What Makes an Elite Player…Elite?

(This is the third entry of the FN contributor search, this time by frequent commenter Vintage Flame. Make sure to keep the comments respectful because VF is a moderator ’round these parts.)

By Vintage Flame**

e·lite / i’lēt / Noun 1. A group of people considered to be the best in a particular society or category, especially because of their power, talent or wealth.

Over the past season or two… or three, there have been many threads and discussions debating whether or not Jarome Iginla was, or rather is still, an elite player in the NHL? I think to answer that, you have to look at what it is that actually makes a player “elite” in status. Do you scrutinize the underlying numbers that are so prevalent and monitored in forums such as Flames Nation? Or is there another aspect to a player’s game that elevates him to an elite level; be it in the stats pages or in the eyes of his peers?

Well, let’s look at the numbers first! Iggy is 34, going into his 15th season in the NHL with the Flames. Last year he recorded 43 goals, which ranked him 3rd in the NHL. He had 43 assists, placing him 27th; and a total of 86 points, putting him 6th overall in NHL scoring. Those aren’t bad numbers, especially since it was his highest goal total since the ’04 season when he hit the 50 goal mark.

One of the most debated variables in looking at Iginla’s numbers has been the availability of, what fans consider, a number one centre on his line. It’s no secret that the team has struggled to find that key asset for the Captain that will lessen the burden on the guy shouldering the load on the scoresheet. It seems in the past that, when Iggy is scoring, the team is winning; albeit barely. It seems that other role players “appear” to take too many nights off because Iginla is playing his ass off, so these other contributors (eg. Bourque, Glencross and Jokinen) aren’t putting in a full effort. The biggest problem with this trend is that when Iginla stops scoring, these other guys aren’t able to pick it up and carry him through any slumps or droughts that he experiences. This might have a lot to do with the ongoing struggle the Flames have to establish a set identity for the team.

Despite what is said in the media, or by the coaches & management, the identity of this team starts and stops with #12. Unfortunately, this is also what widens the gap between teams like Calgary and Vancouver. The Canucks have the ability to move players up and down the lineup to disrupt the flow of their opposition. If a team shuts down the Sedins, the Canucks have the luxury of Ryan Kesler, who has shown he can play with just about any forward on the team. Conversely, when the Flames start shuffling the deck of forwards, it’s out of desperation to get Iginla some quality ice time, usually to the detriment of the other lines and, ultimately, the team. The Flames have tried the buckshot attitude with the top line ever since 2001-02 when Conroy was the best fit for Iginla, both on and off the ice. Iggy registered his highest goal total [52] and his 2nd highest point total [96] of his career. He won the Art Ross, the Rocket Richard and the Lester B. Pearson awards. It was also a career year for Conroy in all three categories of goals, assists and points. So what’s happened since then? Plain and simple, the Flames have had a dwindling supporting cast that has made it possible for opposition to focus on cutting off the head of the dragon, to watch the body fall behind.

This is what brings me to other side of the “elite” coin. Despite all the short comings of the team as a whole, Iginla continues to put up the numbers. But I think what adds to the argument for the Captain as an elite player is that, in the course of these seasons, he continues to make the people he plays with better players. We have seen it with Conroy, we saw it with Mike Cammalleri in the 08-09 season, and we see it now with Alex Tanguay. It has been frustrating to see all these players brought into the organization to help the play of Iginla, only to see it have an inverse effect and subsequently result in the signing of big contracts on other teams. We have also seen this on the international stage. There is no doubt that, in the 2002 Olympics, the pairing of Iginla with Sakic filled up the scoresheet when it mattered. The same could be said for the 2010 Olympics when Iginla was paired with Sid the Kid. When it matters, in the NHL or International play, Iginla seems to be the spark or the catalyst that just makes everyone around him play to their full potential, if not more.

The debate will continue until the day he retires about when he stopped being an elite player in the NHL. However, I think one certainly has to or should consider the bigger picture when looking at a player of Iginla’s calibre. For a 34 year old player to not only finish 6th in NHL scoring, but to heighten the play of those around him, while carrying the entire weight of the team, the fans and the city on his back… one has to recognize that there is more to him than just numbers and statistics.

I’m not an expert by any means when it comes to Corsi or Fenwick stats. I know that his GVT rating is not even comparable when looking at the young snipers and leaders around the league. But what I have seen is this guy lead a pack of misfits and mistakes for the better part of the last decade, and still be respected and admired by his peers, be them teammates or opposition. I have no doubt that there are fans who would rather see Iginla traded for a player who puts up the leader type numbers. Then, I also have little doubt that any of those ‘leader’ players would hesitate in playing with #12, if given the chance. It stands to reason that, if “elite” means to be one of the best because of your talent, then Iggy can’t be limited to Corsi or Fenwick stats to determine if he falls into this category. His talent extends beyond the tip of his hockey stick. It’s reflected in the success of his teammates and in the hearts of his fans. I wonder what words will be used to describe Iginla as he undoubtedly goes into the Hall of Fame? I am as certain as I write these words, that “Elite” will be among them.

