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2012 Flames Preview: Iginla Hoping To Help Flames Rekindle Fire

Zach Kukkonen

Zach Kukkonen

Zach Kukkonen writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

The Calgary Flames were their usual frustrating selves in 2011-12. They started off slow, muddled through the middle of the season, went on a run with a quarter of the season left, then subsequently quelled their playoff hopes by limping to the finish line.

Fantasy owners suffered right along with Flames fans, as none of Calgary's players topped 70 points, and only two crossed the 50-point barrier. Even usual stud Jarome Iginla didn't start really firing on all cylinders until two months into the season, and his 67 points matched his lowest total since 2005-06. Alex Tanguay and Curtis Glencross were solid although unspectacular, and Miikka Kiprusoff's numbers -- which qualified as one of his better seasons -- were dragged down by the Flames' anemic offense, as evidenced by his 11 overtime losses.

Even as the top tier of Calgary's talent pool ages, however, there are a few bright spots on the horizon. Top prospect Sven Baertschi looked dynamic in limited time at the end of the season, Dennis Wideman was a stellar acquisition, and the Flames are excited about Roman Cervenka coming over from the KHL. While Wideman won't come cheap, Baertschi and Cervenka could likely be obtained late in drafts with low risk and huge upside. Defenseman Mark Giordano could also come cheaper after injuries cost him a chance to get back to his 43-point campaign in 2010-11.

There really isn't any first-round talent on the Flames' roster, but there are some solid picks where you know what you're getting, and a couple players that could take off.


THE BIG GUNS


Jarome Iginla (RW): Iginla was one of the more frustrating fantasy players in 2011-12, as his usual slow start lasted longer than usual. In the first 23 games of the season, he managed only 12 points and a minus-7 rating during that span. He did turn it around, however, and ended up with 32 goals and 35 assists to end the season, scoring nearly a point a game after the first two months. He also became only the seventh player in NHL history to score at least 30 goals in 11 straight seasons. That being said, the campaign was his worst since 1999-2000, and may signal that the winger's skills are finally diminishing a bit. He still should accumulate 60-70 points and around 25-30 goals, but he's not a first-rounder like he was at one point.

Miikka Kiprusoff (G): The Flames missed the playoffs again in 2011-12, but that certainly cannot be pinned on Kiprusoff. He had one of his best seasons in years, putting together a 35-22-11 record along with a 2.35 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. The Flames' inability to win in overtime or in shootouts hurt Kipper's record, as evidenced by his 11 overtime losses. The slight drawdown in his minutes and games seemed to help the 35-year-old, and if the Flames get enough backup help to keep Kiprusoff at less than 70 games, Kiprusoff should reward fantasy owners with another stellar year. His only drawback is his team, which hasn't added much of a needed offensive spark in the offseason.

Alex Tanguay (LW): Injuries hurt Tanguay's consistency in 2011-12, as he was able to play only 64 games. However, he was one of the more potent players on Calgary when he was on the ice, putting up 49 points in 64 games and being one of the few Flames with a positive rating (plus-7). He struggled through an injury through the last portion of the season, and ended up with only three points in his last 11 games. If he can stay healthy in 2012-13, however, he's a pretty good fantasy option next to Jarome Iginla, capable of producing stretches like the February-March tear when he notched 14 points in nine games. He will likely end the year with 15-20 goals and 35-45 assists.

Dennis Wideman (D): The Flames did not receive much scoring from their blue line corps in 2011-12, and their trade for Wideman should certainly help in 2012-13. Wideman scored 11 goals and 35 assists in 82 games with the Capitals last season and has registered at least 40 points in three of the last four seasons. He proved to be a valuable fantasy commodity last season, and should continue that trend this season, as he will likely captain the Calgary power play and will get his chances to put up points.


ON THE RISE


Curtis Glencross (LW): Glencross continued his steady upward climb into the upper echelon of wingers in the NHL, with 48 points in 67 games in 2011-12. He potted 25 goals for the first time in his career, and had a stretch of seven straight games with a goal. His season ended in frustrating fashion, however, as his goal streak came to a finish with a game misconduct in game eight, and he only had five points in his final 13 games. If he can get a little more consistency, he will be a great pickup for 2012-13. He should top 50 points for the first time in his career, and the 29-year-old only seems to be getting better.

