Hamrlik has been Flames' blueline liability
By ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun
Flames defenceman Roman Hamrlik. (SUN/Kevin Udahl)
After 82 regular season games, it appears Dion Phaneuf is finally
acting his age.
So, at age 32, what's Roman Hamrlik's excuse?
Three weeks removed from enjoying his first legal beer in the U.S.,
Phaneuf has spent the first four games of his NHL playoff career
somewhat lost in the intensity of it all. Called out by his coach
after Game 1, the kid who showed so much all season long has never
shown so little. He can be forgiven.
If he's done one thing particularly well this spring it's somehow
drawing attention away from the markedly worse play of his veteran
defence partner, Hamrlik.
Paid $3.5 million in the off-season to augment a veteran blueline
with his playoff experience and offensive abilities, Hamrlik has not
only misfired on the attack, he's been the team's biggest defensive
At a time when he should be helping the talented rookie rise to the
occasion, Hamrilk's stock has plunged to the point head coach Darryl
Sutter is progressively cutting back his responsibilities.
How soon he can get them back is up to the talented Czech native.
On the ice for Anaheim's only goal in the playoff opener, he took his
game to Trent Yawney-like depths in Game 2 when he was in the mix for
all four Ducks goals in the loss.
Despite having his ice time diminished for the fourth-straight game
Thursday, he still found himself on the ice for both Anaheim even-
strength markers, including the overtime winner.
Perhaps the most glaring mistake in a series full of embarrassments
came early in the second when he and Phaneuf were both caught a
little deep in Anaheim's zone, allowing rookie Ryan Getzlaf to speed
between them for a 150-ft. breakaway goal that swung the momentum in
this series back in the Ducks' favour.
All told, the man with a 13 years of NHL experience and 46 playoff
games has been on the ice for seven of Anaheim's 10 goals, while
chipping in one assist.
Both Hamrlik and Phaneuf are minus-six on the ledger.
Hamrlik's ice time has gone from almost 22 minutes a night to just
over 18 minutes as Sutter has since leaned on Andrew Ference and
Rhett Warrener to be his second unit behind top pair Robyn Regehr and
Incidentally, Ference has been called upon to pick up the most slack,
logging more ice time than any Flame the last three outings as a
special teams and regular-strength dynamo.
In a series sure to be decided by a margin slimmer than Nashville's
Cup chances, the club's blueline strength all season long will need
better performances from Hamrlik and Phaneuf if there is to be a
Round 2 'round here. At the very least, Phaneuf has a goal and has
tried to spark his team with a rare fight in Game 3 with Getzlaf,
followed by attempts to lure Corey Perry into a scrap in Game 4.
Hamrlik has been silent.
Of course, the incredibly resilient Flames still have home ice
advantage and there's ample opportunity for the Czech native to
return to form.
Odds are he will.
When weighing offers from several teams last summer, the man selected
first overall in 1992 chose Calgary because he saw it as his best
shot at his first Cup.
He put his faith in Sutter and the coach/GM responded by making him
the Flames second-highest paid player this year and next. (Yes, ahead
of Miikka Kiprusoff).
Four games into the playoffs, Sutter's investment is worth no more
than a Darren McCarty IOU.
Yet, somehow, young Phaneuf is the one being painted as the biggest