** Vintage Flame is a Calgary based sports junkie that prefers to call hockey a "religion" rather than an addiction. He believes there are two types of hockey fans. Those who cheer for the Flames, and those who don’t understand the sport yet. When not engulfed in the hockey season, VF can usually be found passing the time with the NFL or commenting on this, that, and everything on Flames Nation.

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  • Vintage Flame

    I think it is a rare trait that a player makes the players around him better, and I think that is one of the many considerations that makes Jarome and elite player in the NHL.

    As for the notion of trading Jarome, I don’t get why you would give up a player, a top player, for what ifs… When you give up one good player for 3 or 4 what ifs (prospects & draft picks) you might make your team better. You might not as well.

    I could easily be mistaken in this line of thought, but I can’t remember too many trades that have worked out where a team gives up 3 or 4 pieces to get one good piece. I wonder if anybody wants to dig into that one and compare the outcomes over the last 15 years where one player was traded for multiple pieces in return.

    • Vintage Flame

      “I don’t get why you would give up a player, a top player, for what ifs… When you give up one good player for 3 or 4 what ifs (prospects & draft picks) you might make your team better. You might not as well.”

      That is a good point Emir. Yes you could trade Iginla and get some great… good… decent.. average to total busts of prospects. That is the crap shoot of prospect farming. One of my favorite Calgary Hitmen of all time was Pavel Brendl. The guy was a very big fish in a very small pond in the WHL. Yet, he couldn’t get it going in the NHL and was a huge bust for the Rangers.

      When a team as talent starved as the Flames finds themselves with this sort of developmental dilemma [say that 5 times fast], that can ill-afford to roll the dice.

  • @Justin – Now we are beating it to death, but that is exactly my point; the standard you are using is false, therefore the argument doesn’t stand. A better point would be, “I believe that there are a lot of fans who continue to follow the team through the current doldrums ONLY because of Iginla.” Its a testimonial, but its better than trying to squeeze some rhetorical power out of a number you know to be incorrect.

    • But we don’t know that the standard is false! Just because a seat is empty or a ticket is available, doesn’t mean it hasn’t been converted into some kind of attendance revenue for the team and dismissing that concept seems shortsighted. We’re not going to agree on this, but I’m of the opinion a number with at least some basis in reality is better then a blanket statement without reference.

      Regardless, to Reidja’s original point-I don’t think Iginla is losing the team money, because I don’t think keeping him around is mismanagement.

  • @VF – The best compliment to your article is that we have made it past 20 comments without the discussion devolving into a rant about Hagman and Stajan. Lately that seems to be the norm, so at least there is enough meat in your article to keep us going.

    @JazzyV – I think Iggy is a net positive to the marketing of the team, but you are going to have to stop using the sellout streak as an argument. Anyone who goes to the games knows its a lie, so we are going to have to find something better to support Iggy’s value on the income statement.

  • icedawg_42

    An interesting note – when I was at the first men’s game at the olympics, the beginning of the game didn’t see much of Iginla – then I wondored why he was on the third line. Didn’t take him long to get significant ice time on the top line – PLUS who was out there in OT, setting up the Golden Goal? With that coach showing him that kind of confidence, with THAT roster around him….well, there’s something there!

  • Seems like there’s a lot for me to add on/reply to…

    @Kent: I agree with pretty much everything you have stated, but I’m curious: you said “one of the best forwards”, not “the best”. Who do you have ahead of him?

    @Tach: The difference is that the Sedin’s can take on the toughies and come out ahead, it’s just with the assets the Nucks have they can afford to put the Sedin’s in such an advantagious situation.

    @Shutout: Huselius. Really. The rest of your comment cannot even be dignified with a response.

    @Reidja: Iginla is being kept on the team because he makes the team money. Once he no longer does that, he will be gone.

    @Rain Dogs: Value to the Actual Team + Money Made for the franchise > Value to a theoretical team.

    @Emir: Good point on the Elite players having help. Thing is, though, take a player like Kane off of Toews’ line-does he still produce at the rate he does with Toews? The lines are quite blurred.

    @DB: I think you know the answer to that.

    @Mike: 1. Yes. 2. No. 3. No.

    Iginla will still be considered “Elite” until he’s 36, maybe 37. Like Kiprusoff right now-he has that cache around the league, and there’s this view that the Flames are crap aside from Kipper and Iggy, which isn’t the case, of course.

    I’m the biggest Iggy fanboy out there, but he just can’t do it all 82 games anymore.

    Good read VF.

    • BobB

      Home games in first round series without Iginla is better revenue generator for the franchise than out of the playoffs with Iginla.

