to become a go-to line for offense with Hagman leading the way. He's played with Stajan for a few years and the two know each other's playing styles well enough to create chemistry and with Moss banging and crashing the net, offense has to come.
Matt Stajan - It's hard to tell where Stajan will end up on the depth chart this season.
His spot hinges on whether or not Langkow will be healthy by the time the season opener rolls around. If Langkow is ready to play, Stajan will likely end up centering the third line. If Langkow is not medically cleared, Stajan will be shifted up to the second line to start the year. Either way, he'll be asked to be the smooth-skating playmaker Toronto saw flashes of during his tenure with the Leafs.
Stajan is coming off a career year in which he scored 19 goals and 57 points and has shown decent chemistry with a lot of his linemates from his 27 game stint in Calgary last year. After resigning for four years with the club on Mar. 1, Stajan said he was excited to see what he could accomplish with the team long-term.
"I've got to do everything I can now to pay them back and make sure I'm on top of my game and really dedicated to helping this team win."
The Flames have a backlog of centermen though and if Stajan wants to battle for a top-six spot, he'll have come up big in camp. Olli Jokinen, Mikael Backlund, Ryan Stone and John Armstrong are out to prove themselves and secure spots as well. Backlund has the best shot at ousting Stajan from one of the top two lines so it may come down to a Matt vs. Mikael battle over the next couple of weeks.
Curtis Glencross - Glencross is pegged for the gritty, energy role as camp begins but his skills combined with his hard-nose style of play may force the coaching staff to shuffle the lines to accomodate the budding left winger.
Glencross struggled early in his career, with stints in Anaheim, Columbus and Edmonton before landing in Calgary. The change of scenery seemed to spark his development and in his first season with Flames he managed 40 points - a 27-point difference from his previous career-high in Edmonton.
He looked like he would build upon that number in the 2009-10 season but that goal was derailed by injuries late in the season. He ended his year with 15 goals and 33 points.
If he can remain healthy this season, there's no reason to believe Glencross can't reach 40 points. However, he has to impress the coaching staff in camp with a solid performance as he'll be jockeying with wingers David Moss, Raitis Ivanans and Hagman for minutes.