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24 Calgary
Team Page | 2002-2003 Schedule | Roster | 2001-2002 Player Stats | Arrivals and departures

To end a playoff drought, the young team has to learn to sustain its focus

By Mark Bechtel

Click for larger image
Jarome Iginla.  Lou Capozzola
SI Fast Fact
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.
SI Insider Rankings
Offense: 25
Little depth behind forceful scoring champ Iginla
Defense: 24
Young and aggressive; slot coverage needs to improve
Goaltending: 14
When Turek's hot, he's hot; when he's not ....
Special Teams: 24
PP can improve if Leopold is solid quarterback
Management: 29
G.M. Button may not survive if team misses playoffs

Sports Illustrated 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 focused."

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 strength."

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 out."

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.

Issue date: October 14, 2001