      People bought plenty of Flames jerseys before Jarome, and will after Jarome.

      These are the cycles of hockey. If you have a successful team….fine… keep your Yzerman’s and Sakic’s etc.

      If you don’t… you better move on… or you’ll die down the road.

      • Vintage Flame

        “Home games in first round series without Iginla is better revenue generator for the franchise than out of the playoffs with Iginla.”

        And I’m sure if you could guarantee the playoffs over the next 5 years, Iginla would definitely be traded. The problem is that you can’t.

    • Reidja

      Winning will make the team money. Good management will help the team win. Poor managmt holds onto an over-rated, aging player who won’t help the team win any more (and who, at best, barely helped the team win during his prime).

      The teams management is currently poor. Iggy is currently losing the team money.

      • Vintage Flame

        There is absolutely no way you can substantiate that Iginla is losing the Flames money. He is the primary reason the fans STILL come to the games. As Jazzy said in his reply, 260 straight games with 0 seats going unsold? You have to assume there is a link there somewhere.

        As for him being over-rated? Not sure how you consider a 34 year old that finishes 6th in scoring over-rated. The respect he has from his peers alone should make you disbelieve that notion.

        In Trevor Linden’s last NHL game, he skated up to Iginla and said, “You’re the best player in the game.”

        • Reidja

          FIrst of all, how old was Iggy when Linden said that? Show me anyone thinks this is the case today, and I’ll show you someone who over-rates Iggy.

          Take a look at the advanced stats in Kent’s last mediocrity article and try to tell me Iggy is elite. Sorry, but it’s BS. He’s the face of the franchise and the franchise has missed the playoffs two seasons in a row. That’s lost revenue, very simple.

          And this assertion that people go to games to see Iggy is a real stretch. I don’t care if f-ing Wayne Gretzky’s on the ice if we suck. Actually that would make us more of a joke than anything. Yeah the franchise is still reaping the results of 2003/04 which can be attributed to Darryl Sutter as much as Iggy or anyone else, but I bet attendance doesn’t take a dive if we part with this asset and get better at the same time. I know, sacrosanct.

          • Vintage Flame

            “FIrst of all, how old was Iggy when Linden said that? Show me anyone thinks this is the case today, and I’ll show you someone who over-rates Iggy.”

            That was 2 years ago, so 32. And if a player still said it today, I highly doubt that you or I are in any position to call them over-rated as well for making such comments.

            “Take a look at the advanced stats in Kent’s last …”

            Yeah, yeah I know. I made that reference in my article too. When you look strictly at all the underlying stats then Iginla’s numbers don’t come across as elite. This was the point of me writing the article in the first place Reidja.. I thought I made that clear?? It would have been a pretty short read if I said “Iggy’s not elite. If you don’t believe me, please read Kent Wilson!”
            The point of writing this article was to argue that there is more to an elite player than his Corsi or GVT rating.
            I hope I got that at least across to the other commenters, or else my article might have been a bust..

            “And this assertion that people go to games to see Iggy is a real stretch. I don’t care if f-ing Wayne Gretzky’s on the ice if we suck. Actually that would make us more of a joke than anything. Yeah the franchise is still reaping the results of 2003/04 which can be attributed to Darryl Sutter as much as Iggy or anyone else, but I bet attendance doesn’t take a dive if we part with this asset and get better at the same time. I know, sacrosanct.”

            Well then you would be “almost” wrong. No the fans don’t go to see Iggy alone, but make no mistake, he is the reason they still come to see the losing product that has been the Flames over the past few seasons. Flames fans are fickle at best, and if it takes someone like Iginla to keep them satiated whilst they try to right this ship, then you can bet they would turn rather quickly on the organization that hastily trades away the guy they are shining up the key to the city for before each game.

          • Reidja

            The more I hear the othe side of this argument, the more it reminds me of a certain Leaf franchise player who was allowed to call his own shots at the end of his career. Possibly to the detriment of his franchise. I’d argue the ramifications are a too important. I hear you restating your point, but I still don’t agree with it.

        • icedawg_42

          “Will he score 80 goals no.. but does he create a positive influence on the new kids coming up like Howse and Baertschi? I think so.” – and boom goes the dynamite! Imagine if Tayor Hall and Jordan Eberle had Jarome as a mentor, as opposed to Horcoff?

      • Actually, he’s not. According to the team, 0 seats have gone unsold in the last 260 games, in spite of the team’s performance/management. There is no concievable way his presence on the team is a financial negative.

        • Reidja

          They aren’t makIng the playoffs and, with the exception of one post season since Iggy has been here, they don’t win games in the playoffs. This is losing the team money. Unless we decide that the team is fine being mediocre… But are we leafs fans? Franchise players are Important. I think thats sort of what your getting at, but Iggy isn’t the only one around and any returns we could get on him are deminishing.

