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FlamesNation Mailbag: The Jarome Iginla spectacular

Today being the special day, we have to devote at least the majority of the questions to the man of honour himself.

Half-serious Jarome Iginla questions

Tough question. I don’t know what Jarome Iginla likes/doesn’t like in a player, but I imagine that he would at least appreciate those who commit themselves to the power forward style. Problem is that both Matthew Tkachuk and James Neal are power forwards. Hm.

I guess Neal might get the edge because Iginla was his linemate during his brief stint in Pittsburgh, so he knows him better. They didn’t get to spend a lot of time together, but they were linemates for a pretty dominant Penguins team during that season. Maybe Jarome pulls for his former buddy and wants him to get the nod.

Although you could perhaps make a case for Tkachuk on the same basis, though just not that directly. Keith Tkachuk spent his entire career (besides a stint in Atlanta) playing in the same conference as Iggy. The two were premier players in the league at the same time, and shared the ice twice at the All-Star Game.  Perhaps Iggy knows the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and would prefer a younger version of his former foe on the top line of the Flames.

But perhaps all of this is irrelevant. Jarome would certainly have Matthew on the top line, as it was foretold many years ago:

It was just meant to be!

Who really knows. I guess a good first step would be finding out if he wants to do anything post playing career or just disappear like teammate Miikka Kiprusoff.

Teams tend to put their legends into the semi-honorary President of Hockey Operations role, with mixed results (see: Vancouver, Edmonton. Perhaps cautionary tales). The good news is that the position is empty after Brian Burke vacated the role, but will likely be filled by Don Maloney, the current VPOHO. Can’t think of any other vacant front office positions that Iginla could fill off the top of my head.

They don’t really have any room for him on the coaching staff, unless he’s an eye-in-the-sky type like Gelinas. Perhaps he’s in on a mentorship role like Brian McGrattan? It’s all guesswork, and maybe we get some answers in today’s press conference.

It’s a difficult question to answer. Partially because a lot of the players had finished their careers before I was alive (or most of us – if you were alive to watch the prime of Gordie Howe’s career, sound off in the comments section), partially because there’s a lot to consider.

If we’re looking at it from a statistical angle, Iginla is the fourth best RW ever. The two stats to look at would be era-adjusted points, as Iginla’s raw numbers are impacted by him joining the league during the dead puck era (NHL goalscoring dipped below six goals per game starting in 1996-97, and didn’t recover until after the 2004-05 lockout. Iginla had a 50- and 40-goal season in spite of this). In that category, by hockey-reference’s measure, he ranks fourth.

Another stat that attempts to remove the impact of era from a player’s numbers is point shares. Point shares, again a hockey-reference stat, attempts to determine how many standings points a player contributed during his career. Iginla also ranks fourth in that category.

The caveat to both of those stats is that they’re heavily influenced by longevity. It’s no surprise that the three players ahead of him in both categories – Howe, Teemu Selanne, and Jaromir Jagr – also played 20+ seasons in the NHL. If you factor on a per game basis, Iginla’s production regardless of era adjusting isn’t that spectacular. Still great, but not as impressive as fourth best right winger ever.

But you could factor in a lot of different aspects to make this debate more lively. Is comparing Guy Lafleur’s production to Iginla’s production fair given that Lafleur got to step into a Montreal dynasty while Iginla played during the worst era of Flames hockey? Can we throw 80s players out the window given the extreme goalscoring advantage they had?

There’s a lot to consider, which is what makes these arguments fun. I think given Iginla’s dominance in the context of the era he played in and the team he played on, I think he’s certainly a top 15 all time right winger. Given the company surrounding him in that spot, I think it’s a fair assessment.

If we move away from best in position to best in role however…

If you missed it, I would certainly check out Jason Gregor’s article on Iginla, where he asks if Iggy could potentially be the last true great all-around power forward.

And I would agree with him. The definition of power forward is kind of muddled (bigger guy who can also score? Forward who drives the net? Goal scorer and fighter?), but if there was one all could agree on, Iginla would probably be the one. Alex Ovechkin, as Gregor mentioned, is probably the closest player in terms of talent and longevity, but doesn’t have the same nastiness Iginla did. Ditto draft class peer Evgeni Malkin. Gregor brings up Jamie Benn as a comparable, but it’s unknown how long Benn will last past 30. Corey Perry also looked great at 29 and has since started to fall off a cliff.

So if you’re looking for the purest power forward who can score 20 goals regularly from ages 21 to 38, there’s only one, and he’s riding away into the sunset.

