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22 CALGARY Flames
Kelley King
October 04, 1999
Who knew that Grant Fuhr would one day be the source of inspiration, rather than humiliation, for the Flames? Fuhr, who spent the better part of his 18-year goaltending career shutting down Calgary en route to winning five Stanley Cups in Edmonton, was acquired by the Flames from the Blues for a third-round draft choice on Sept. 4. The move was an act of desperation by beleaguered general manager Al Coates to raise the spirits—if not the steadily eroding ticket sales—of a franchise that has spent the last three years near the bottom of the Western Conference.
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October 04, 1999

22 Calgary Flames

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INSIDER

CATEGORY

SI RANKING

SKINNY

OFFENSE

21

Stillman, Bure, Iginla lead undistinguished group

DEFENSE

22

Sometimes too aggressive for its own good

GOALTENDING

17

If healthy, Fuhr still can be an impact goalie

SPECIAL TEAMS

23

Morris and Housley are top point men for power play

COACHING

21

Veteran staff gets best from this young team

Who knew that Grant Fuhr would one day be the source of inspiration, rather than humiliation, for the Flames? Fuhr, who spent the better part of his 18-year goaltending career shutting down Calgary en route to winning five Stanley Cups in Edmonton, was acquired by the Flames from the Blues for a third-round draft choice on Sept. 4. The move was an act of desperation by beleaguered general manager Al Coates to raise the spirits—if not the steadily eroding ticket sales—of a franchise that has spent the last three years near the bottom of the Western Conference.

The Flames, who were 30-40-12 last season, have been busy. They welcomed Fuhr, their 37-year-old erstwhile enemy, with open arms; traded (for better or worse) puck-hogging scoring leader Theo Fleury; and lost two unrestricted free agents, first-line center Andrew Cassels and starting goalie Ken Wregget. While Calgary boasts a veteran defense anchored by Steve Smith and Phil Housley, its offense is characterized by youth and inexperience. That can translate into an inability to execute: Witness a 12-game stretch last spring in which the Flames scored just 17 goals. At 29, Steve Dubinsky is Calgary's oldest forward; after 22-year-old wing Jarome Iginla, who had 28 goals last year, 25-year-old forward Cory Stillman (27 goals) is the Flames' most promising scoring threat.

"It would be a mistake to rely on one guy to come in and be the messiah," says Smith, Fuhr's former teammate with the Oilers. "But there's more confidence in our dressing room. Some had questioned our ability to win; now we believe we can." Such expectations put a huge weight on Fuhr's shoulders, which, like his recently rebuilt knees, are chronically aching. "A lot depends on how the body allows me to play," says Fuhr, who appeared in only 39 games for St. Louis last year, though he finished with a career-best 2.44 goals-against average. The backup net-minder is 26-year-old Fred Brathwaite, who had been playing with the Canadian national team last season when a series of injuries struck the Flames' goalies and the team was forced to sign him. In 28 games with Calgary, Brathwaite had a 2.45 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage.

The team's best chance to compete for a postseason spot, however, rests with the indefatigable Fuhr. Smith, for one, believes that "Fuhr has the ability to win a hockey game on his own." If goals needed only to be prevented and not scored, the Flames might have finally found their redeemer.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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