          • That is terrible logic. I guess Hall, Duchene, Nash, Koivu, Oshie, Richards, Weiss, Tavares, Spezza, Kane, Kovalchuk, Kessel and Staal all lost their teams money, too?

            This is a strawman argument. You’re blaming the success and financial well being of the team on one player. That is, to put it succinctly, moronic.

            The playoffs are, by nature, a bonus. Not gathering bonuses ≠ losing money.

          • Sure. There are 30 teams. 16 make the playoffs.

            A bonus is something given or paid over and above what is due. What is “due” is 82 regular season games.

            Please, explain why you disagree with me.

          • Vintage Flame

            I’m not sure why you keep drawing so many parallels with the Maple Leafs.
            The Leafs are terrible because their ownership doesn’t care what quality of team they ice because being in Toronto, they will sell out every single night regardless of the fact if they lost all 41 home games.

            How are the Flames like the Leafs in this regard or any other?

      • icedawg_42

        “Winning will make the team money, Good management will help the team win” – I agree there, but after that I cannot agree with any single statement in this comment. Tell me, how does being in the top 10 in scoring not help your team win? – UGH! Iggy is currently COSTING the team money – but he is NOT losing this team money.

  • icedawg_42

    On the article: your pace is slow, your flow is jumbled, and your overall thought process is as shallow and pedantic as your meatloaf. Just kidding Vintage – great work…I enjoyed reading this article, and love the fact that it has stirred up some good debate!

    This will surprise you, as you know I’m a HUGE Iggy fan, but I do NOT think Iggy is currently an “ELITE” player – I will agree with Kent here, that when he retires, his whole body of work will (or at least should and had better be) considered elite. The last few years have indeed seen a bit of a decline in his play – however, I personally put that on Darryl Sutter and Mike Keenan, who beat it into his head that he didn’t have to be “the guy” – you could see him purposefully trying to reinvent his game, trying to become a playmaker. He should not have done that – as what made him elite was his ability to drive, conquer the boards, and finish.

    I saw a resurgence last year somewhat from finally playing with a legit playmaker in Tanguay – so I pose the question back to you: If making those around you better is what classifies you as elite, was Iggy’s production last season a matter of Iggy making Tanguay and ‘random center’ better? Was it Tanguay making Iggy better? or was it a comfort level and chemistry with Tangs that made them both better? I tend to think it’s the third option.

    Now – I am STILL a huge Iginla fan, and I would storm the gates if he got traded (yes EVEN at his current salary hit) – he carried this team long enough to earn the right to have his contract honored in full! Also I DO believe that he has always been, and continues to be an ELITE leader in that dressing room, and in the NHL! There are few players anywhere who command as much respect as he does.

  • @ Shutout … should change your personna to SHUTUP……LOL

    Id one up Kents comment. Iginla has been the best forward the Flames have EVER had. Last time I looked wanting the puck is what Elite Players do..and just count the goals and look at the type of “hungry goals” Iginla scores.

    And seriously..lets put the perspective of linemates and limit to the club team and not international play. Cammalleri, Huselius and Tanguay MADE Iginla. What have any of those three ever done playing with players on other teams???? Did Tanguay make St Louis and Lecavalier and Stamkos in TB? Did he make Forsberg Sakic et al in Colorado? Same with Huselius and Cammalleri….Not a chance. Id suggest that playing with Iginla made them look like solid NHLers. Who was the most dominant skater in the Flames Cup Run?

    I think that the lack of success for the Flames was that they had no supporting cast. They spent big bucks on their backend which and only had one elite forward. Here’s an question for you. Is Daymond Langkow a #1 or even a #2 on any other team in the NHL?? (its a rhetorical question).

  • RedMan

    With so many 10 million to 12 million dollar players, Jerome’s 7 million seems like an amazing deal for a man that finished 6 in scoring!

    Where is a list of the top 10 point getter’s salaries to compare? This is what I would like to see, because, with teams paying players upwards of 12 million and being competitive, it should be easy to build around a 7 mil cap hit.

    My only knock on Iggy is his lack of commitment to back-checking. He too often is sitting by the blue line waiting for the cherry pass, though I don’t think this is because he is selfish, I think it is because he feels, as one poster pointed out, that HE needs to score for the team to win.

    Iggy is king!

    • BobB

      Here is your list

      1. Daniel Sedin – 6.0 (104pts)

      2. Martin St. Louis – 5.6 (99pts)

      3. Corey Perry – 5.3(98pts)

      4. Henrik Sedin – 6.0 (94pts)

      5. Steve Stamkos – 3.7/7.5 (91pts)

      6. Jarome Iginla – 7.0 (86pts)

      7. Alex Ovechkin – 9.05 (85pts in 79 gms)

      8. Teemu Selanne – 4.5 (80pts in 73 gms)

      9. Henrik Zetterberg – 6.0 (80pts)

      10. Brad Richards – 7.8/6.6 (77pts in 72 gms)

      Do you want to put age beside that list? Team standings? Playoff performance?

