Aging Iginla needs his crew

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:05 AM ET

Jarome Iginla has spent years carrying the Calgary Flames.

He canít do it any more.

Not by himself.

Iginla still must remain a star player for the club while its flickering playoff hopes remain alive, but itís become obvious he needs the supporting cast more than ever in order for the Flames to win on a regular basis.

As much as fans may want to believe the captain remains the same player who was so instrumental in the thrilling journey to the Stanley Cup final of 2004 and a trip to the playoffs every season after, Iginla can no longer be that player every night.

By no means is this an indictment of what heís done for the Flames.

Far from it.

Itís just that with 1,006 NHL regular-season games on the odometer, Iginla doesnít have as much in the engine.

Look at the stats.

Through 64 games heading into Sundayís matinee affair against the Minnesota Wild, Iginla has collected 27 goals, 31 assists and a plus-2 rating.

It placed him 15th among all NHLers in goals and 24th in points prior to Saturdayís action. Those numbers are certainly nothing to scoff at, but theyíre an indication of what Father Time does to a player ó any player ó as he approaches his 33rd birthday, especially one whose game all these years has been more crashing and banging than dipsy-doodling.

Remember, this is the man who battled best through the NHLís clutch-and-grab era, twice racked up 50-goal seasons, led the league in goals and points in 2001-02 and was almost superhuman through the 2004 playoff run.

Those hard miles, combined with his style of play, have added up to plenty of wear and tear.

Which is where the rest of the Flames must come in to alleviate the strain.

Itís high time for them to stop looking for Iginla to make that big play or score that big goal before they are kicked into gear.

Fridayís 5-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils was a perfect example of that team-wide attack needed now.

Five different players were goal-scorers ó one from each line during five-on-five play plus a shorthanded goal courtesy Curtis Glencross.

Eleven different skaters registered one point each.

Itís that kind of effort the Flames must have to punch a ticket to the post-season.

Anything short, and it will be just a pipe-dream.

After last season, he was disappointed to realize he went through 32 of the

82 games over the course of the season without a point.

That total, through 64 games this winter, is at 27. In those games this season, the teamís record is 9-13-5 ó but four of those victories came at the expense of the last-place Edmonton Oilers.

As much as the captain remains the straw to stir the drink, the time has come for the rest of the Flames to make things happen on their own.

This team canít afford for players such as Daymond Langkow to go a quarter-season without scoring a goal. They canít make the playoffs with the likes of Ales Kotalik and Niklas Hagman scoring only once every eight or nine games ó or in Christopher Higginsí case, not even at that pace ó which they have done since arriving in the Stampede City.

Every player on the Flames roster must ensure they do what they can to have the most impact possible on the teamís fortunes as the regular season gets down to the short strokes, and that includes Iginla.

But for all Iginla has achieved in the past, he deserves a complement of players whoíll step up in crunch time alongside him, not watch and wait.

Otherwise, they will all end up watching a playoff berth pass them by.


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