Tucker Hockey: Your Premier Calgary Hockey School for 19 Years!

       

 

 

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Date: 22/10/2014 4:42 PM UTC



“Everyone here has the sense that right now is one of those moments when we are influencing the future.” – Steve Jobs


The Hockey Zones Winter 2012 edition published an article called “The Minor Hockey Dilemma”. This commentary revealed that the state of Canadian minor hockey as we know it today may look quite different in the next decade or so. Hockey Canada’s membership is around 575,000 registered players, down more than 200,000 from its peak. The myth is that most Canadian boys play hockey, however, the reality is that the numbers are falling. Only 15.7%, or 1 in 6.4 boys, actually play the game in Canada. If the trend of young males deciding not to play hockey continues, the numbers are expected to lower to about 360,000 in 2021. On the opposite side, there’s been a boom in female hockey, but the numbers do not make up for the decline in male participation. That trend could have a serious impact on Canada’s international male dominance of the sport in the future.

For many Canadians, hockey is more than a game; it is a big part of life. No other country is as passionate about hockey! Everyone has an opinion about the game. So it’s very difficult for administrators to make progressive changes to the hockey system in Canada because hockey is such a big deal and everyone wants to discuss and debate it.

As a continuation to our previous article, we offer our two cents worth to grow the game in Canada with a 10 point action plan for the betterment of the game.

Reduce Financial Barriers to Entry

Since the majority of lower class, lower middle class, and single income families typically can not afford to have their children play hockey, the governing bodies must find ways of lowering the costs of individual player registrations and hockey equipment.
In towns and cities across the country more subsidized or provided at a nominal fee “Learn to Skate” programs and “Introduction to Hockey” programs need to be offered to capture more family’s interest and participation.
More initiatives like the Comrie’s Sports Equipment Bank, recently launched in Calgary, need to be created across the country. The Equipment Bank is a not – for – profit organization. Russell Gillespie, the General Manager of the Calgary program states “We are trying to breakdown financial barriers between kids and their chosen sport”. “We encourage anyone…to get in contract with us to help as many kids as possible…help them play.” For additional information visit www.comriessportsequipmentbank.org

Address Visible Minorities and Changing Demographics

Canadian families are having fewer children. According to recent Health Canada information, the Canadian fertility rate is 1.5 children per woman aged 15 to 49 which is well below the replacement rate of 2.1. This is considered among the lowest birth rates in the world.
We are living in an ever changing society where other sports, digital gadgets, youthful pressures from schools and part – time jobs take precedence over the game of hockey. With respect to other sports more and more children have been gravitating to sports such as soccer where the participation costs for registration, travel and equipment are significantly lower than those for hockey.
Declining interest from a changing population. Low birth rates in Canada are being offset by a steady flow of immigration from non-hockey playing countries. Statistics Canada data from 2006 states that among recent arrivals of immigrants, only 32% of their children participate in organized sports compared to 55% of those of Canadian born parents. Canada will have up to 14.4 million persons belonging to a visible minority group by 2031, more than double the 5.3 million reported in 2006. The rest of the population, in contrast, is expected to increase by less than 12 %. Today, in Toronto over 40% of the population consists of immigrants; in Calgary that number is nearly 30 %.
Conversely, second generation Canadians are far more willing to put their kids in hockey because even though they may not have played the game they have been surrounded by it most of their lives. Parents who have participated in hockey take a more hands on approach with their kids because they can relate to it and both child and parent share in the enjoyment of the game. Attracting immigrants to the game is a core component to keeping the registration numbers up. Minor hockey ads showing ethnic kids and their role models to promote the game and having fun is a key requirement.
Our governing hockey bodies need to produce educational and promotional materials in different languages and put on more hockey seminars to educate people, especially parents, about the game. Hockey Canada has looked at technology to translate its promotional literature into 17 different languages. It’s a critical task.
Minor hockey is dying in many small Canadian communities. As more and more families leave small towns to pursue job opportunities in urban centres, the population continues to decline and the numbers of kids playing hockey is getting lower and lower. This requires amalgamation of rural associations to ice a complete team or teams which results in extended travel and extra associated costs. These costs need to be subsidized.