      Iggy is the odd one out to my eye, maybe Richards… and we wanted him so bad as well.

      @ Vintage Flame

      Nobody can guarantee anything regarding playoffs, but hockey is not a game for conservative, loving decisions.

      What I can guarantee is 1. Jarome Iginla is not going to increase his trade value/return. 2. He’s not going to get younger. 3. He’s not going to play for the Flames forever 4. there will be another superstar player on this team in the future. Hopefully sooner than later.

      Can anyone say (guarantee) that Iginla is helping us improve today greater than him not being traded is preventing us from being better tomorrow?

      • RedMan

        thanks, interestinf for what it is missing… all the 8m+ players NOT in the list… Jarome has been excellent value for his pay, consistent over so many years.

      • Vintage Flame

        “What I can guarantee is 1. Jarome Iginla is not going to increase his trade value/return. 2. He’s not going to get younger. 3. He’s not going to play for the Flames forever 4. there will be another superstar player on this team in the future. Hopefully sooner than later.”

        1. No probably not. As any player reaches the apex of their career, value is always a downhill slope. This is what I had commented on referring to the deal to ship Robyn Regehr.

        2. Obviously..

        3. Debatable. I still maintain that he leaves if he wants to, not because the Flames deal him.. I could be completely wrong though. Wouldn’t be the 1st time.

        4. I hope you are right.. and I believe you are.

      • Why can’t he increase his return? If, 40 games into the season, he has 50 points, would you not agree that his value may be higher?

        While I can’t guarantee that keeping Jarome makes the team better today, you can’t say that trading him guarantees the team will be better in the future. It’s almost a straw man argument based on hypotheticals that can’t be proved either way-the inverse of the argument is just as strong as the argument.

  • Vintage Flame: excellent stuff. I certainly wouldn’t object to reading your work on FN.

    I’m going to argue just one point. First of all – like any self-respecting Flames fan – I love Iggy. I don’t want him traded (at least not yet, and ideally, never) as I think the team can be tweaked to build a winner around him still. And, you’re right, he certainly makes his teammates better, that’s for sure! But, my disagreement comes in your reference to the 2010 Olympics. I found that we saw just what Jarome could do when paired with an elite centre in A player like Sid. Crosby made Iginla work and made HIM a better player. But – other than the hatty in game 1 and the perfectly timed pass in OT for the winner – he was quiet and, I believe, outshone by the many other “elite” players on the team.

    As far as his value to the Flames, I don’t think that can be currently overstated as he appears to be the only reason UFAs have to join our team. You’re exactly right on the admiration he garners not just in Cowtown, but across the league.

    One thing’s for certain – it’s been quite an honor watching him sport the Flaming C all these years and I hope he continues to do so for many more.

    Cheers.

    • Vintage Flame

      Thanks Scott, I can definitely reciprocate the compliment.

      I don’t think Sid had to make Iggy work though. The guy is a beast when it comes to fitness and I can’t ever question his work ethic.

      It’s such a see-saw when you look at truly good players.. Who make who the better player. In the Canada Cup, did Wayne make Mario better or vice versa? Probably not, they are both just great players in their own right.
      Now if you were to ask me if I thought there would be a higher offensive output on a two way basis, if say Iggy played with Sid instead of Malkin? I’d have to say yes. I think both players would benefit more statiscally from that pairing.

      The one thing I hate, and I have seen a couple of times is when Iginla gets compared to the “Sedins” Like what the hell? You are comparing 1 guy to 2, that probably share 1 brain!
      I have no problem saying that I would take 2 Jarome Iginla’s over the Sisters any day. I would even say that Iggy would make EITHER Sedin a better player if he played with them rather than which ever brother.
      [… head spinning.. Too much Vancouver talk.. Still reeling from the Kesler compliment.. I’m done!]

  • Good work on this one VF. I like that you’ve picked a position that Kent Wilson disagrees with. 🙂 And here’s a comment just for Justin Azevedo: Iggy is overpriced, in the twilight of his career, and should be traded if possible.

    A fun piece, but KW is right; the discussion about “elite” really needs to be framed in terms of career versus current ability. I was actually hoping that we would come up with a definition for elite something along the lines of, “Corsi level 3 standard deviations above the mean.” That would have got all the anti-stat guys riled up.

    I actually don’t really think we should necessarily trade Iggy in the bigger picture. The guy is a legend in Calgary, and barring a chance to win a cup, should probably retire here. He’s hockey marketing gold.

    • Vintage Flame

      Thanks Mike. Part of the goal here was to really see what I was capable of. If getting the spot means getting the attention of Mr. Wilson, then I think the topic was a good one. It’s also something that is always in the forefront of the fans minds. I have a lot of ideas and it feels good to get them out there.

