|Flames captain Jarome Iginla has gone the last five games without a point. (Al Charest/QMI Agency)
DALLAS - Nobody was questioning Jarome Iginla's leadership skills at this time last year.
Although the Calgary Flames captain’s squad was destined to miss the playoffs for a second straight season, he almost singlehandedly willed them to make the race interesting. Over his final seven games, he scored 10 goals and added five assists, dominating games as they went 4-2-1 over the final week-and-a-half of action.
Barring a dramatic reversal of his current slump, which has seen him go five straight games without so much as a point, Iginla will be questioned plenty if he allows the Flames’ playoff hopes to die quietly.
“We don’t feel we’re out of it by any means, but we know we’ve stumbled a bit in these games,” Iginla said after Thursday’s loss to the Minnesota Wild, seemingly the only calm and collected player in the visitors room.
“We respect all these teams, but you look at the standings, there’s teams we feel we didn’t play our best games against and could have got wins.”
Edmonton, Columbus and Minnesota are all behind the Flames in the standings. They lost to each of them. Iginla was held off the scoresheet in them all.
This is the time of year they need him the most, and the fact he is struggling along with rest of the team’s top players — Olli Jokinen, Curtis Glencross, Alex Tanguay — is a huge disadvantage for the Flames, who sit two points out of the playoff picture in 11th spot.
No. 12 needs to snap out of his funk.
He’s not the kind of leader who makes emotional pleas in the dressing room. That sort of thing is left to guys like Scott Hannan and Tom Kostopoulos, who both took turns on the ice Friday talking to the group during a hushed period at a practice complex north of Dallas.
“I don’t think it’s a leadership issue,” Flames GM Jay Feaster said of the team’s current skid. “I think we have some good leaders in that group. It isn’t one guy, it’s a group.”
But one guy who most often leads by example on the ice isn’t setting much of one right now.
Whatever the reason may be — a troublesome back, a simple untimely dry spell, or fatigue after weeks of hefty expectations while the team battled through injury after injury — that needs to change im-mediately for the Flames to have a hope of overcoming the odds against them in their current quest.
“When we went through what we’ve gone through here with the amount of injuries we had for a two-month spell, I threw a lot on those guys’ shoulders,” Flames head coach Brent Sutter said Friday, placing a lot of the responsibility for the outcome of the next seven games on his own.
“They were playing 22, 23, 24 or 25 minutes a night. I thought they did a tremendous job.
“They’re going through a little funk right now, but I still have a tremendous amount of confidence in them, I still believe in them. They’re still your best players, and I’ll continue to use them.”
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