Sven Baertschi (LW): Rarely has a five-game stretch of play excited a city like Baertschi's in 2011-12. An emergency call-up in March, Baertschi scored three goals and had a plus-2 rating in those five games and showed why he's the Flames' best prospect. It would be a big surprise to not see Baertschi start the season in a Flames uniform, as he tore up the WHL last season and did not look overmatched in the NHL. While it may take him a season or two to fully pick up the nuances of the NHL, he could be a burgeoning superstar and may be worth a flyer in late rounds.

Roman Cervenka (C): The Flames are extremely high on Cervenka, who played in the KHL the past two seasons. In 2011-12, he had 39 points in 54 games but turned it on during the playoffs with 22 points in 20 games. He has a shot at the Flames' open No. 2 center slot, and should spend quite a bit of time, if not the whole season, with the Flames in 2012-13. If he can convert his KHL game to the NHL, he has definite fantasy potential.


TWO TO WATCH


Michael Cammalleri (C): Rejoining the Flames midseason seemed to revitalize Cammalleri in 2011-12, as he picked up 11 goals and 19 points in 28 games. The center was one of the reasons Calgary stayed in the playoff hunt late, with a four-game and a five-game point streak. He finished the season between Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla, certainly a good place to be from a fantasy standpoint. If he stays there, or even drops between Jiri Hudler and Curtis Glencross, Cammalleri should put together another stellar campaign. While it's unlikely he will get back to his days of scoring 80 points, 60-70 isn't out of the question, and he should get at least 50, especially if he can play at 70-plus games, which he hasn't since 2008-09. He should also start the season as the No. 1 center with the departure of Olli Jokinen to Winnipeg.

Jiri Hudler (LW): Hudler had carved a niche as a second to third-line winger in Detroit since 2006-07, and had one of his most prolific seasons in 2011-12 with 25 goals and 25 assists in 81 games. He may not have quite the star power around him in Calgary, but will likely book-end the second line with Curtis Glencross, who had similar numbers to Hudler last season. If Calgary can find a decent center to put in between the two, Hudler has the chance to put up another 50-60 points this season.


DON'T OVERRATE


Lee Stempniak (RW): While Stempniak started his career with a bang in his first two seasons with St. Louis, his production has slowed since, as his 27-goal performance in 2006-07 appears to have been a bit of a fluke. Injuries hampered him in 2011-12, as he played only 61 games, notching 14 goals and 14 assists. He is a solid third-line option for the Flames, but likely won't crack the top-six forwards, which would make him much more valuable. Expect 15-20 goals and 35-40 points from him in 2012-13.

Mikael Backlund (C): The 2011-12 season was a disaster for Backlund, as he started the season as Calgary's No. 1 center, then saw a lack of consistent play and injuries leave him fighting for a spot in the top four lines. He will look to remind coaches of what they saw of him in 2010-11, when he had 10 goals and 15 assists, as the No. 2 center spot in Calgary is still up for grabs. He has great potential, but he has to show that ability in games again.


HOT (OR NOT?) PROSPECTS


Derek Smith (D): Injuries derailed an extremely promising season from Smith, who showed some offensive flash and defensive skills the first three months of the season before going down -- and never fully recovering from -- a high ankle sprain in late December. He also received a concussion in March, which hopefully will not have any lingering effects into 2012-13. Smith is someone to keep in mind for future years, but with the Flames picking up Dennis Wideman, Smith will likely snatch up one of the third-line defenseman spots and tally 15-20 points if he can remain healthy.

T.J. Brodie (D): Brodie played well in his first extended NHL time in 2011-12, showing some offensive spark and playing solid defense. His season came to an abrupt end in March with an upper body injury, but the Flames are high on Brodie's future. He should grab one of the third-line defenseman spots in 2012-13, and while he may not have a ton of fantasy value quite yet, the 22-year-old has a bright future.

Akim Aliu (RW): Aliu ended the season with a bang, scoring three points and picking up 12 penalty minutes in two games with the Flames. Calgary doesn't really have a player like Aliu, which could give him a shot at making the club in the fall, as he is 6-3, 220 pounds, and can get under other teams' skin. He hasn't shown loads of scoring ability in the AHL, but that isn't his primary role. Expect him to be with the Flames in the next few seasons, if not in 2012-13.

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