      I don’t think Iggy is overpriced at all. In looking at his Cap hit to the term versus what he actually brings to this team, he is a good buy. He is a fan icon that fills the Dome every night and so by no means is he losing the Flames money on any account.

      I shudder to think how this team looks without Iggy on it. Back in the 80’s it never was an issue. Many fans were livid at the trading of Nieuwendyk for Iginla. However back then, we had the people to supplant that talent and scoring. Lest we forget when the Flames won the Cup in ’89, we had 4 40 goal scorers, 2 of which had 50. That burden now falls on Iginla solely.

  • My thing is, the guy has two years left (on his contract). Elite or not, for given values of elite, it doesn’t really matter. Iggy would have to score 80 goals and be a plus 40 for this team to truly compete. I doubt that will happen. So do you trade him?

    • Vintage Flame

      In my opinion.. I don’t think you do trade him. I think he brings more to the table than that. Will he score 80 goals no.. but does he create a positive influence on the new kids coming up like Howse and Baertschi? I think so.

      I think back to the when the Flames had Sergei Makarov. Was he an elite player with Red Army? Absolutely. Was he with the Flames? No, but he did make Gary Roberts a 50 goal scorer.

      I wouldn’t be surprised to see Iggy get extended passed his two years to coincide with the term on Tanguay.

  • Interesting article. I read the article and didn’t really have much of a reaction to it. In fact this often happens with I read anything from VF, and thats because its usually right in tune with my thinking. So I liked the article alot.

    Only after reading the comments I remember how hot this debate is and appreciate the article even more.

    Regarding Iggy as an elite player. I still do, just because he is aging does not mean that he will lose this like Naslund. Selanne and Sakic are great examples of players of didn’t have the aging problem kill them. I see Iginla in that category, and until I see the 82 game body of evidence that proves he isn’t one anymore I will consider him Elite.

    As for an elite player who doesn’t play with other good players, well, try to name 3 in the NHL. I can only come up with Crosby.

    Great article VF, favorite one for me thus far.

  • BobB

    Yes, I think Kent has it nailed.

    Sure, Jarome is elite… AND that’s not helping us get better, only helping us stay competitively mediocre.

    AND for how long?

    Same for Kiprusoff (although he’s not performing anywhere near an equally high level vs his peers).

    The difference between Jarome and Kipper, is no team is going to hand over any building blocks of value in trade for our favorite Finn.

    With Jarome they would. It’s not how much Iggy means to this team playing here, it’s how much Iggy COULD mean to this team playing elsewhere.*

    *That does come with the caveat that Feaster wouldn’t royally f%*k up the trade like he did with Regehr!

    • Vintage Flame

      I totally agree with Rain Dogs, especially his last statement. Is Iggy an Elite player. Yes & he always will be. Look at the names of players he was ahead in scoring just last year, done on a non playoff team. Our teams revolved around a core that was led by Iggy & we got used to playoffs every year. But this shouldnt be our discussion. The poker player in me makes me want to get a read on the hand we have now. Iggy has made lots of money over his reign in Calgary. I doubt if $$$ will be the focal point of Iggy’s next contract. Feaster has been postering that the organization wants him for life, what else could they really say. Iggy has said he loves Calgary & wants to play here, what else could he say. Surely, Iggy sees the direction the team is going & he has also seen fans jump all over him with both feet when has his usual flat starts.

      He’s 34, he no longer will carry the team like a Sid or Ovechkin or Sedins for that matter. But he would look mighty scary playing with a team with one of those players already on it.
      I think the return for Iggy would be huge yet & an owner like Pegula who wants to win so bad & has the $$$$ to do it would give up Kassian & Adams, a 1st rounder & bury whatever contracts he had to to fit Iggy in the cap.
      I dont think conversations with Jerome & Feaster about his future should wait too much longer & if Iggy wants to win a cup sooner than later, the auctioning of Jerome should start well before the trade deadline to maximize our return. No one will be able to convince me that the Flames are not on the cusp of a rebuild.
      Good article Vintage, thumbs high!!!

      • Vintage Flame

        ” I dont think conversations with Jerome & Feaster about his future should wait too much longer & if Iggy wants to win a cup sooner than later, the auctioning of Jerome should start well before the trade deadline to maximize our return. No one will be able to convince me that the Flames are not on the cusp of a rebuild. Good article Vintage, thumbs high!!!”

        I agree with you. I think if there comes the day that Iggy goes to the organization and says he would like to move on for a Cup, then it has to be a handshake and a “give us a list of team you want.”

        I also agree that the Flames are on the cusp of a rebuild as well. It’s a matter of timing when dealing Iginla.. I hope the Flames show patience but urgency as well.

        Thanks for the thumbs up!!

  • Reidja

    I have to agree with Kent that Jerome is no longer an elite player – although the Flames are paying him like he is.