Subsidizing Hockey from All Levels of Governments

All levels of government must support subsidizing hockey and sports in general. Governments see the value of keeping kids active. There’s a linkage between activity and health care. All levels of government need to step up and work together (team work) to lower costs and make playing hockey more affordable to enable kids to be more active. Lower ice costs to the individual minor hockey associations can be directly passed on to individual participants via reduced registration fees each year.
This is the philosophy of the Swedish government where it only cost $1,000 to play hockey from August 1st to June 30th. All kids, rich or poor, are given an opportunity to excel at the highest level.
 
 Continued Next Week...

Posted by Rex Tucker | Post a Comment

Date: 25/9/2014 9:12 PM UTC

KidSport Calgary is proud to announce that we have partnered with Comrie’s Sports Equipment Bank.

Comrie’s Sports Equipment Bank was set up to help get qualified kids into sport by outfitting them in equipment from head to toe at no cost. The focus in 2014 will be on hockey equipment with the plan to expand into other sports in the spring.

It is staffed by one, General Manager Russell Gillespie and he is currently looking for volunteers to help him on Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s and Thursday’s from 10:00am to 2:00pm. He is looking for ongoing commitments as well as shift pick-ups. Your tasks will range from assisting with outfitting kids to assisting with organizing the equipment storage room.

If you are interested in volunteering or know someone who is, please call Russell at 403-569-1172 and you are welcome to check out the website to gather more information, http://www.comriessportsequipmentbank.org/

Please note, since you will be working with kids, a police check is required and once you connect with Russel he will be happy to arrange for you to receive one.

Posted by Rex Tucker | Post a Comment

Date: 19/9/2014 10:49 PM UTC



One of the most important traits for a good coach is strong leadership skills. It’s the coach’s responsibility to help his or her players develop and perform to each of their highest potential. Servant leadership has proven to be an effective method to increase team performance. When the coach serves to make his individual players better, the result is each player is more engaged in the overall outcome of the team’s success. The word “DELIVER” can be used as an acronym to develop a clear structure and get high performance results.

D – Dedicate time and efforts to make the most of all the players. Each player has a unique personality and skill set. Know their strengths and weaknesses and determine their best role on the team for overall success. Make each player’s role on the team important.

E – Educate each player to the best method of improving his or her game. Players must be encouraged to be “students of the game”. Continuous learning is a requirement at all levels of sports. The team is only as strong as its weakest link. Work harder to get better!

L – Learn how your players learn best. Is the player a visual learner, auditory or tactile learner?         Visual is seeing the skill in progress, auditory is to hear the commands, talk about the drill and   tactile  - hands on practice. Find out the best way to take each individual player to the next level of skill development.

I – Intervene – step in and offer special attention if a player on the team seems to have a particular problem and at times struggling with a skill. Individual attention can help immensely in the player having a break through to getting better at a particular skill or part of the game.

V – Validate when the players are doing the proper exercise to increase the skill level. Have a critical eye and correct bad habits. Encourage the proper way and instill proper technique and good practice ways.

E – Empower – continue to give the players the positive reinforcement they need to ramp up the newly learned skills. When players feel good they are more confident and confidence is so important to having athletic success whether at the novice or professional levels. 

R – Reinforce after each game, remember to reinforce the positives of the game, what each player has contributed to that game. Look for the good elements to help create a positive team atmosphere. Continuously building on small successes will facilitate bigger overall successes. Badger Bob Johnson, a former Calgary Flames coach was a master of finding the positives even if this team lost a game 7 to 1! He was very passionate about hockey and keeping things positive!

So coaches take the “DELIVER” approach with your players and you will find that your athletes are developing their skills, feeling good, enjoying the sport, while working together towards overall team successes. This approach will provide a positive learning environment and players will continue to use their enhanced skills in their on ice performance game in and game out to get to the next level.

Posted by Rex Tucker | Post a Comment

Date: 6/8/2014 2:47 PM UTC


Posted by Rex Tucker | Post a Comment

Date: 30/7/2014 4:06 PM UTC



To be described as fearless one may think of a superhero. But embracing change, facing adversity head on, not being afraid to falter and step outside one’s comfort zone is also heroic. 

How you handle adversity can be a great learning experience. To conquer your adversity is to overcome it before it starts. Don’t let fear paralyze you!

Adversity can enter your life in many forms. Adversity can afflict on occasion your personal, family, or work throughout your lifetime.  You may encounter sorrow, troubles, misfortune, hardship, distress or misery from time to time. It will happen to everyone. No one escapes it. But it is how you react to the situation not the situation that is the key. Adversity doesn’t last!  Remember this too shall pass! 

