Long-time Calgary Flames forward Jarome Iginla, widely considered one of the best wingers in the NHL over the past 10 years, struggled mightily early in the 2010 season.
The 33-year-old power forward, who this year is looking to become just the ninth player in NHL history to score 30-plus goals in 10 consecutive seasons, had just three goals through his team's first 17 games.
Couple that statistic with the Flames' spot toward the bottom of the Western Conference standings, and rumors that Iginla would be shipped out of town to help his club rebuild developed, despite the fact that he's been in Calgary since he broke into the NHL in 1996 and led the club to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2003-04.
Leaving isn't something the Calgary captain, the heart and soul of his team, wanted.
"I've been in Calgary and really enjoyed it," Iginla said. "It's a great hockey city and we want to win. Right now we are going through a tough stretch. We are trying to battle our way out of it."
To his credit, Iginla did a good job of playing off the trade rumors.
"It's all part of it. I enjoy reading the sports and all those different things about those other guys. It's my turn to be in it," he quipped. "That's just the way it is.
"I'm just trying to stay focused and enjoy the game."
In the past couple weeks Iginla has got back to enjoying the game, and that started with Calgary management easing the 6-foot-1, 207-pounder's mind, stating that Iginla, who is under contract through the 2012-13 season, is going nowhere.
"There have been some things said, speculation from media and rumors," Calgary coach Brent Sutter said after the Flames' shootout win in Philadelphia on Friday. "It's never been stuff that's been discussed in our dressing room or amongst the team or anything like that because we know that's what it is, outside perception."
Thanks to some good luck, and the confidence gained from the front office, Iginla has responded recently, scoring six goals in the past six games to raise his season total to nine, all the while increasing his point total to 18, which is second on the team only to Alex Tanguay's 19. Iginla is now on pace to score just over 30 goals this season, which would be a major accomplishment considering how his season started.
"I feel a lot better," he said. "Early in the year, when you don't get off to a good start you start pressing. Everybody wants to do well and when you're not winning tight games you tense up a little bit, you hesitate a little bit out there. You think too much and then you don't move anymore. I kind of got back to skating and not thinking and just going. It's more just playing and not thinking and let the outcome take care of itself."
The Flames just wrapped up a five-game road-trip that started in Detroit and ended in Pittsburgh, and despite the fact that they only collected one win during the span, there is reason for optimism.
"Our habits have gotten better, our game has gotten better," Iginla said. "We haven't gotten all the results but it feels like it can be the beginning of a streak. You don't always get rewarded but you stick with it and then all of the sudden things start going your way."
Iginla is hoping the Flames can snap their season-long funk the same way he did, by stringing together wins the same way he's been scoring goals.
"They come in bunches," he said. "It kind of feels like our team is coming that way. Our habits are getting better."
Despite the deep hole it's dug, Calgary is staying positive, hoping it can climb out in time to make a serious run at a playoff spot over the final three-quarters of the season.
"The thing to do when you feel like you are not rewarded for your effort is making sure the group stays positive," Sutter said. "The easy thing is to get down, but the guys haven't. They have been upbeat. We've kept things loose [and said] lets just keep going and keep playing and play hard and give ourselves a chance every night. We did this on the trip and we've been able to get points in three of [five]."
If the Flames are going to be successful this season, it has to be Iginla that leads them, and he appears up for the challenge.
"Look at his overall game in the last 10 days now, the last five or six games," Sutter said of his captain. "He's played as good as I've seen him play since I've been a coach in Calgary."
And if he continues to play that way, Iggy's accomplishments in Calgary could include helping turn the 2010-11 squad into a playoff contender.