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Calgary, AB • Canada • 22 Years Old • Male

The Iginla Question

Posted 7:06 PM ET | Comments 30
Two years ago, in an otherwise completely meaningless Game 82, the playoff-bound Flames met the Canucks at GM Place. Since the Canucks had just been eliminated from playoff contention two nights before, the only thing on the line was Jarome Iginla finishing off his second career 50-goal campaign. The Flames eventually got the captain his 50th in what amounted to a pond hockey 7-1 rout. Now, in an otherwise completely meaningless Game 82, the Flames meet the playoff-bound Canucks at GM Place. For the Flames, having been eliminated from the playoffs two games ago, the only thing on the line is somewhat dignifying Iginla’s highly subpar season with 70 points. (As for the Canucks, Henrik Sedin should run even more wild on the Flames as normal, as the Art Ross Trophy may be on the line.) Is it a natural progression, then, that Calgary media and fans have now begun a heated debate over whether the captain should be traded for the franchise to start over? I am as reluctant as anyone towards the idea of Iginla in any other jersey but the Flaming C, but have to also admit the idea has its merits for both the player and the team. However, the deal would have to inarguably fast-track a rebuild, not be a debatable depth and salary move like the Dion Phaneuf trade.

Most of the momentum this idea has gained has come from the Calgary media. George Johnson wrote a controversial front-page column for the Herald immediately after the Flames’ elimination which advocated the idea. Over the years, Johnson has been my favourite sportswriter on the Calgary Herald by far. I have found myself shocked at how much I have agreed with his cynical and bitter musings the last month or so; it gets to the point sometimes where I cancel blogs because I would merely be re-stating ideas Johnson put forth in much more eloquent terms. But here, I must also refer to the pre-eminent king of Calgary hockey writers, Eric Duhatschek. Duhatschek thinks that trading Iginla would only be worth it for the Flames if they could get a top-three draft pick back (mainly alluding to the Leafs’ first round pick owned by the Bruins this year). I agree to certain extents with both writers.

Most of the objection to the idea stems from the assumption that those who want to trade Iginla are blaming him for the club’s utter high-priced mediocrity. While there are some who hold this view, I am not one of them. On the contrary, I agree that Iginla has been the only consistent thing for the Flames’ offense for years. I also agree that the Flames’ fatal flaw has not been Iginla but the team’s own inability to surround him with the right talent. Clearly, trading the only forward on the roster right now who could be reasonably relied on for 70 points would only deepen their offensive issues. But that’s the point: if the Flames decided to cut ties, it would be a complete admission they were embarking on a rebuilding phase. They would be completely starting from scratch on a new era centered on younger players. They would be asking their fans to be extremely patient, just like any rebuild. They would have to be for the trade to be worthwhile.

From a pure hockey perspective, the arguments for trading Iginla are these: the Flames appear to be very shallow in organizational depth at forward, and they may have run out of chances to surround him with the top-end talent they need to make themselves into a true contender. (I do not think his big contract and the Flames tight cap situation have as much to do with it, but then again that’s because I do not blame the captain for anything). I am admittedly not an active follower of junior hockey so I cannot comment on the first argument extensively. That one I can only base on the general consensus among media reports. The second argument, however, is easier to make. By far the most common criticism of the Dion Phaneuf trade remains that Darryl Sutter did not get either a bona fide top line player or a good draft pick for his best trade chip. With the Flames being tied up in over $15M in bad contracts for 2011, and some beyond that, getting this established top line talent for Iggy will be extremely difficult to do immediately. Though he does not favour trading Iggy, Duhatschek is also completely correct when he states that fixing the Flames’ problems will require a long and ugly process. However the Flames decide to approach their future, the question is, how integral a role can he play when the multi-year process is over?

