A significant portion of the Calgary fanbase can’t stomach the idea of the Flames parting ways with Jarome Iginla.
Some think it would be a lousy idea to trade Iginla and others don’t get as far as the "think" stage, instead basing their feeling on sentiment and gut reaction. Considering how many of the franchise’s stars over the years finished their careers elsewhere — Gary Roberts, Theoren Fleury, Al MacInnis, Gary Suter and the guy for whom Iginla was traded way back when, Joe Nieuwendyk — it’s an understandable reaction. We’ll leave it up to you and your consciences if Mike Vernon qualifies as an exception to this rule.
On the flip side, at least some of the folks who have taken the position that Iginla has worn out his welcome at the Saddledome and/or that the franchise would be better served without No. 12 have done so out of anger and the primal blow-it-up instinct that typically follows an unsatisfying campaign for their heroes.
In short, there’s so much emotion on both sides of the equation that it’s hard to sort out whether Iginla would best serve the Flames by remaining a Flame or by agreeing to be a King, a Bruin, a Blue, a Ranger or, ugh, a Maple Leaf.
Without pretending to be able to definitively answer that question, let’s take a look at the pointscoring history of 33-to-35-year-old stars and come up with a rough-hewn guess at how likely Iginla is to provide $21-million value over the remaining life of his contract.
In a previous entry, Kent Wilson drew from the example of Markus Naslund, whose career took a serious nosedive when his age matched Carey Wilson’s sweater number. In his 32-year-old season, Naslund produced 32 goals and 79 points in 81 games, figures that interrupted a string of four consecutive years in which the Canucks winger had managed more than a point a game. Naslund played full 82-game schedules in each of his 33-to-35 seasons but his point totals were only 54, 46 and 57. At age 36, he walked away from his contract with the New York Rangers and returned to Sweden.
Then there’s fellow Swede Mats Sundin, who between ages 26 and 36 turned in 10 seasons out of 10 that fell within the 74-to-83 point rage. It wasn’t until age 37 when Sundin hemmed and hawwed about conituning his career and wound up playing a mediocre half-season in Vancouver before deciding to call it a career.
Or Iginla supporters could always hope for a Jaromir Jagr-like eruption at age 33. After being a 70-point man in his early 30s, Jagr exploded for 123 points at age 33 and followed that up with 96 points the next season. He dropped back to 71 points at age 35 and then headed for Russia.
How about Keith Tkachuk, a player who nominally falls into the same power-forward category as Iginla, even if in reality that label ill-fits the Calgary captain? Because of the lockout, Tkachuk didn’t have a 32-year-old season but he started his 30-something career with 138 points in 141 games. From age 33-to-35, he produced 36 points in 41 games and then a pair of 58-point seasons in more-or-less full campaigns.
Of course, this is hardly a major revelation as common sense dictates that the numbers can start declining at a certain age, but common sense sometimes takes a back seat in a fan’s opinion because of the aforementioned emotion issue. Iginla believers will also point to the fact that the right-winger is legendary for his conditioning and fitness results and will be able to cheat the aging process better than most.
In any event, here is the list of point totals from ages 30 to 35 for a group of star players. Just for the heck of it, and to demonstrate how much the concept of "old player" has changed in the last couple of decades, we’ve thrown Lanny McDonald, who was pretty much done at age 33, into the mix.
We’ve opted for raw point totals rather than point-per-game average because it would be counter-productive to use a methodology that removes the injury factor that is a significant part of the equation for aging hockey players. Lockout seasons (LO) are ignored for averging purposes.