When you face adversity around you remember stay strong to yourself and love the ones dear to you. Remember there are lessons to be learned about life and living. It’s in the difficult times of life when you learn the most about yourself and about living. It is not during the easy, pleasant, the good times of your life!

Learning comes in many forms and you must be able to recognize adverse times as opportunities to learn and grow.  When you do face adversity, step back, taking a macro-cosmic view, looking at the very large picture. Your misfortunes will not last – stay positive and determined to see and experience a better tomorrow.  Assess the situation with objectivity and decide what your next action will be to overcome this situation. Try to think clearly and not let your emotions cloud your better judgment and thought process. Stay calm and carry on!

As you gauge the matter or situation, remember this experience too will teach you a valuable lesson. It will strengthen your mind and being for the future. You will grow and get better! You will overcome this adversity – strong timbers grow in strong breezes!  Bad things and times can often happen to good people but they will not last.  A strong will power and positive spirit will prevail for you to experience and live a better tomorrow! 

Posted by Rex Tucker | Post a Comment

Date: 23/7/2014 5:08 PM UTC



Many parents start coaching hockey when their first child begins to play. After attending an early season weekend coaching certification course they begin their journey. For many rookie coaches they will follow their son or daughter through the minor hockey system from Timbits, to Novice, to Atom etc.

I started teaching the 6 to 7 year old age group back in 1997 during my early power skating days in the Czech Republic. Based on my experiences, I wish to share a few pointers on what I have learned and incorporated into my teaching over the past 18 years on the ice.

For starters, one of my favorite age groups is the 6 to 7 year old Timbits / Novice level. It’s so rewarding to witness first hand the improvement in player’s skills, their love of hockey grow on a session to session basis and witness the smiles on their faces! However, on many occasions it can be a very challenging task teaching this age and skill level! Why? Like Forrest Grump’s quote – “You never know what you are going to get!” Some days the kids are awesome – they are eating out of the palm of your instructional hand - paying attention i.e. watching and listening. But there are other days when they are indeed a handful – lacking attention, focus and commitment to skill development. They are kids! I have learned over the years as an instructor - always go on the ice being focused and well prepared; otherwise it will be a valuable lesson in the art of teaching. You will have your hands full indeed and the coaching experience and / or results will not be so rewarding.

First and foremost, what I have learned is that on ice instruction for this age group requires a great deal of patience and the ability to be repetitive. If I had a dollar for every time I have said “Keep your head up”, “Bend your knees” or “Keep your stick on the ice” I would be a very wealthy man. However, it’s important to remember that they are only 6 or 7 years old in their physical, mental and emotional development. Often on ice instructors, coaches and parents need to lower their expectations of what the kids can handle for hockey advancement on a daily basis.

There are often many factors beyond your control in this vocation. Over the years, the Tucker Hockey staff has discovered that many players show up at the rink and can be challenged by any of following:


  • Equipment that does not fit properly especially skates, sticks too long, improper skate sharpenings etc. which endures performance.
  • Lack of a good meal. Players of all ages need proper nutrition and good calories to spend energy.
  • Lack of a good night’s sleep. Player’s need proper rest to enjoy and perform well on the ice.
  • Home and / or school issues can distract players and their enjoyment of the sport.
  • Hyper personality from too much video games being played in their spare time.
  • Sometimes it’s the parent’s wish not the child’s desire to be on the ice. It’s important for parents to listen to their child and understand what activities their child wants to do and enjoy. Do they desire more or less hockey?
  • Also many 6 to 7 year-olds are physically ready, but some kids are not ready because they lack the emotional maturity, to participate in a group hockey program.


This past season I conducted a power skating team session with a Novice minor team. The kids lacked focus, and where quite hyper on the ice. One of the novice team coaches said jokingly “Maybe they are off their meds!” Never thought of it in this way… but there may be a little truth to this statement for some players especially after school during the late afternoon 4 pm team practice ice sessions.

We enjoy and preserve what we love
We love what we understand
We understand because we have been taught
The Tucker Hockey Way!

The Tucker Hockey Way has been to provide a positive and fun learning environment for the kids. The role of the instructors is to teach skating, hockey skills, life skills, and to have fun in the process so as to instill and grow the love of the game. There’s an art and science to connecting with the kids and helping them improve on their skating and hockey skills. It’s a balancing act to teach skating skills, not get too serious and make it an enjoyable experience.