    I’ll also add that there is a very good chance that his value will never be as high as it is today during the rest of his career.

    Keeping this guy on our team out of emotion is killing our chances of moving into a new era for the Flames and it’s one thing that’s killing our chances of not sucking frankly.

    This being said, I’m one guy who would be sad to see him go…. go figure. Sports fanaticism is irrational sometimes. Flames fandom is trying to spite our face by NOT cutting off our nose.

  • What a pile of apologetic garbage.

    I agree with Kent that Iginla has been an elite level right winger, and he might be one of the better right wingers right now, but he is far from elite anymore.

    Players like Tanguay, Cammilleri, Sakic, Crosby, Huselius have made Iginla better, not the other way around. Iginla is a selfish goal sucking player that needs people to play with to meet his potential. Since he has arrived, and esspecially in the last decade apologists have thrown out the arguement that Iginla needs a number one centerman. Elite players dont need other players to make them better. Elite players have so much talent, drive, work ethic, and commitment that they make those around them better. The only time Iginla has done that was with Conroy.

    When coaches and players like Regehr talk about team defense, and the need for all the players to come back into the play in order for the team to be successful they are talking about Iginla. Iginla is worried only about himself and his point totals, not about being a complete team player. He truly believes that the team can only win if he scores, and so he takes short cuts to make himself look better.

    Elite players make teams successful, which is something we have not seen from Iginla. Where was he two years about when he had six points in the teams last 16 games, or what did he contribute this last year when the team was barely playing .500 hockey the last two months of the season. Iginla padded his stats last year in the dog days of the season when the rest of the league was struggling, but when it mattered he was not the same force.

    The arguement about trading Iginla is not that he has been a great player, or even that he can still put up points. The reason for trading him is long term improvement for the organization. Iginla is the best tradeable asset for the team, and every year he gets older, more inconsistent, and sees his trade value diminish. Four years ago we could have had a packages similar to what Philly got for Carter and Richards. Now we would be looking to get a high draft pick or a high end prospect at best. By next summer the return will be less.

    I stand by my proclamation from this last winter when there were Iginla for Schenn rumours floating around. If the Flames had the opportunity to get Schenn for Iginla and did not make the trade it will be one of the worst transaction never done.

    Iginla’s career with the Flames has been for the team to be good, but not good enough. For nine of those years they were not good enough to make the playoffs, for four years they lost in the first round. One good year and that was more due to Kiprusoff, Darryl, and Gelinas than it was to Iginla. The future of this team is only going to get worse if they continue to rely on Iginla, only by moving him do they have a chance to start climbing the mountain again.

    • Vintage Flame

      “What a pile of apologetic garbage.”

      Yeah, from your opening comment, I knew this would be interesting..

      “Players like Tanguay, Cammilleri, Sakic, Crosby, Huselius have made Iginla better, not the other way around. Iginla is a selfish goal sucking player that needs people to play with to meet his potential. Since he has arrived, and esspecially in the last decade apologists have thrown out the arguement that Iginla needs a number one centerman. Elite players dont need other players to make them better.”

      Sakic and Crosby are elite in their own right. I never suggested Iggy made them elite. However, the other guys experienced their best play and seasons with Iginla. How can you say THEY made him a better player when it’s their numbers that fall when not playing with #12? Explain that to me please, because your errr logic [sic] escapes me.

      That was the basis of my argument here, which you evidently missed. It’s not just that Iginla has put up top 10 scoring, with a merry-go-round of linemates, but that he has made THEM better players while he’s doing it.

      The stereotypical “elite” player in the NHL is viewed as such for his play and what he produces. I tried a different approach to the status by suggesting that Not only has Iginla put up top 10 numbers, but that he has turned his linemates into top line players.

      I don’t pretend to have any misguided notions of the reality of Iginla’s dwindling career, but I challenged anyone to find a player with elite recognition that wouldn’t take Jarome on their line in a heartbeat if given the chance.

  • “but his ice time has been more and more managed the last few years and it’s clear he can’t hang with the very best in the league at ES night-in and night-out anymore”

    Well, according to Alain Vigneault and various other data neither can the Sedins and I suspect if you said they were not elite you would get laughed off the interweb.

    There was a time when Jarome was probably the single best player in the NHL. He no longer is. But he still put up 43 goals and any player who logs enough ice time and gets enough chances to put up the sixth most points in the league remains elite, particularly where there is more than sufficient prior data to suggest it is not a total fluke.So at least through 2010-2011 Iginla remained an elite player.

    Will iginla be elite this season? Hard to say. As the years go by it becomeas increasingly less likely. As a fan of the Flames and of Iginla I will be cheering for him to be (and I know you will be too Kent!)

  • My comment will probably make me unpopular. And it’s not meant to insult anyone. I just have to add my two cents (because that’s what I do).

