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Flames extinguished by injuries, poor finish

Monday, 04.09.2012 / 1:26 PM / Season in Review

By Aaron Vickers - NHL.com Correspondent

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Flames extinguished by injuries, poor finish
The Calgary Flames were extinguished by injuries and a poor finish in 2011-12.
What happened?

CALGARY FLAMES

LEADING SCORER
RW Jarome Iginla
GOALS: 32 | ASST: 35 | PTS: 67
SOG: 251 | +/-: -10
TOP GOALIE
G Miikka Kiprusoff
RECORD: 35-22-11
GAA: 2.35 | SVP: 0.921
TOP ROOKIE
D TJ Brodie
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 12 | PTS: 14
SOG: 44 | +/-: 3
TEAM MVP
Miikka Kiprusoff
SURPRISING STAT
One of the contributing reasons for finishing out of the playoffs for a third consecutive season, the Flames lost 16 games in overtime or the shootout (tied for second-worst), including 10 on home ice (tied for worst).

Much of what was expected. Heading into the season, the Flames were expected to be one of the teams battling for few precious spots near the bottom of the Western Conference playoff chase. In what has become a seemingly annual tradition, Calgary was slow out of the gate, winning just eight of the team’s first 21 games to start the season. The Flames saw a resurgence in the middle portion of the schedule, despite being decimated by injury after injury that eventually accumulated into 389 man-games lost during the campaign.

Their play in spite of those setbacks gave hope to a team that was expected to compete until the final days of the regular season. But with just two regulation wins in their final 11 games of the season – and one after being officially eliminated - despite returning key members to the lineup, the Flames absolutely collapsed down the stretch. Scoring just 15 goals in the nine games leading up to their elimination, including a combined three from leading goal-scorers Jarome Iginla, Curtis Glencross and Olli Jokinen, playoff aspirations were crushed earlier then hoped and sent Calgary home with their lowest point total since earning just 75 in 2002-03.

How to fix it?

There is no quick fix for the Calgary Flames, a team with an aging core that has knocked on the doors of a playoff berth but hasn’t been able to walk through in three seasons. During their playoff drought, the Flames have spent close the cap ceiling without getting the desired result. The good news for Calgary though, is the fact the team has six unrestricted free agents coming off the books and another three restriction free agents to make decisions on.

This cap and roster flexibility can help speed up a retooling process in Calgary. Should they see the need for a complete rebuild, the Flames can take it to the extreme by shipping out Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff – two assets whose value will likely diminish over the remaining years on their contract.

Whether or not Calgary has any interest in moving their top marquee players or not remains to be seen, but if the Flames don’t feel as though they will be competitive in the coming seasons, a change of scenery for the duo could be in order. With the return on two of the game’s best, the Flames could set themselves up for the future.

Three reasons for hope:

1. Because of their injury woes, the Flames saw an influx of youthful talent impress at the NHL level. As a result, defenseman TJ Brodie (21 years old) and forward Lance Bouma (22), both earned the opportunity of a full-time gig after injuries receded. Roman Horak (20) made his professional debut with the Flames after making the club out of training camp, while Sven Baertschi (19) had a dazzling debut in his five-game stint as an emergency recall from the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL.

2. Previously tied up by a number of long-term contracts, general manager Jay Feaster will finally have some flexibility to mold the team in his own fashion after inheriting the club from Darryl Sutter in December of 2010. With nearly $14 million coming off the books and an influx of youth remaining on entry-level contracts, the Flames can re-fashion the team for a quick retool if they feel the club is just a few key components away from challenging in an ultra-competitive Western Conference.

3. Smarter drafting over the course of the past few drafts will finally start coming to fruition at the pro level. The Flames have already seen the positive sides of youngsters Brodie, Bouma and Baertschi – whom will play a significant role in any success Calgary yields next season. The likes of Max Reinhart and Michael Ferland, two of the WHL’s best, will play their first pro season with the Abbotsford Heat while duo John Gaudreau and Bill Arnold will continue to develop at Boston College. Sprinkle in Calgary’s first round pick from 2012 and the future is flickering once again for the Flames.

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He's able to play now, we just want to see other guys. We know what he can do.

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