Sunday, August 14, 2005

Flames sign Roman Hamrlik

I think I was like most observers when, after Calgary GM Darryl Sutter signed free agents Tony Amonte and Darren McCarty, I assumed those would be the final pieces added to a club that came within one game of winning the Stanley Cup in 2004. With the already-impressive arsenal assembled, I (and others) reasoned, surely Sutter must be finished.

As we have learned (officially) today, the venerable GM wasn't at all. Not content with a defence core that is built around young talents like Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr, Sutter signed offensive-blueliner Roman Hamrlik to a two-year, $7-million deal.

While it may come as a surprise, I like the move.

Looking at the Flames defensive depth chart, as one commenter has at Boltsmag, even sans Hamrlik it looks fairly impressive:

Regehr - Leopold
Warrener - Lydman
Ference - Phaneuf
Montador

Sutter had already shuttled the burly Mike Commodore to the Hurricanes for a draft pick, presumably to make room for 20-year-old Dion Phaneuf, the Flames first-round pick in 2003. With his top six comprised of five proven NHL defencemen, one outstanding rookie and a solid depth defenceman in Steve Montador, there were a number of reasons Sutter made the move for Hamrlik.
  1. Chiefly, the move addresses a lack of a stalwart offensive force from the back end. The Flames highest-scoring defenceman last season was Leopold, who had nine goals and 33 points. Not exactly championship-calibre numbers from your defence. Despite his poor season last year, Hamrlik is a proven commodity on offence and has even had a 65-point season in the NHL, albeit nine years ago.

    I'm sure it will shock no one that his primary role will be to man the point on the powerplay, filling a void left when Derek Morris skipped town in 2002. Calgary missed Morris's huge shot with the extra man, but there's a reason 'The Hammer' has his nickname (aside from the remarkable similarity of his name to said implement, Hamrlik packs a rocket).

    As good as the Flames were in 2003-04, their powerplay was 21st in the league, and Leopold's inability to step in as a No. 1 pointman was a big reason why. It also certainly didn't help that he had little assistance in this regard.

  2. It's also no secret that Sutter has never been a huge fan of Toni Lydman, a Finnish defender who lacks much of the umph! the callous coach and GM expects of his player. Hamrlik's arrival could very well signal the departure of the 27-year-old Lydman, who, for an offensive defenseman, has never had more than 28 points in the NHL.

  3. While this may be true of every NHL team's GM, Sutter is out to build a championship team. Despite the fact his club almost went the distance the last time around, unlike some managers, he's not resting on his laurels. My guess is being a Stanley Cup bridesmaid has only made him want his first Cup even more.

  4. Last but not least: Hamrlik was the best UFA defenceman left on the market.
Calgary was already poised to have a stronger club than the one that went to the finals in 2004 and adding Hamrlik makes them all the more potent. It'll be an exciting year in Cowtown, to be sure.

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4 Comments:

At 12:03 AM, August 15, 2005, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

I agree. Good price for someone of his ability and background. In the past, he's proven that though he can't be the dominant, ace defenceman people thought he would be, he's quite reliable.

I can't think of a better defence than the Flames right now.

 
At 12:37 PM, August 15, 2005, Anonymous pete said...

Good thoughts on the Lydman angle, Mirtle. I hadn't considered that.

I still say the Flames need more help down the middle than on the blueline, but it's hard to argue with this move. I'd play Regehr with Leopold, Hamrlik with Phaneuf, and Ference with Warrener. Damn that looks good, with Montador a capable injury replacement. If the Flames can flip Lydman for a backup goalie (injury insurance for Kipper) or ideally, a 50-60 point centre, that has to be the best team in the West on paper right now.

 
At 3:00 PM, August 15, 2005, Blogger Jes Gőlbez said...

I think the Flamers would best be served by using this money to get a good top 6 forward rather than a has-been defender who is only declining.

Hamrlik's offense has been declining for the past few seasons, and he was pretty awful last year for Zlin (outplayed by his brother Martin). Looking at the Flames depth chart up front, they have a lot of question marks (guys like Lombardi, Kobasew, Reinprecht) and could have used a bonafide guy and let Phaneuf have a real shot.

We'll see how Hamrlik does in Calgary. He doesn't seem like a Sutter type of guy any more than Lydman was.

 
At 4:33 PM, August 15, 2005, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Kobasew is 23 and was 11th in AHL scoring last year, so I don't consider him a question mark. I also think that Reinprecht should be a servicable second-line forward, should he be able to stay healthy.

What options did Sutter have up front anyway? There really aren't very many capable forwards left on the UFA market — and certainly not any that would improve the club as much as I believe Hamrlik will.

 

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