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Iginla takes blame for playoff pickle

Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla warms up prior to NHL preseason hockey action in Calgary, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009.

Jeff McIntosh

On the eve of their biggest game of the season, Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla delivered an extraordinary mea culpa Tuesday, putting the blame largely on himself for the position the team find themselves in, hanging onto their playoff lives by a thread.

"I'm going to be around 70 points," said Iginla. "It's not enough. If you compare it to the other top teams, there are probably one or two in each conference that get in producing like that."

Iginla scored four goals in his first four games following Canada's 2010 gold-medal performance at the Winter Olympics, but since then, has managed just one goal in his past 13 games. With the Flames needing a victory over the San Jose Sharks to keep their faint playoff hopes alive, Iginla has been held without a point in five of the past six games.

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Calgary's primary failing this season has been its inability to score goals. They are the only Western Conference team yet to reach the 200-goal plateau (they are at 199). Only the Boston Bruins, at 195, have scored fewer goals.

Under coach Brent Sutter, the team's primary goal was to improve defensively - and they have. They are fifth overall, fractions off the lead held by the New Jersey Devils. Unhappily, that hasn't translated into wins in the standings.

When asked if he could pinpoint what went wrong - and why the Flames are where they are, when hopes were so high going into the season, Iginla answered: "That's a hard question. I don't want to make excuses. I don't think it's the system. I think we have a good system.

"If you break it down, I think we have a really good goalie l- a great goalie (Miikka Kiprusoff). Our defence is really good. Our fourth line has been solid, our third line we can put with anybody, our second line is playing well.

"Our first line, this year, we went 10 games without winning. How many 2-1 goal games were in there? Our power play, our top line, we needed to do more."

Iginla has been in the cross-hairs of trade rumours for weeks now. Locally, the thinking is that if the Flames miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2003 season, changes will need to be made. It's hard to imagine how trading away their team captain and only natural scorer would make them any better in the short term, so any decision to move Iginla would signal the beginning of a scorched-earth rebuilding program.

For a team built to win in the present, it is difficult to believe they would go down that path unless an organization was willing to offer up a top-two draft choice in return. The goal-starved Bruins just might be in that position.

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Is Iginla still happy to play here, where he broke in 15 years ago?

"It's great on a family level," he answered. "The family's very happy here, it's close to home. I've been here a long time, I kinda grew up here.

"Hockey-wise, the organization wants to win. It has been a tough year. I wish I was producing better. I wish we were in a better spot as a team right now."

Even though the pressure is greater than it would be in a non-traditional market, Iginla says that as an athlete, he enjoys the fans' collective passion.

"You want to play where people care - I do anyway. When it's really good, everybody's into it. The flip side is, when it's not, they're still really into it and they're upset.

Iginla had seasons of 89, 98 and 94 points in his previous three years, meaning he will come up some 20 points shy of last year's production, this time around.

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"I'm not trying to live in the past either," he said. "For the past so many games, I haven't been very good. It's not for lack of want or trying. I'm unfortunately in a rut and I have to work to get out of it.

"Do I think my best times are behind me? No, I don't. I've been in a lot of tough spots and droughts and stretches before. This one is hard because we need it as a team."

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About the Author

Eric was the winner of the Hockey Hall Of Fame's Elmer Ferguson award for "distinguished contributions to hockey writing" in 2001. A graduate of the University of Western Ontario's grad school of journalism, he began covering hockey in 1978 and after spending 20 years covering the NHL and the Calgary Flames, joined The Globe in 2000. More

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