Often we will start teaching a skill and see how long we can work on the skill before we have to change things up! 2 repetitions or 3 repetitions, 1 length of the ice or 2 lengths of the ice of skating, 5 minutes or 10 minutes of skill development. It’s like squeezing juice from an orange. We will see how much we can get out of the group today!  Work on 5 to 10 minutes of skill development and than switch to a fun skating game such as hockey soccer, British bull dog, gorilla drill, battle ship, relay races, tennis ball scrimmage etc. We are always trying to adapt and to be flexible because the group dynamics change from one on ice session to another.

 Here are a few coaching tips that we have employed in our programs to be successful.


  • Name tags on the helmets – it helps to mention player’s names when instructing them
  • Brief intro: of instructors and chat prior to the start of each session
  • Effective communication requires short chats with simple direct language
  • Instructor down on both knees at eye level when talking to the kids, shoulder to shoulder
  • Players have their stick up -  butt end on the ice /  players on one knee
  • Gentle Approach, captivate their interest, instill good values – discipline, respect, work hard and do their best. Instilling good values at an early age is very important.
  • Ask them the odd question to keep them engaged.
  • Keep them active – very little standing around. Explain the drill, demo the drill and get them practicing the drill, correct as they go.
  • Water break every 10 minutes
  • Provide a variety of drills but give them time to play throughout the session.
  • Good hockey stance, strong edge control and balance - the core fundamentals - at this age.
  • Progression for technical skills – it starts with skating fundamentals, progresses to puck control, to passing and then to shooting.
  • Try to improve their skills to do well at the next level – Atom etc.
  • Smile, avoid being too serious or too intense – don’t scare the kids.
  • Avoid negative feedback, lots of praise and positive reinforcement helps learning.
  • Raise your voice to get their attention but a constant diet of yelling gets stale
  • Minimum instructor to player ratio of 1 to 5.
  • High energy – players feed off your energy and mood
  • No sliding on the ice – safety first
  • Notice kids who do a drill correctly and let them demo to the group. Kids want to be noticed and recognized – it helps them pay attention. Their parents like it too!
  • The weaker skating skills include stopping, outside edge control and backward skating. Parents especially love to see their child improve in these areas for sure.
  • Gradual pace - baby steps with more progressions, teaching falling and getting up properly.
  • We often randomly give out most improved helmet stickers to players after each session. They like the recognition and they pay attention and work harder as a result.
  • High 5 the players after each session before going off the ice
  • Praise the kids for a good job well done! Wish them well! Show them you care!


Since 1999, Tucker Hockey has a formula that works, with proven results.  Kids need to feel comfortable on the ice, to be themselves, to be relaxed so that they can listen, watch, and learn. Players will often fall down during the skating drills again and again. We often say you can fall down…we want to see more players falling…it shows that you are trying hard to learn and to improve. But if you fall down you must get up faster than you fall down! Kids need to be instilled with a thirst to learn, to want to come to the rink and to be upset if they can’t. It’s important to have a gentle approach...not to be too intense and end up turning the kids off. It’s so important for player’s to pay attention – to watch and listen in order to maximize their opportunity for advancement. However, not all kids learn the same way, some learn by listening, some by watching, and all by doing. We often use the expression “It’s like throwing a pizza against the wall… more sticks for some kids than others!” It is what it is… have to keep our expectations realistic.

Often parents will ask me what their son or daughter need to work on? My reply “Everything!” at this age level. A player may be a top skater at the Novice level compared to his peers but will he or she be a top skater at the Atom, Peewee, Bantam, Midget or Junior A levels compared to his peers? It’s important to keep working on the skills if a player wishes to progress and excel in the years to follow. A player needs to grow the desire to work hard, to learn to get better.  We want to ensure that we have a positive influence on their skating skill development and love for the game. A better skater becomes a better hockey player. When you become a more accomplished hockey player, you become more successful, and therefore have more fun playing the game.

Bottom line for Tucker Hockey, it’s not about getting players to the NHL, rather it’s about instilling a love for the game, to enhance skating and hockey skills, and to make a “difference” in the life of a child.

Posted by Rex Tucker | Post a Comment

Date: 3/7/2014 4:36 PM UTC



For decades many hockey experts and fans have discussed and debated the size of the hockey rink dimensions. Is the standard NHL rink 200 feet by 85 feet too small? Should the NHL expand all the rinks to international size 200 feet by 100 feet to make the games more exciting? Expansion would allow an additional 3,000 feet of playing space but it would be a very costly league venture.

