Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fourth Line Depth, and the Consequence of Loyalty

As many of us have recently heard, Craig Conroy has signed on for one more year: A two-way deal at the league minimum. These Conroy extensions always seem to baffle me. Not because I don’t support the player, or his value to the team, but because this act of loyalty appears very out of character for Darryl Sutter. Usually, if a player comes in, misses 20-some games due to injury and racks up a meager 15 points, he is hardly given a second look. In Conroy’s case, the last two disappointing seasons have resulted in one-year extensions. This seems to be a recurring PR-type transaction, for a management team that cares very little about popular moves that would appeal to fans in any way. Conroy is a special guy, and a valuable support player. On a two-way deal, I can’t find many negatives in retaining this guy… but it does provide some interesting consequences.

In the last month, there have been several fourth line/AHL additions:

Raitis Ivanans – Phew, thank goodness we signed this guy 4 hours in to the start of Free Agency. A fighter, who hangs in there but doesn’t throw many punches. Very limited ability, outside of being gigantic.

Tim Jackman – Phew, thank goodness we signed this guy 4 hours in to the start of Free Agency. Very similar role to that of Ivanans. Tough for me to fathom signing two slow fighters (Ivanans, Jackman) on one-way contracts, and then explaining the moves by saying “we wanted guys that can play.” Does that not sound backwards to anyone else? I thought Brandon Prust and Fredrik Sjostrom were very effective fourth liners. But I suppose bigger and slower works too.

Ryan Stone – Speedy, gritty guy who has had an impact with very limited NHL exposure.

Brett Sutter – Well, he’s a Sutter. His skill set is less than impressive, but he works hard and serves as a great PK option.

John Armstrong – Plagued by injuries from day 1, but this guy has continued to impress when he’s actually able to lace ‘em up. While limited, he seems to have some offensive upside.

Stefan Meyer – Great Junior career. Recent AHL/NHL play resembles that of a speedy agitator, which could be of value to the big club.

Cam Cunning – Don’t know much about this guy, but he was the first Flame re-signed this offseason, so he must be doing reasonably well in Abbotsford.

Craig Conroy – Great PK ability, decent speed considering his age, and the most proven in that type of role.

With at least 8 fringe NHL role players signed for next season, it’s clear the Calgary Flames have some serous depth. Not the type of depth every team strives for, but some serious fourth line depth. Bringing Conroy back makes the picture even more foggy. So take and look, and let me know… how would you structure the fourth line? Who would be better suited in Abbotsford? And just how good looking is Raitis Ivanans on your 10-point scale? I’ll give him a generous 5. You’re welcome Raitis.

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