Expanding on this point (hope you’re still reading), here’s a brief examination of some precedents that can serve as both devil’s advocates and support the extremist cause. The first ones often brought up are Joe Nieuwendyk for Iginla himself, and then Theo Fleury for Robyn Regehr. Both trades benefitted their clubs immensely long term. However, in both cases, the trades were made because the stars were due to bolt – Nieuwendyk had requested a trade, and Fleury was a pending unrestricted free agent. The opposition points to the devastating Ryan Smyth trade, which neither the Oilers nor their fanbase has recovered from. (I’d like to offer two counterpoints to the Smyth comparison: personally, I think Chris Pronger requesting out after a year was more devastating than people credit. Also, would the Oilers really be that much better right now with Smyth?) Iginla is a special case, however. Since he is still relatively productive (if a little bit past his prime in that he can no longer carry a team’s offense singlehandedly) and with three years left on his contract, he MAY even be worth more than these examples. But the process is ultimately all up to him, as it should be, which brings me to my next point. Any potential trade, if Iggy does not request a trade outright (which I doubt he will), would have to be totally mutually beneficial to both him and the team long term.

If Iginla stays in Calgary for the rest of his career, there appears to be a high probability right now that his career will be just another absolutely terrific one wasted and perhaps unfairly tainted by the lack of a championship. He would hardly be the first, nor would he be the last, great star to have this unfortunate career path. The Flames do not look any closer to being a contender than they were in 2004. This is where the potential benefit for the player comes in. The problem is, though, that the true contenders which he could hypothetically be dealt to that would benefit both him and the Flames are limited. Boston has been the most commonly mentioned team, and indeed they may be the only actual team that could bring both a championship to Iginla and a more viable future for the Flames. What is most important in this discussion, however, is that Iggy rightfully controls his own destiny. I believe Craig Conroy when he says that Iggy does not want to finish his career with anybody but the Flames. And Flames fans should not want him to go either. However, it would be entirely understandable if he decided he has had enough of losing in Calgary. What I would do would be to not necessarily openly shop him, but quietly put his name forward for discussion. I would sit him down and say to him “If you want to finish your career as a Flame, that’s fine, we want you to as well. However, if we get a trade offer from a contending team that can help both of us, we’ll tell you about it, then you can make the decision.” Having Iggy leave Calgary would be extraordinarily, generationally painful for most of the Flames fanbase, and I am sure Iggy would say the same thing. However, being in a static state of perpetual team mediocrity for the rest of his career would also be fairly painful, and I am sure Iggy is not enjoying the current state of the team from that perspective, irrespective of the current trade speculation.

Six years ago, in the immediate aftermath of the Flames’ heartbreaking Stanley Cup loss, I predicted that the Flames, under the direction of Darryl Sutter as GM and Iginla as captain, would win the Cup within five seasons. Now, the majority of Flames fans including myself are calling for Sutter’s immediate dismissal in favour of an outsider who will provide a new, more viable direction for the team. Simultaneously, some of those same voices are suggesting that Iggy be traded to coincide with a complete rebuild. I am not necessarily willing to commit to trade him or not to trade him – it depends on what is available, both for the team and for Iginla. But the important, and depressing thing is that the idea is worth consideration. That was thought impossible as few as two seasons ago. But then again, as few as two seasons ago, the Flames were thought at least close to contention by many.

