Mixed news day: Flames reveal Cervenka out indefinitely with a blood clot
Calgary’s centre position back in a state of flux
On a day of relative sunshine in the hockey world after 113 days of gloom, Jay Feaster gently broke some bad news Sunday to long-suffering fans of the Calgary Flames.
Roman Cervenka, widely considered one of the best players — if not the best — outside of the NHL in 2011/12, is out indefinitely with a blood clot.
Cervenka, 27, was pencilled in to centre one of the top two lines in Calgary. The Czech pivot is taking blood thinners, and transatlantic flight is not possible until the situation is under control.
He has not played for more than a month after being hit by a puck in a game with HC Lev Praha, of the Kontinental Hockey League.
“The doctors have to get that taken care of before he can be cleared to play,” Feaster said. “He’s not going to be cleared to participate. As far as when he gets here, when the doctors say he can play and whether he can fly – we don’t have answers to those things yet.
“But we expect to get them here in short order.”
It’s hard to underestimate the role the Flames envisioned this season for Cervenka. After all, the Feaster let 33-year-old Olli Jokinen (23 goals, 62 points) walk via free agency last summer in no small part due to the acquisition Jaromir Jagr’s former linemate in the KHL.
Paging Mikael Backlund, Blair Jones and Matt Stajan. Legitimate opportunity awaits — especially with a new boss at the helm in head coach Bob Hartley.
Remember: in any business, in any office, the presence of a fresh face in a position of power can totally change the dynamic for all involved.
“This is a brand new coaching staff,” Feaster said of Hartley, Jacques Cloutier and Martin Gelinas. “It’s a clean slate for everyone. There’s no one who comes in with any pre-conceived ideas that the coach thinks this about me or that about me. It’s a clean slate.
“It’s a fresh sheet of ice.”
It’s also a fresh set of faces for Flames fans ready to forget their bitterness over the 113-day lockout and throw their support back unequivocally behind their team.
Oh sure, plenty of the old guard is back including Iginla (in the final year of his contract at age 35), Alex Tanguay, 33, Cory Sarich, 34, and Miikka Kiprusoff, 36.
Enter defenceman Dennis Wideman, 29, and left wing Jiri Hudler, 29 — Feaster’s marquee free-agent signings (besides Cervenka) of last summer.
Hudler collected 25 goals and 50 points last year with the Detroit Red Wings.
“Hudler is a very skilled guy, a talented guy,” Feaster said. “Clearly, he’s a top-six forward and a guy who is going to play on our power-play, whether it’s the first unit or second, again depending on how Bob and his coaches want to deploy them.”
Speaking of the power-play, Wideman is expected to figure prominently on the back end.
Playing with Washington last season, the Kitchener, Ont. native registered 11 goals and 46 points in 82 games.
“He’s an offensive defenceman,” Feaster said. “He has a good shot. It’s a right-hand shot, which is something we need on our power-play and on our blue line. We’re excited about what he brings, and we think that’s going to help us from an offensive standpoint.”
After the Flames failed once again to make the playoffs in 2011/12, Feaster and his staff performed an exhaustive post-mortem and identified two key areas for improvement: skill and sandpaper.
With the signing of Cervenka, Hudler, and Wideman, Feaster figures the skill level is definitely higher than in 2011/12.
As for the sandpaper, well, that’s a work in progress.
“The only thing that we didn’t address — and we tried in the summer and weren’t able to do a deal for it before the work stoppage — was the physicality element,” Feaster said. “We still don’t have that the way we would like to.”
Not helping matters is the loss of Lance Bouma to a season-ending knee in Abbotsford.
“We felt he was going to be here,” Feaster said of the draft roster drawn up in September before the lockout. “You know, so now you take Booms out of the mix. So we are looking still looking at guys internally to step up. That would be the ideal situation. But at the same time, we will be talking to teams and seeing what teams will be doing.”
In other words, a trade is not out of the question.
C-NOTES . . .
Feaster expects to invite anywhere from 30-33 players to training camp, which could open some time this week. Steve Begin and Steve McCarthy are expected to attend on professional tryout offers. Centre Ben Street has earned a look with his performance in Abbotsford (nine goals, 25 points in 34 games.) G Leland Irving is expected to compete with Henrik Karlsson for the backup job in spite of playing just five games this year for the Heat.
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