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2011-12 Calgary Flames Preview

Seven years ago, Jarome Iginla helped lead the Flames to an amazing run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Of course, they were eliminated in Game 7 by the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the future appeared bright for Calgary and its powerful right winger.

Flash forward to the present day and Iginla is still a dominant force in Calgary, but his franchise has experienced very little success since that heartbreaking playoff loss to the Bolts.

The Flames haven't won a single postseason series since their magical spring in 2004, and despite a terrific stretch run last season, Calgary missed out on a playoff spot for the second straight season.

After his club got off to a 14-18-3 start to the season, Calgary general manager Darryl Sutter stepped down and the Flames hired Jay Feaster as his replacement. Oddly enough, Feaster held the same position with Tampa when it won it's one and only Stanley Cup title at Calgary's expense.

The Flames, who are still coached by Sutter's younger brother, Brent, finished the season on a 27-11-9 run under Feaster and missed the postseason by just three points.

That strong finish is reason for Calgary fans to be hopeful in 2011-12, but the club's tremendous lack of depth on offense and defense is still a big reason for concern.

FORWARDS - Iginla turned 34 over the summer and is obviously nearer to the end of his career than the beginning. Judging by his numbers from a year ago, there seems to be more than enough left in the tank, but a back injury suffered on the first day of training camp has his status for the start of the season up in the air.

Iginla led Calgary with 43 goals and 89 points in 2010-11 and played in all 82 games for the fourth straight season. A likely future Hall of Famer, Iginla enters this season just 16 goals shy of 500 for his career. Iginla, who hasn't missed a game since the 2006-07 campaign, has been resting his back since the first day of camp and it's unknown if he will be able to play when the Flames start the regular season on October 8.

Playing second fiddle to Iginla on Calgary's offense is left winger Alex Tanguay, who led the club with 47 assists last year and also added 22 goals. The 69-point season was the best campaign for Tanguay since he notched a career-high 81 points during his first stint with Calgary in 2006-07.

Iginla and Tanguay are entrenched as the club's top-line wingers and youngster Mikael Backlund is penciled in as the No. 1 center. Backlund, 22, had his first full season as an NHLer in 2010-11 and recorded 25 points (10g, 15a) over 73 games.

Daymond Langkow was dealt to Phoenix for right winger Lee Stempniak this summer, leaving Olli Jokinen as the best bet to fill the second centerman role. Like Tanguay, Jokinen is in his second tour of duty with the Flames and is coming off a disappointing 17-goal, 54-point season.

Stempniak or David Moss could be used on the second line this year. Stempniak recorded 19 goals and 19 assists for Phoenix last season after tallying 28 goals two years ago while playing with both Toronto and the Coyotes. Moss battled injuries last season, but still managed to post 17 goals and a respectable 30 points in 58 games.

Rene Bourque and Curtis Glencross, who scored 27 and 24 goals, respectively, give Calgary solid depth at left wing, but the same cannot be said about the center position. After the unproven Backlund and floundering Jokinen, the Flames list Brendan Morrison and Matt Stajan as next on the depth chart. Morrison and Stajan combined for just 15 goals and 74 points last season.

The Flames once again appear to be a team that will count on Iginla to carry a huge portion of the scoring load. He's always been able to produce under that pressure, but it's probably not the best strategy for putting a winning team on the ice.

DEFENSE - The biggest difference for the Flames this season is the departure of Robyn Regehr, who was traded to Buffalo this summer along with forward Ales Kotalik.

A stay-at-home defenseman, Regehr had been a steadying force on the Calgary blue line since his rookie year in 1999-2000 and the Flames will be hard- pressed to replace his physical play. Calgary hopes Scott Hannan, a veteran defensive defenseman, can help fill that void. Hannan, who played last year in Colorado and Washington, was signed to a one-year, $1 million deal in August.

Calgary's No.1 defenseman is still Jay Bouwmeester, but the big blueliner has been a major disappointment since signing a five-year, $33 million deal with the Flames in the summer of 2009.

Although Bouwmeester is still a strong defensive player, his offensive numbers have taken a hit since leaving Florida for Calgary. Bouwmeester averaged just under 12 goals and 42 points a season in his last four years with the Panthers, but he has yet to reach five goals or 30 points in each of his two seasons with the Flames. He had four markers and 24 points in 82 games last year, but he still led the team in ice time with nearly 26 minutes per game.

Mark Giordano and Anton Babchuk were Calgary's top scorers from the blue line last year. Giordano, 27, set a career mark for points with 43 on eight goals and 35 assists. Babchuk had 27 points (8g, 19a) in 65 games with the Flames after coming over in a trade with Carolina last November. Babchuk had 11 goals and 35 points in 82 combined games with the Hurricanes and Flames.

The Flames received Chris Butler from Buffalo in the Regehr trade. Butler and veteran Cory Sarich will likely round out the top-six, but don't be shocked if Calgary's top defensive prospect, T.J. Brodie, works his way into the conversation.

GOALTENDING - In Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary boasts one of the most durable backstops in the entire league. The Finnish goaltender has started 70-plus games for the Flames in each of the last six seasons and although he will turn 35 years old in October, don't expect the heavy workload to change this season.

The former Vezina Trophy winner had a decent year by his standards in 2010-11, going 37-24-6 with a 2.63 goals-against average and .906 save percentage. However, with just three years left on Kiprusoff's contract, the Flames should start thinking about finding a suitable backup.

For now, the often boring task of being Kiprusoff's backup falls to Henrik Karlsson, a 27-year-old undrafted Swede. Karlsson possesses excellent size and was 4-5-6 with a 2.58 GAA as a rookie last year. If he can get some wins early, maybe he can steal a few starts from the overused Kiprusoff.

WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE - The Flames are always in contention to make the playoffs because of Iginla and Kiprusoff, but the club's lack of depth makes it difficult to count on a postseason appearance this season. Brent Sutter saw his brother forced out as GM last season and if Calgary gets off to another bad start in 2011-12, it may be his head that does the rolling.