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Photo Credit: Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press

Under what circumstances does a Jarome Iginla return make sense?

Alcohol, opium and Jarome Iginla to the Flames rumors: the three most addictive substances in Southern Alberta at the writing of this piece.

At a time when hockey news is as scarce as water in the Sahara Desert, the whispers that a Jarome Iginla reunion with the Flames is in offing get louder by the day, and an ever growing excitement about the possibility is hitting a near fevered pitch on the internet.

But the question regarding an Iginla-to-Calgary reunion is not, “Could it happen,” but rather, “Should it happen?” Does it make sense for a team that believes its window of competition opens this year to add a 40-year-old past icon who has lost multiple steps in the last few years in an attempt to push themselves over the top?

The heart wants what it wants

We at FlamesNation have tried to establish ourselves as a forum of logic, reasoning and unbiased analysis regarding the Calgary Flames. If the Flames are rumored to be in on – or eventually get – an ineffective player or make a questionable deal, Lord knows you’ll hear about it. A Jarome Iginla signing at this point looks to be very much that: a questionable allocation of resources on an ineffective player that will simply chew up a roster spot and return a net-negative effect on the team.

BUT JUST THINK OF HOW BEAUTIFUL IT WOULD BE!

The number 12 has been rightfully vacant since Iginla’s departure in April of 2013, but his place in the hearts of Flames fans is anything but. From Pittsburgh to Boston to Colorado and most recently to Los Angeles, we’ve followed Iginla from afar, overcome with warm and fuzzy feelings of nostalgia every time he popped up on a highlight reel or was mentioned in an article. Heck, his vintage Gordie Howe hat trick against the Flames last March as a member of the Los Angeles Kings dented the Flames’ playoff hopes, but all we could think of was how awesome it was that he came out and saluted the crowd as the first star of the game.

Jarome Iginla’s name being called out on Oct. 7 during the player introductions of the Flames’ home opener would likely blow the architecturally suspect roof right off the Saddledome. It would be something out of a storybook.

Iginla’s second tour of duty with the Flames would start with a media frenzy press conference, in which he would talk about how great it is to be back, how much things have changed since he left and his excitement to chase that elusive Stanley Cup with a young, up and coming Flames team that he affectionately watched grow from afar (even if that’s a crock of ship we’ll all believe it and love it). Then will come the countless articles about Iginla’s fast approaching, guaranteed bounce-back year with the franchise he embodied for the better part of his career, his impeccable physical shape that will allow it and think pieces on his fit with Monahan and Gaudreau. Then, he’ll undoubtedly place near the top in fitness testing, and probably even have a big preseason game to top things off.

The frenzy will be near deafening when the Flames open the regular season on Oct. 5 in Edmonton.

Unfortunately, all evidence points towards the positivity going straight off a cliff – alongside his play – immediately after. Everything about Iginla’s recent results and the fact he is 40 years old point to him likely not even being an NHLer next year.

Since signing with the Bruins and then the Avalanche after his trade from the Flames, Iginla’s counting stats have steadily declined. The numbers below are, of course, GP – G – A – P:

His underlying statistics paint an even grimmer picture, showing the drastic decline of a once superstar.

Since we here at FN love graphs, here’s essentially how Iginla’s on-ice impact has gone since departing Calgary.

A popular argument for signing Iginla despite his being 40 years old is pointing to 45-year-old Jaromir Jagr and the above-average results he’s turned in at his advanced age. Problem is, the two really aren’t at all comparable. Iginla’s recently completed age 39 season isn’t even in the same stratosphere as Jagr’s in terms of possession impact.

The counting stats are similar, but the chart suggests Iginla was the beneficiary of good linemates and powerplay time which boosted his counting stats, because he got absolutely caved in otherwise. On Jagr, amazingly enough, his metrics across the board improved over the five years following 2012-13. Now that’s a guy the Flames should look into, but I digress.

If the Flames really are interested in bringing back Iginla, is there anyway they can somehow squeeze positive value out of a player who, despite still possessing the ability to score, is regularly smashed possession-wise?

Finding a fit for Iginla

The Flames already have a 12-15 goal possession black hole in Troy Brouwer, so it seems extremely counter productive to go and add another. I think at this point everyone understands that Iginla is no longer a top six forward, and frankly isn’t a top nine guy either. The one caveat of positivity with Iggy is the fact his anti-tank gun of a shot hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s not unreasonable to say Iginla is still one of the most lethal shooters from in and around the hashmarks in the NHL, primarily on the powerplay, as evidenced by half of his 14 goals coming on the man advantage.