    First, let me say that there’s no question Jarome Iginla will be consider an elite player when his career is over. I think he’s probably one of the very best forwards that has ever played for this franchise. As a guy who has seen him play his whole career in Calgary, I feel extremely extremely privileged. The respect he commands in the NHL is altogether deserved.

    That said, if the question is “is Jarome Iginla currently elite?”, then we conflate the issue by looking over his entire body of work. Marcus Naslund was an elite player for years as well. By the time he turned 36-year old, however, he was a mediocre middle rotation forward. Which isn’t to say that will happen to Jarome, just that it matters at what point of the career arc we’re talking about.

    So what’s happened since then? Plain and simple, the Flames have had a dwindling supporting cast that has made it possible for opposition to focus on cutting off the head of the dragon, to watch the body fall behind.

    I would argue that precisely the opposite has occurred. Although Sutter never landed the mythical “first line center” for Iginla, the rest of the forward corps has generally improved by modest steps here and there, particularly relative to, say, 2004 when Shean Donovan was one of the club’s leading scorers. In fact, one of the Flames enduring strengths since about 2008-09 has been the middle tier – David Moss, Curtis Glencross, Rene Bourque (until his giant step back last season) and recently Mikael Backlund and Tim Jackman who absolutely crush their similarly priced counterparts on other teams.

    The irony of this organization is if Sutter had managed to coordinate his later supporting cast with his earlier elite top-end, the Flames would have definitely been one of the best teams in the league for awhile. The problem for Darryl is his big boys drifted away from their peak by the time he managed to get the rest in place.

    When it matters, in the NHL or International play, Iginla seems to be the spark or the catalyst that just makes everyone around him play to their full potential, if not more.

    Well, yes…except when he isn’t. The end of the 2009-10 season comes to mind for example. With the Flames clawing for a playoff spot, Jarome fell off a cliff. He has also been roundly outclassed in most of the Flames first round series since 2004. In 2009 versus CHI, for example, Iginla managed 3 shots, zero points and a cumulative -5 rating in the final two games of the series.

    And in terms of elevating linemates, let’s not forget the ill-fated pairing of Iginla and Jokinen, which was mostly a train wreck.

    The point here isn’t that Iginla sucks…it’s that he’s only incredibly clutch if you are rather selective with your data-points.

    Jarome is highly durable, puts up good numbers and remains a very good offensive player, but his ice time has been more and more managed the last few years and it’s clear he can’t hang with the very best in the league at ES night-in and night-out anymore. Not in terms of outplaying them at least. There’s certainly no shame in that because the dude is 34-years old and there’s only so long a guy can do the heavy lifting.

    • Vintage Flame

      “That said, if the question is “is Jarome Iginla currently elite?”, then we conflate the issue by looking over his entire body of work. Marcus Naslund was an elite player for years as well. By the time he turned 36-year old, however, he was a mediocre middle rotation forward. Which isn’t to say that will happen to Jarome, just that it matters at what point of the career arc we’re talking about.

      No player can stay elite until the day he retires, that is just biology and the unfairness of time. I would put Iggy ahead of Markus Naslund everyday.. and twice on Sunday’s. I don’t think his play at any point in his career has had the impact that Iginla has had, especially regarding his own club. Sure in 2004 he had 104 pts., but other than that his numbers are good, but I don’t think elite. If I have Iginla scoring 40-50 goals per for the next 2 years, I’m a happy camper. Especially in light of the new direction this team is looking at prospect wise.

      “I would argue that precisely the opposite has occurred. Although Sutter never landed the mythical “first line center” for Iginla, the rest of the forward corps has generally improved by modest steps here and there, particularly relative to, say, 2004 when Shean Donovan was one of the club’s leading scorers. In fact, one of the Flames enduring strengths since about 2008-09 has been the middle tier – David Moss, Curtis Glencross, Rene Bourque (until his giant step back last season) and recently Mikael Backlund and Tim Jackman who absolutely crush their similarly priced counterparts on other teams.”

      I can’t agree with this point. This is what I was referring to when I said Iginla has led a group of misfits and mistakes. Jokinen was a horrible fit for Iginla and while the play of Moss and Backlund has been impressive at times, it has hardly had the makings of a power line. I would defer back to your example of Naslund and the strength of the line comprised of Markus, Bert and Morisson. They kept that line glued together. How many nights have we seen constant reshuffling of the top line because the play just wasn’t there? Is it an Iginla thing? Or the guys playing with him? Tanguay and Conroy have shown to be the consistent fits, through all the turn-style rotations. Camalleri could have easily fit in there as well if Sutter hadn’t blown that opportunity, but even there, the facts are in the stats that Cammi had his best numbers playing with Iggy.

      All that aside.. I want to take this time to thank Kent for this opportunity, and hopefully more to follow!.. Also, thanks for the feedback everyone.. I will respond, or try to respond to everyone… @shutout.. get a beer or something, this may hurt a little.