For years, I have been one of the believers and advocates that big ice is better for the game. I always felt the big ice allows the more skilled players to showcase their many talents. But I have to honestly admit after watching the 2014 Olympic hockey tournament that I was definitely wrong! The majority of the games in the tournament were played like soccer on ice. The Olympic hockey was a different style of hockey with a very defensive coaching philosophy; of trying not to lose rather than attempting to win. Sure there were at times moments of tension and drama - close games - but it truly lacked the excitement of NHL playoff hockey. Much like a billiard game – not what you make but it seemed what you leave appeared to be the norm throughout the tournament. Often the games displayed very tight defensive hockey – choking defensive hockey – a chess style game on ice!

Many of the European teams such as Finland, Czechs, Slovakia, and especially Switzerland and Denmark played a no flow - trapping style of play - with very little pressure and mostly containment in mind. No fore-checking pressure, often a 1 - 4 system, 1 - 3 - 1 system or worst at times 5 players inside the centre ice red line. Even the powerful Russian team were playing a trapping style at times! Even though many players on the lower rated European teams did not play in the NHL, they all possessed supreme skating skills. Players played smart positional hockey on the larger ice surface with very little body checking. The Finish team especially had many supreme skaters and played exceptionally well without the puck.

Canada dominated Sweden in the probably the best team defensive performance ever played to win the Gold medal with a 3 to 0 score. Bravo to Coach Babcock and his coaching staff on their game plan and execution! It was defence first with tremendous overall team speed, puck possession domination and short 35 to 40 second shifts throughout the tournament. All the players understood and executed the team system and were very unselfish to play a total 200 foot team game – taking backside pressure to another level for the game of hockey. Canada surrendered only 3 goals in 6 games, the fewest allowed by a gold medalist since 1928. Canada also scored only 17 goals, the fewest by a gold medal-winning team in Olympic history. For star NHL players it was a big adjustment to play only 12 to 15 minutes a game when they normally play 22 to 25 with their club teams.

Basically 2 on 1’s, 3 on 2’s were non existent of a dinosaur variety on most occasions throughout the tournament! Team Canada found themselves in the opponent’s zone attacking 2 on 5 or 3 on 5 and in order to generate offense the coaches had to activate their defensemen into the rush such as Weber or Doughty to generate enough offense to create scoring opportunities and win. Teams were conscious to keep players outside the dots. On the international ice the neutral zone is bigger while the offensive zone is smaller than on the NHL size surface. Team Canada had to work hard to get scrams in the net zone area and pucks to the net on a consistent basis. It was difficult to create offense plays and get to the prime scoring area in front of the net. Often the majority of shots were generated from the blue line from the team’s defensemen.

On the men’s side, the most entertaining game was the USA vs. Russia game which featured tremendous skill, flow and excitement that ended in a dramatic USA shootout win. Overall the Olympic hockey had its tight hockey moments of tension, drama with some moments of excitement. By far the best game of the Winter Olympics was the thrilling and unbelievable come from behind 3 to 2 win by Canada over the U.S.A. in the women’s gold medal contest. That was awesome hockey to watch! What a game!

Even with Canada winning double Gold which was awesome to see I personally felt Olympic hockey was a bit of a let down for overall entertainment and excitement.
So I humbly must say I now will take NHL playoff hockey on the smaller ice any day over the less than exciting Olympic tournament style of play on the bigger ice! Is it the size of the ice surface or the style of play implemented by national coaches to try and win or be competitive at this level? You be the judge. But Coach Rex, I am sorry to say is no longer a fan of the big ice game but I still hope the 2014 World Hockey Championship in Belarus this May will generate some exciting hockey to watch! Let’s keep the faith! Go Canada Go!!

Posted by Rex Tucker | Post a Comment

Date: 12/6/2014 9:07 PM UTC



Dear Friends,

The Kids Hockey Advancement Society was created to provide an opportunity for children to play, develop their skating and hockey skills and to participate in organized hockey – the nation’s greatest sport. The benefit to these children in terms of physical fitness, mental health and well-being and social development are significant and well- documented. The benefits to society as these children mature into exemplary and responsible citizens are even more significant.

The Kids Hockey Advancement Society’s 7th Annual Fundraising Golf Tournament, is scheduled for Monday, September 15th, 2014, at Lakeside Golf Club in Chestermere.