Aside from perhaps Mark Giordano, the Flames lack a true one-time threat on the powerplay, and rely more on seeing eye shots, rebounds and cross-crease passing to bank goals on the PP. Adding in an artillery dynamic like Jarome Iginla parked on his off-wing tossing rockets at the net is no doubt attractive. Problem is, what do you with him for the other 57 or so minutes he isn’t standing around waiting to shoot?

The Columbus Blue Jackets perhaps offered an interesting solution to such a problem this past year with their usage of Sam Gagner. Gagner posted over 50 points despite spending most of the year on the fourth line. How can a player have that big of an offensive impact in such a limited role? Power play time: 193.23 of Gagner’s 860.07 total minutes this past season came on the power play, where he was a primary fixture – and an effective one at that – for the Blue Jackets. That means 22.35% of the time Gagner spent on the ice was on the powerplay. In contrast, Iginla spent only 16.5% of his ice time this past season on the PP. Most of that maybe comes from the Avalanche and Kings relying on him as a top nine forward night in and night out, but there’s room to adjust his usage.

Iginla was also a 48.8% CF player at even strength against reasonably tough competition, so in theory, he shouldn’t get completely snowed in against weaker competition. In comparison, Troy Brouwer carried a 46.9 CF% at evens.

So, theoretically the Flames could shore up their powerplay with a big shot, and then keep him on the fourth line with 8-10 minutes a night against other teams’ fourth lines where the damage of his even strength play should be minimized. In a perfect world, Iginla scores a few even strength goals and combined with his power play markers and some luck, ends up with a reasonable goal differential. Probably not a positive one, but not to the point where he’s a legitimate and consistent detriment to the team when in the lineup. Not exactly painting the rosiest of pictures though, am I?

Assuming Iginla can agree to this usage design (which is no guarantee given the immense amount of pride he must take in being one of the game’s best players for such a long time), he would likely be reunited with centre Matt Stajan. The Flames are paying Stajan and Brouwer a combined $7.65 million next season, so it’s safe to presume they’ll reprise their roles on the fourth line come next fall. In a time when teams are fashioning progressively younger, faster and cheaper bottom sixes, especially fourth lines, having a unit of Iginla-Stajan-Brouwer is less than ideal at an average age of 34.6 and slowwww. Frankly, a line of Hamilton-Jankowski-Iginla would be, aside from fascinating, probably a better option. The Flames’ financial statements likely squash that, so they’d be stuck with a large anchor of a fourth line.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, none of this really matters. Jarome Iginla would be back in a Calgary Flames jersey, the only sweater he really ever belonged in. He probably wouldn’t play anywhere near the full 82 game spread, but the ones in which he does play in, he would play in. As a Calgary Flame. With a flaming C on the front of his sweater and his iconic 12 on the back. He would score a goal or two in the ‘Dome and we would all get to live the Iggy Dance again. Maybe one of those goals will even be significant in nature.

The argument to sign Jarome Iginla is rooted in pure emotion, not logic. The Flames are all but certainly getting worse by signing him. But that’s okay, hockey is a game and we watch it for fun. I would tolerate an ineffective fourth line for one last opportunity to be Hanging in the Dome, Chilling with Jarome.

After all, Johnny Gaudreau is going to feed him cross-ice pass for a Stanley Cup-winning, one-timer goal in overtime of Game 7, next summer. It’s a no brainer.

  • Fan the Flames

    Iggy at 40 is still a much better player than Brouwer . Given 4th line minutes and some 2nd team PP time he could still be very effective . If he is willing to platoon with Brouwer and Freddie Hamilton and play maybe 50 games he could be an asset. Remember he used to be at his best against Edmonton .

    • You, know, I hadn’t considered that question, but now that I have, the answer is; “Yes: he would be-unquestionally-better than Brouwer.”

      But only for a year. If we did sign him.

      Which we absolutely shouldn’t, but we totally should.

