As one of the most memorable pre-seasons in recent history draws to a close, Darryl Sutter announced that the Flames have released fan favourite and comeback kid Theo Fleury after inviting him to camp on a tryout basis earlier this month. Sutter said that he had an agreement in place with the former Flame that stated he would be released if he did not prove to be one of team's top-six wingers, without a deal in place with AHL affiliate Abbotsford.
Some are crying foul over Fleury being cut from the roster without being offered a contract with the Heat, but realistically, a fourty-one year old man with a one-year old daughter and a family probably does not want to spend seven plus months taking in the picturesque scenery of small-town North America and inhaling diesel fumes on a Greyhound bus. As good as Theo looked at times during pre-season play, accumulating four points and a +4 rating in four games, he has missed practice the past two days due to "maintenance" after playing three games in four nights.
How would he cope over an eighty-two game schedule that involves practice almost every day, back-to-back games, and long road trips stretching over different time zones? Moreover, the Flames are in the mist of a "youth movement" of sorts; the oldest player on the roster is Craig Conroy at thirty-eight with Kiprusoff, Iginla, and Langkow tied for a distant second at thirty-two years of age. After that, the average age of the roster is below thirty. Perhaps if Fleury was like Gary Roberts, who was only a year removed from the game and often lauded as the fittest player in the dressing room, things would be different.
At the end of the day, releasing Theoren Fleury was the right decision. He wanted a chance to prove he could still compete at the NHL level and was perhaps looking for closure after having his career unceremoniously ended by addiction, and that's what he got. While the Flames do have some question marks regarding their depth up front, I highly doubt Fleury would have been the answer.
With 27 players remaining in camp, the Flames must now concentrate on filling the remaining roster spots and preparing for the start of the regular season in six days' time. Fleury will hold a press conference on Monday to address his future, after taking a few days to "review this experience."No matter what path Theoren Fleury chooses next, he has made Flames fans proud and left us with nothing but fond memories. Hopefully he has left the current edition of the Flames with a lesson in determination, heart, and overcoming adversity. Thank you Theo, and good luck. We will never forget you.
Now let's put a stop to this before it gets too sappy...