The money raised in 2014 will be used again to donate a large portion to KidSport of Calgary; in addition the Society will fund various grassroots activities in the hockey community. The Society is planning to raise an estimated $60,000 this year via our Annual Golf Tournament.  It will cost the Society an estimated $35,000 to raise this amount.

We are asking for your support with this fun golf tournament. Your participation in this event will contribute to the success of this valued fundraiser.

Support the Society By:
Donating Live Auction Items
Donating Silent Auction Items
Donating prizes to be given away to Foursomes, Proxy Hole Winners or 50/50 Ticket Purchasers
Donating swag that can be added to our Golfer Hospitality Gift Bags – 100 Golfers Total
Be one of our Valued Sponsors & Golf for Free!
Get a Foursome together and enjoy a great day on the Links!

For more information, please visit our website at www.kids-hockey.ca or call Christyne at 403-998-5035.

Posted by Rex Tucker | Post a Comment

Date: 23/5/2014 12:39 AM UTC



On Friday April 11th I attended the last Calgary Flames home game of the regular season against the Winnipeg Jets. The Flames lost the game to the Jets 5 to 3. Calgary Flames defenseman Kris Russell received 1st star honours and Sean Monahan was named 3rd star of the game respectively. These two players are a sample of the new and bright faces of the franchise. The Calgary Flames displayed a “Great Will to Compete” throughout the long 82 game schedule. The team made some very promising strides in a rebuilding year. Many experts predicted the Flames to finish last this season in the NHL.  However, the team played a very competitive and entertaining brand of hockey setting an NHL record with 49 - 1 goal games!

Reflecting back on the season, Coach Bob Hartley delivered a refreshing puck pressure, higher tempo, and more entertaining brand of hockey for Flames fans. The Calgary Flames identity consisted of improved fitness levels, improved work ethic and stronger team chemistry than previous teams. It’s a true testament to Bob Hartley and his dedicated coaching staff. Bravo gentlemen for a job well done! Coach Hartley displayed a very demanding and savvy coaching style. He will probably not receive many votes for the Jack Adams - Coach of the Year Award but he did a stellar job during his first full season with the club. The team became younger, faster, with a little more size, played more physical and showed more grit. Overall the team made some great strides to becoming a playoff contender in the next year or so.  

But after not making the playoffs for the 5th season in row, the Calgary Flames organization will have some important questions to answer to accelerate the rebuilding of this franchise and bring back a winning team to the city. Here are a few thoughts that come to mind. I am sure you have many others!

What is the main goal of the Flames organization?

President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke recently hired Brad Treliving has their new General Manager. Trevliving, 44 served as assistant GM of the Phoenix Coyotes for the past 7 seasons and oversaw their AHL affiliate in Portland. He has been Assistant GM for Team Canada at the IIHF world championship. As well, he previously served as President of the Central Hockey League and President and Director of Hockey Operations for the Western Professional Hockey League, which he founded. The next step is to hire an Assistant General Manager.

With the Flames hockey department rounding into shape, the Flames mission is to continue to develop their young talent both on the team and on the farm. Their objective is to fight for a playoff spot next season. This past season the Flames employed 44 different players in the line up! Injuries to the veterans Cammalleri, Glencross, Giordano, Wideman, Stajan and David Jones etc. did not help the Flames' cause. But when in the line-up each player contributed to the overall success of the team. No one really had a bad season. The Flames have many good young players on the team in Monahan, Backlund, Brodie, with top prospects Johnny Gaudreau, Bill Arnold, Sven Baertschi, Markus Granlund, Max Reinhart, Tyler Wotherspoon, Mark Jankowski and Kenny Agostino. The future is igniting for the Flames. With some salary cap room to play with (approximately $25 M+) the hockey operations department will continue to mould the team to Burke’s philosophy and Coach Hartley’s likings. Next season’s salary cap is estimated at $68 Million and the floor at $50 million and the Flames' owners seem prepared to max the cap if necessary.

What to do with the goaltending situation?

It was a major burning question at the start of last season after the retirement of Kipper but not so much for next year. At the conclusion of the season Karri Ramo appears to have the vote of confidence to be the No: 1 goalie next season. RFA’S Joni Ortio and Oliver Roy plus Joey MacDonald UFA’s will probably battle for the backup role  depending on who gets re-signed .The Flames improved their overall team defence from 29th - 2nd worst goals against in the league in 2013 to 23rd in 2014. Looks like Joni Ortio will probably back-up Karri Ramo next season.

