Class act. Hard worker. Impeccable leadership.
These are the characteristics that come to mind when you think of Jarome Iginla but in the midst of his 15th season with the Calgary Flames, rumors have begun to swirl that it may be time to part ways with the Flames captain. Through 23 games, Calgary sits tied for 12th in the Western Conference with a 10-12-1 record and lie 25th overall in the NHL. While this downfall might come as a surprise to some, the writing has been on the wall for a few seasons now.
The mind frame of Flames management for quite some time has been that they have a solid core and would be ready to compete for a Stanley Cup with simply a couple more pieces to complete their puzzle…unfortunately, the pieces they’ve picked up over the years haven’t fit. When the decision was made to trade their top defenseman Dion Phaneuf to the Toronto Maple Leafs, rather than bringing in talented youth and prospects, opted for Ian White, Jamal Mayers, Niklas Hagman and Matt Stajan.
Where are they now??
White is with the Detroit Red Wings, Mayers plays for the Blackhawks, the Flames waived Hagman earlier this season, and Mississauga native Matt Stajan spends most nights watching from the press box as a healthy scratch.
Focusing on the present, even if the Flames were to turn their season around they would at best just sneak into the playoffs, resulting in a more than likely guarantee a 1st round exit. While the problems the Flames face will not be solved over night, the good news is that they have players to help with the solution. This is going to be painful to hear but its time that GM Jay Feaster emulates the strategy of Leafs GM Brian Burke and Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman and take the time to start from the ground up…here is where parting ways with Iginla and Kiprusoff start to make sense.
At 34, Jarome is still one of the most highly skilled, all-round players in this league and much like the preliminary Bobby Ryan sweepstakes, Iginla on the open market would bring offers from just about each of the 29 other teams in the NHL. Just imagine what teams like L.A and San Jose would do to get Iggy skating with the likes of Kopitar and Thornton or even Dallas to provide that veteran experience to a team that is on the cusp of becoming a serious threat in the Western Conference. Having a marquee player like Iginla, the Flames can name their price and easily expect offers of young talent and top prospects to roll in, allowing them to start building a youthful team that can go through the system and take the time to develop their skills without the pressure to produce at the NHL level right away.
Moving to Mikka Kiprusoff, at 35 year of age he is still a proven goaltender and while he may not look like the Kiprusoff that won the Vezina in 2006, some of that can be chalked up to the lackluster defence that plays in front of him, including the “I wish I never signed him to a 5 year $33 million contract” Jay Bouwmeester. Teams like Detroit and Chicago are chomping at the bit for a complete goaltender that can keep them in games when it comes to crunch time, giving Calgary another opportunity to bring high draft picks into their organization.
Iginla has been vocal about the rumors stating, “I want to win here and I believe we can be a good team here”. As admirable as his commitment to the Flames is, its tough not to draw parallels between his situation and that of Mats Sundin. Mats never wanted to leave Toronto but eventually, the management realized that they had to do what was best for their team and parted ways. If Jarome Iginla is traded, it will be to a team that Iggy wants to go to, much like Sundin picking to join the Canucks. While the chances of him riding into the sunset with that Ray Bourque storybook ending isn’t probable, there’s no question that he’ll do his due diligence in picking a team that he will gel and fit in with easily, as opposed to looking awkward and out of place (re. Mats Sundin with the Vancouver Canucks).
Trading your captain and starting goaltender will never be an easy trigger to pull for any club, but as teams like the Blackhawks have proven and teams like the Maple Leafs and Oilers are starting to reap the benefits from, being the laughing stock of the NHL may sting while you’re at the bottom for a few seasons but if you implement and don’t deviate from the rebuilding and development strategy, in due course your team will be the one lacing up their skates come June while other clubs keep busy trying to keep under par.