  • Carl the tooth

    Pto . Show something In camp . Iggy at a mill if it don’t work out that someone else beats him out for the spot or he proves ineffective send him packing? But I honestly think trevling wants his blueprints on this team and moving back isn’t moving forward I love iggy but like theo sometimes it may be best to move on ( even though when theo came back for a pto. Comeback he was pretty good and they thought he wasn’t good enough for the I believe 2005 team after the cup run and flames were labeled number 1 to win cup but didn’t even make the playoffs lolo could have given theo a proper way to end his career and I think the organization owed it to him . Who knows after knocking off some rust could fluery have made a significant impact ? I think so and I think iginla would be way more leadership and room quality than Brouwer .we could use a guy who is a rw that can score .play some rw pp . Fight (battle of Alberta ) who replaces englend for toughness ? Iginla still has around 100 goals last 4 seasons . Sign him

      • Carl the tooth

        Wrong it’s 95 goals . I think you added col/ la As two different seasons 2013-30 goals. 2014 29goals 2015- 22 and 2016 last year 14 goals . 95 goals last 4 years

    • Kzak99

      A PTO would be a great idea for any normal player, but do you really want to be the person that steps up to the podium in the Saddledome media room and announce that you’ve CUT the greatest player to wear a Flames uniform? The level headed fans will understand, but the casual, everyday, emotional, nostalgic ones will not.

      • Carl the tooth

        Yes I agree I only meant as far as his possible production value .because he’s still scored 95 goals the last 4 seadson s . And could do even better with this team . I only meant as far as if he scored 20 goals I’m sure he could do that easy or more we need a guy who can unload a few on the pp.hes still has value this is iginla we’re talking about it’s his hart and determination that define him . Theo fluery same thing renlentless !!! If we could get him under 2 mill how do you say no.

        • Carl the tooth

          Landeskog 33 points. Duchane41 points inginla 27 points but I think his plus minus may have been better I don’t see the cliff yet ..just a bad year on a bad team still only 4 less goals that duchane etc . He will easily score 20 plus on flames roster

  • I don’t think Iggy…I mean, I think Canada owns him just as much as we do for his assist on Crosby’s goal.

    That moment is etched in our cultural stone now, and it’s fine and just that his career will ultimately be defined by that moment. And any return to Calgary runs the risk of tainting his personal legacy, what with the analytic microscope players are put under these days. If he starts dragging the team down or ends up being a healthy scratch just along for the ride…experiencing that in the media will be heart-breaking.

    But there’s one more thing: after he left us, he was going to join Boston the year they won the cup, but at the eleventh hour went with Pittsburgh. That maybe wasn’t cool.

    Just sayin’.

    • piscera.infada

      And I hate to potentially de-rail the thread here, but Iginla did absolutely nothing wrong during that trade “debacle”. If anyone should take blame, it’s Feaster for the return in aggregate (the Boston deal in hindsight is equally as underwhelming as the Pittsburgh deal), and/or management for not authorizing a deal a few years earlier (when the return would have ludicrous, and the writing was on the wall).

      Moreover, players have NTCs and NMCs written into their contracts in good faith. They do it for a reason, and often agree to less in terms of compensation to get them. It seems a little ludicrous to besmirch a player who has played well enough over the course of his career to be entirely deserving of something like a no-move clause, for using said no-move clause. The club is also contractually bound to uphold that clause.

  • OYYC

    There is exactly one open position in the 12 forward group, and Jankowski figures to be the odds-on favourite to fill that spot. There have been repeated musings of adding players such as J. Williams, Sharp, Jagr, Iginla. None of those guys figure into the long term plans of the team. Any outside addition would just chew up a roster spot, as Christian R. mentioned in the article.

    After signing the 3 remaining RFA’s and potential bonuses, the Flames will only have about 2.5M to play with. Barring any trade, and/or somehow getting rid of Troy Brouwer’s contract, the group that the team has now is the group they will go with to start the season. In my most humblest of opinions, any talk of adding another player is just that – talk. Treliving was done after he re-signed Stone, and any additional moves will be on 2 way contract type deals.

  • Loud_voices

    I don’t know about you, but clearly iggy’s production dropped because of being used ineffectively. Yeah his age plays a factor but just look at what he did in the last 20 games of the season when he was traded to L.A. he was a complete different player than he was in Colorado. At the pace he was doing in L.A. that’s like 20-30 goals 40-50 point season which is still good, and I still believe he has the ability to do more. Iginla definitely still has the skills to play a top 9, maybe even a top 6 role it’s just his speed that might be an issue. I think he would fit in the Calgary line up pretty well as a solid puck carrier, a big body, and a wicked shot. But if he could keep up with all the young talent would truly be the factor.