~SKR

(Addendum: I originally had a blog that was a total post-mortem of the Flames. However, as I finished it off, I didn’t feel any of it was particularly fresh; most of it was just re-stating what was mostly consensus opinion. I will write an immediate offseason preview in a few months or so. When (hopefully not if) the Flames fire Darryl Sutter I’ll write a response to that as well. But with the sudden explosion of speculation regarding Iginla I decided to write a whole blog on him…while Johnson and Duhatschek have been very rational and understandable, regardless of your opinions of their opinions, by far the worst Flames analysis was by Ken Campbell of the Hockey News. According to him, the Flames will be unable to trade Iginla and get fair value due to his big contract. He also confused Jay Bouwmeester with Wade Redden, saying the Flames will have to dump his contract in the minors. Things look really bad in Calgary, Ken, I’d be the first to tell you that; they’re just not THAT bad…other comparables to the current Iggy situation I did not mention: Ray Bourque (the best current comparison) and Kevin Garnett in the NBA (I do not follow the NBA, but my impression was that the trade was made because the T-Wolves could never build a team around Garnett.) Of course, while both of these deals brought the star a championship, neither of them actually benefitted their old teams: none of the players Boston got for Bourque ended up very useful, and the T-Wolves, it was thought at the time, got ripped off; they are currently 2nd last in the NBA. To a certain extent, the Eagles’ recent trade of Donovan McNabb also applies, as they traded him after simply being unable to win a Super Bowl with him, and having a young QB they felt could step in. Of course that trade is highly controversial among Eagles fans from what I can tell, and time will only tell if they made the right choice…I’d like to conclude by reiterating that Iggy remains one of my favourite Flames and NHL players ever. I have absolutely nothing against him. I merely think that it is worth exploring the options, since at this point there are serious doubts they will ever be able to build a contending team around him. Also, obviously if the Flames went down this route, I would not want Darryl Sutter to do the trade. But I'm assuming everyone feels the same way.)
Filed Under:   flames   iginla   skr  
April 11, 2010 1:15 AM ET | Delete
Good blog.
April 11, 2010 5:41 AM ET | Delete
i thin Eric Duhatchek is like my Dad's second cousin or something. Whether or not trading Iginla is a good idea depends on what we can get for return I had assumed Phaneuf was worth a lot more than what we got for him so if Iginla can fetch us maybe what Anaheim got for Pronger or maybe a little more we should go for it.
April 12, 2010 11:38 AM ET | Delete
Scoring is the problem. I don't think this year is the year to trade Iggy. Remember how valuble Fleury was to Iggy in his first couple of years? I think Iggy could do the same for Backlund. Lets get a big name centre and a new GM and see what this team can do. I don't think the window is closed just yet.
April 12, 2010 12:08 PM ET | Delete
The problem is, what big name centers could they actually get? Marleau? A longshot (and I have some doubts about just how effective he could be.)
April 12, 2010 12:20 PM ET | Delete
How about Getzlaf? I know its a bit of a stretch but perhaps with their glaring issues on D we might be able to put together something like J-Bo, Staios and Stajan for Getzlaf. I know it would be a long shot but you never know or even sub Pardy for Staios. Throw in Keetley or Irving while you're at it.
MG
April 12, 2010 12:36 PM ET | Delete
Unfortunately there is something called the salary cap which negates 90% of the trades people propose.....
April 12, 2010 1:35 PM ET | Delete
I don't think there's a legitimate center to be had. I don't see Marleau being the right guy, and personally I'd rather play Backlund there and save the cash.I don't know who we could possibly go for, but I'd love to see Iggy and Backlund play with a left winger that could make a pass in an offensive system that promotes movement and creativity...
April 12, 2010 1:59 PM ET | Delete
I agree with jtommyt, Marleau is just langkow or any other center of that caliber. There are good centers to be had I believe for the right price but Iginla is not going anywhere. I think it will be very difficult to trade for that guy considering what Calgary has to offer.
April 12, 2010 2:20 PM ET | Delete
Trade Iggy to Boston for their top pick and Ryder or Sturm. This is the only thing that is fair to Iggy (who bears some blame for going one for 14 down the stretch), re-ignites the base, and produces hope. This franchise is currently devoid of hope, and Iggy fighting for 8th ala Sundin a few yrs ago is unfair to all parties.
April 12, 2010 2:21 PM ET | Delete
also, if columbus is willing to take one of our bad contracts in return, Id like to see Juice back with Calgary. Him and Backlund would create amazing skill to compliment the plumbers.