What Free Agents do the Flames re-sign?

The most significant Flames restricted free agents with last season’s salary in brackets are TJ Galiardi  ($1,250,000), Chad Billins ($925,000), Ben Hanowski ($900,000), Paul Byron ($643,500), Oliver Roy ($628,333), Joni Ortio ($617,500), Joe Colborne ($600,000), Mark Cundari ($600,000), and Lance Bouma ($577,500). The most important re-signings for the Flames are Colborne, Byron and Bouma. Colborne really developed on the wing after his move off centre. Byron showed his speed and penalty killing abilities while Bouma displayed his grit, shot blocking and hard work every shift this season.

The most significant unrestricted free agents with last season’s salary in brackets are Mike Cammalleri ($6,000,000), Chris Butler ($1,700,000), Joey MacDonald ($925,000), Derek Smith ($775,000), Kevin Westgath ($725,000), Blair Jones ($650,000) Ben Street ($575,000), and Chris Breen ($577,500). The two most significant UFA’s are Cammalleri and Butler. It looks like Cammalleri will test the free agent market this summer. They may replace Butler on the blue-line with one of their up and coming defenseman. Wotherspoon is a good candidate.

Who do they pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft?

For the first time over the past 25+ years the Flames will pick in the top 5 of the NHL Entry draft. This year they will pick 4th overall. They need to draft someone who can make the roster now. Sean Monahan, last year’s 6th pick was a gem of a selection and scored 22 goals in his rookie season. They need another great selection. It looks like it will be either Sam Bennett, Centre, Kingston, 6’ and 178 pounds or Michael Dal Colle, Centre, Oshawa,  6’1”, 179 pounds. Both listed at Centre but can play left-wing. Bennett has good size, toughness and skill package and Dal Colle is another prospect with size and skill with a great shot. I believe the Flames will take Bennett over Dal Colle if he is available come the 4th pick… either prospect will be a winner. Both Centre Sam Reinhart and Defenseman Aaron Ekblad should be selected in the top 2 and will not be available to the Flames.

Will they aggressively pursue the free agent market?

The Flames are becoming a better team and therefore Calgary is a better city to attract future free agent talent. This year’s free agent crop includes the following: Marian Gaborik, Thomas Vanek, Ryan Callahan, Derek Roy, Dave Bolland, Matt Moulson, Milan Michalek, Mason Raymond, Dustin Penner, Dany Heatley, Steve Dowie and Steve Ott; just to name a few. Also, goalies Jonas Hillier and Martin Brodeur are available. Do they go after one or two free agents to add valuable skill and experience to help a youthful roster? Definitely; the team could sure use an accomplished veteran winger especially if Cammalleri does not re-sign with the club.

In Conclusion:

The Calgary Flames made some tremendous strides last season to steer the franchise in the right direction. They were competitive each and every game out. The home record is getting better 19 - 19 - 3, but the team still needs to make the Saddledome a tougher place to play in every night. The strength of the Flames team is with their defensive core of Giordano, Russell, Brodie, Smid, Wideman, and Butler. Now with so many good young prospects, will they trade Wideman to acquire a good experienced forward or let Butler go to the free agent market? With so many up and coming young players and prospects in the system, Flames' fans are in store for some very entertaining hockey in the years ahead. The worst days are behind now! The Flames will continue to inject more youth, speed, physicality and grit into their line up. Say tuned. It will be a very interesting off season as the Flames management and coaches tackle the ongoing rebuilding process. Again time and patience will be two key words for next season, but the franchise is certainly heading in the right direction.

Posted by Rex Tucker | Post a Comment

Date: 16/4/2014 2:36 PM UTC

Tucker Hockey is excited to announce the creation of the Tucker Hockey Club Membership!

Club Members get exclusive access to discounts on group programs, 1-on-1 and private sessions, discounts from partnered businesses, discounts off Tucker Hockey Brand Apparel, access to purchase 2015 World Junior Tickets held in Toronto & Montreal - both arenas on the blue line, Front Row in Montreal, Row 4 in Toronto! And many other exclusive discounts only available for Club Members!

For more details visit us online at: http://www.tuckerhockey.com/clubmembership.asp

Sign Up Today: http://www.tuckerhockey.com/ecommerce/tucker-hockey-membership.asp

Posted by Rex Tucker | Post a Comment

 

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