    • Flames fan since 83

      I believe Iggy fit in to LA Kings because of the Slow style of the Kings. Iggy could not skate fast enough to keep up to the younger Colorado players. LA is a big, robust, slower team. That was the perfect team for Jarome.
      For that reason, I don’t think he will be a good fit in Calgary.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Pro sports is entertainment. If signing Iggy draws more attention to the Flames during the season, how is that a bad thing? Iggy still has value as a marketing prop in these parts and I daresay that even in a mainly 4th line role, he can pot 10+ goals.

    Someone compared several posts back compared Lanny in ’89 and Iggy today with the point being that the Greatest was 36 in 1989.

    According to my local grog shop, “40 is the new 25.” There is no doubt that even at age 40, Iggy is in remarkable physical condition and would place near closer to the top than the bottom in all aspects of physical testing.

    As for his skating, even when Iggy was a Kamloops Blazer he was no blazer on skates. He has always been an average skater, yet despite not being able to keep up in skates with my Aunt Lucy, he will be a first ballot Hall of Famer.

    Just sign Iggy already and give him a chance to end it where it all began.

    Now that’s entertainment!

    • Flames fan since 83

      First of all, it wouldn’t be entertaining for me if they brought back Iggy and we all watched him fail “bigly”.
      Second, the game has evolved. The speed game is night and day difference from even three years ago. Kamloops Blazers was a million years ago. This is a really bad example to use!

      • BlueMoonNigel

        In his last 3 seasons, Iginla potted 29, 22 and 14 goals while playing all but 2 games. That is not too bad for an old man in the “speed” era who was never quicksilver to begin with.

        • Flames fan since 83

          As I mentioned. The game has changed since 3 years ago.
          Iggy went from 29 goals three years ago, and only scored 14 last year. Huge decline. And further more, last year, Iggy scored a large percentage of his goals after he got traded from a speedy Colorado team to a big and slow LA team. The slower LA style of play works to his advantage. This scares me because Calgary is more of a speed team like Colorado and not the big, LA team.

          • Flames fan since 83

            Colorado didn’t really have any real snipers last season. Ratanen scored 20, Matt D and Gabriel L scored 18 each. Nathan had 16. Jerome had 8 (in 61 games).
            My point is Iggy was much more effective with LA slower playing speed. He scored 6 goals in 19 games.
            Do you think Iggy can skate fast enough to play with Calgary’s system? I don’t.

  • Ludis Fanaticus

    Jarome Iginla played his first game in Calgary, the year I moved here.
    My first Jersey was a #12 and I wore it to games until he left.

    I picked a new rookie, once he moved to Boston, and bought a #23.

    Many, many nights I went to Flames games, in the late 90’s and early in the new millennium and Jerome was the only bright light on the ice.
    Today’s Flames are bursting with excitement, compared to most of those years.

    The say “you can never go home”.
    I’ve lived a few decades and can understand and appreciate that sentiment.
    As much as I would love to believe we can relive the glory years of the past, it’s a new time and a new era. We have new champions.
    Let Iggy go somewhere and lead, if someone is in need of that service.
    If not, lets honour him in a more appropriate way and give me an excuse to wear my #12, to the ‘doom, for one more night.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Clubs hoping for a long playoff run load up on defencemen and veterans come the trade deadline. If clubs have that mentality in February or March, why not get ahead of the curve and get that solid vet now?

      I think a lot of Flames’ fans, especially on this forum, are pissed at him for vetoing the first trade the Flames wanted to make. Get over it. It was just as bad as the one that got done. Don’t slag a guy for exercising a no-trade or limited-movement clause in his contract. It is well within his right to do so. If you want to blame anybody it should be the club for agreeing to be held hostage by a player.

  • madjam

    Bring Iginla back when you honor him for the past , but not as a player now . Not pleasant to watch players on their last legs come back (gut wrenching) and douse the honor he once held here when younger and more productive . The luster is gone , but may the pleasant memories remain !

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Just like there were those who at least a decade ago began writing off Jagr and those who did the same with Teddy Flash long before the 2005 lockout that rejuvenated his storied career, some say Iginla is finished. I would not be so quick to write him off. The man’s pride is excessive, so he isn’t going to continue playing if he knows he can’t contribute. Somebody is going to give the lad a chance. Why shouldn’t it be the Flames? He’s worth the gamble.

  • The Real Slim Brodie

    Bring him back for a pre season game. Let him have a chance to prove wearing the flaming c can ignite his play for a season. Sometimes players can step up to another level just out of sheer will. If he scores a beautiful shootout goal like fleury and collects a few points for god sakes don’t cut him. Still bitter about fleury being cut after that game…..insert frowny face here…