April 12, 2010 2:26 PM ET | Delete
Boston's not going to trade the Toronto pick, and Boston's 1st rounder Ryder/Sturm isn't going to jumpstart a rebuild. Iggy's still a great offensive player, he just needs some high quality help, and he doesn't have that right now.
April 12, 2010 2:31 PM ET | Delete
Unfortunately, as much as we all might want to see a rebuild, I don't know that it's a legitimate option right now... Iggy and Kipper are our only legitimate assets, and if all we'll get for them is a mid quality winger and a late first rounder, this rebuild is going to be a long time coming...
April 12, 2010 2:40 PM ET | Delete
You know who might be a great fit on that top line? A guy like Holmstrom. He's not a playmaker by any means, but he definitely opens up space... Maybe that's what Iggy really needs: more room on the ice. How much do you think Thomas would cost? Aging, and (recently) injury plagued... is he worth taking a risk on? Or is there a better option out there?
April 12, 2010 2:42 PM ET | Delete
I think Iginla can net a top 6 player and top 10-15 draft pick for (insert team) who is close but comes up short this postseason. One who already holds a high pick and needs the extra nudge of leadership. Phoenix has a pretty high pick, and some nice young talent. Buyout Kotalik, ship regehr for a 2nd, and unload iginla for some serious help. The cap space would help a rebuild.
April 12, 2010 2:44 PM ET | Delete
holmstrom is pretty beat up, but could be a good mentor to Moss, which is the player he was supposed to become anyway. If we could get him cheap, it would certainly help the woeful PP which was the teams undoing. still need a skilled puckhandler on the pp though
April 12, 2010 2:52 PM ET | Delete
Let's cross our fingers and hope that Backlund's the guy... I don't think there's a better option available.
April 12, 2010 2:56 PM ET | Delete
Any word on a press conference yet? I heard Monday or Tuesday there would be a presser by King and Sutter. Kinda curious nothing has been called yet. Leads me to beleive that they may no longer be calling the pressers.
April 12, 2010 3:02 PM ET | Delete
I am sure they are still working out the kinks of the $$$ involved in termination ;)paying 2 coaches for extended leave in 2 yrs, and not sure what Darryl's contract stipulates, but I am sure he will be getting something too.
April 12, 2010 3:23 PM ET | Delete
Darryl's talking to the media right now on the Fan.
April 12, 2010 3:25 PM ET | Delete
Ken King's there too, he's talking now.
April 12, 2010 3:40 PM ET | Delete
if that is ken king talking, it sounds like Sutter is staying. Anyone agree?
April 12, 2010 3:51 PM ET | Delete
'There is no term contract for Darryl''Isnt that illegal''I guess I am in violation then'This conference is hilarious, and it is clear Sutter hates these specific reporters. He was just called Darren, and corrected the reporter. LOL. He is also talking like he is not going anywhere.
April 12, 2010 3:58 PM ET | Delete
Most telling Darryl quote so far: "every team that makes the playoffs is a contender." completely delusional. Btw guys thanks for inflating my comments this is the most I've had in years.
April 12, 2010 4:01 PM ET | Delete
Also regarding king: remember he gave the "vote of confidence" to playfair and I think Keenan few weeks before they were fired. I think the decision to fire darryl probably has to come from ownership though
April 12, 2010 4:15 PM ET | Delete
who gives King the vote of confidence? If Sutter and co. goes, so should King.
April 12, 2010 4:19 PM ET | Delete
He called Darryl brilliant for pointing out that all the Flames had to do was either 1. Have a better record against Colorado, 2. Have a better home record, or 3. Not lose 9 in a row in January, and they would have made the playoffs...
April 12, 2010 4:19 PM ET | Delete
Agreed, that's why there's also been rumours of bob Nicholson coming in to replace king. I think king still has faith in Darryl unfortunately.
April 12, 2010 4:23 PM ET | Delete
That is what I heard too, he was Darryl's lap dog and mouthpiece. In other news, how ironic is it that Jokinen caused 2 teams to miss the playoffs? He truly is a jinx.
April 12, 2010 7:01 PM ET | Delete
Juice would be good in Calgary He had amazing chemistry with Iggy and i think he has underperformed in Columbus so they might be willing to dump him and you guy know how mush Darryl likes re-aquiring players. Plekanec would be a good center although he can be inconsistent but much less expensive than Marleau.
May 9, 2010 10:58 PM ET | Delete
Iginla is the greatest hockey player ever and i think he will pull a Bill Guerin. I think he Lose in calgary until he is 36 (contract expires) (guerin at NYI)and then go sign with a contender for peanuts, kick it old school and put up 95 points, win the cup and show darryl sutter what the problem in calgary was.
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