It's not easy to miss the playoffs after you've lost only twice
in your first 21 games and have the NHL's best record a quarter
of the way through the season. But if there's one thing Calgary
has perfected, it's finding a way to sit out the postseason.
The Flames haven't been to the playoffs in six years, tying the
Lightning for the league's longest such streak. After the
13-2-4-2 start last season, Calgary stumbled badly (7-19-4-0 over
its next 30 matches), in part because of injuries to five
regulars, and finished 15 points out of a playoff berth.
"Overconfidence crept in after the start," says coach Greg
Gilbert. "A goal of ours is to maintain consistency and keep
One player who did that was right wing Jarome Iginla, who scored
a league-leading 52 goals in a breakout year. After the season
Iginla, who was a restricted free agent, was rewarded with a
two-year deal worth $13 million. "I imagine there will be more
pressure from the fans, but that's something I want," says
Iginla, 25, who also starred for Team Canada's gold-medal-winning
squad in Salt Lake City. "I want to be a superstar."
To take some of the pressure off Iginla, the Flames acquired
26-year-old center Chris Drury from the Avalanche last week.
Drury, a four-time 20-goal scorer, is a solid all-around
performer who's at his best in the clutch. The only other new
faces who might make an impact are rookies--defenseman Jordan
Leopold, who won the Hobey Baker Award last year, and right wing
Chuck Kobasew, who scored 41 goals in 55 games in juniors. "He's
got a good hockey head," Gilbert says of the 5'11", 195-pound
Kobasew. "He's got speed, but he's going to have to build his
Leopold, a 6-foot, 193-pound puck mover, also needs to get
stronger. "When you get a 240-pound forward setting up at the top
of the crease," says Gilbert, "you need to be strong to move him
Kobasew, 20, and Leopold, 22, should fit comfortably on a roster
filled with twentysomethings, who surely learned something from
last season's roller-coaster ride. "That year of experience is
invaluable," says Gilbert. "If our guys continue to grow, it'll
solidify our organization."
Just not enough to end the team's postseason drought.
COLOR PHOTO: GERRY THOMAS Jarome Iginla
Last season Jarome Iginla scored 11 of his 52 goals in the 20th
minute of a period. He was the only player in the league with
more than seven such scores.
CATEGORY SI RANKING SKINNY
OFFENSE 25 Little depth behind forceful scoring
DEFENSE 24 Young and aggressive; slot coverage
needs to improve
GOALTENDING 14 When Turek's hot, he's hot; when he's
SPECIAL TEAMS 24 PP can improve if Leopold is solid
MANAGEMENT 29 G.M. Button may not survive if team