I imagine it won’t be the first home game of the season. The opening ceremonies are already long enough, so I doubt they add an extra hour to the program. I think they’ll probably do it when the opponent is a team of some significance to Iginla (like they did when they Forever a Flame’d Al Macinnis: Feb. 27, 2012 against the Blues). Here are some good bets for me:

  • Oct. 17, against Boston (Iginla owns a home there, played there for a season, just nearly got traded there)
  • Oct. 26, against Pittsburgh (first non-Flames team he played for)
  • Nov. 3, against Chicago (first NHL goal)
  • Nov. 28, against Dallas (team that drafted him)

So not long at all!

I will personally move the team to Seattle.

He would probably be just as great and be a great piece for a Stars team that was on the upswing heading into the 21st century. By the time Iginla was starting to burst out on the scene, Joe Nieuwendyk was starting to fade, so perhaps it is a lateral non-move. Maybe Dallas lasts longer than their three years of relevance during the turn of the century, maybe Iginla gets some well deserved recognition for his work in the 90s on a good team.

The flip side of this alternate universe is that the Flames trade want-away Nieuwendyk for not Jarome Iginla, which would’ve probably been disastrous. If they managed to get a player around the same draft spot as Iginla, the best they might’ve gotten back was Shane Doan. Not that bad, but not Jarome Iginla. The Flames probably would’ve been a bigger tire fire in the 1990s if that had happened, albeit with much more elbowing (and Nieuwendyk is still in want-away hell. No one wins, besides Dallas).

Considering the vast scope of history and the horrors contained within, you are probably not history’s greatest monster. However, given that you had 20 years to figure it out with the help of the internet, aka the greatest bank of human knowledge ever known, you are certainly up there.

Because it’s true. It’s all Hunter’s fault, folks.

Extremely. Just like the Flames have been chasing another Kipper since Kipper left, they’ve also been chasing another Iginla. If Troy Brouwer was the best they could come up with, that’s a bit sad.

Instead of dwelling on the failure to replace Iginla, you can use this question to imagine the absolute terror a Gaudreau-Monahan-2001-02 Iginla line would reign upon the NHL.

I imagine his next big event, besides the conference today, would be his Hall of Fame induction in three years. Otherwise, I hope he is living his best life and enjoying his hard earned retirement. Maybe he gets a job like we discussed above, but I feel he’s content to chill for a while.

I imagine that he might’ve made a joke about trying a bit too hard to recreate the Iggy heard round the world. Sid would’ve had no witty comeback as he had a broken jaw at the time and probably couldn’t talk. He’d be emotionally stoic, as he is with most things though.

(Also it was Brooks Orpik that broke his jaw.)

Bonus question from mystery Twitter user Jack: Who will be the better all-time Flame: Iginla, or Gaudreau? (not exact wording)

Twitter user Jack something deleted this question before I finished the mailbag. It’s a shame, because it’s my favourite question of the week.

12 vs 13 will hopefully be a contentious point of debate for Flames fans in 20 years. It’s very rare for any hockey club to transition from one legend to another potential legend in quick order, nevermind in the span of just over a year (Iginla was traded March 28, 2013; Gaudreau debuted April 13, 2014).

Iginla is right now the point for which all Flames players will be measured. Statistically, he picked up 1,095 points in 1,219 games. Gaudreau is currently on pace to beat Iginla by exactly 30 points, provided he plays 1,219 games. That may be a flawed way to measure it though, as Gaudreau is just getting his career off the ground. Although we certainly have to consider age and era, through their first four seasons, Gaudreau has scored 91 more points than Iginla in the exact same number of games played (311, but we’re discounting Gaudreau’s one game and one goal in the 2013-14 season). It’s certainly feasible that Gaudreau blows by Iginla by a non-insignificant measure.

That’s provided that he sticks around. I don’t want to assume anything about Gaudreau’s intentions or plans for the future, so I won’t, but there’s a lot of career left and he may not necessarily stick around. Not saying that he will flee at the end of this contract, but that’s an option, which is true for any great player who becomes a UFA at the end of their deal. Part of Iginla’s legacy is that he stuck around through thick and thin until it was quite clear that it was better for both team and player to move on. Will Gaudreau do the same? Hard to tell. There’s thousands of things that could happen between now and 2022.

The debate is also going to be a battle between old and new school values. Iginla, as established, is a vintage, one of a kind power forward that rarely exists and rarely exists for a long time. Gaudreau is almost the polar opposite: a smaller, less physical player who relies on skill and creativity rather than pure force. Some things will come down to personal preference, which perhaps makes it an irresolvable debate, which is fine.

I could certainly imagine Gaudreau going down as the all time Flames stat leader, but to be the all time greatest would probably require nearly 15 years of devotion to the team with all-star production all the while. That’s already difficult given the average lifespan of an NHL career and even if he accomplishes that, it may not be enough to dethrone Iginla. It’s certainly too early to call a winner, but it’s going to be a mountain to climb for Gaudreau.

Serious hockey questions

At the very least, he’s handy depth with some okay defensive qualities in a fourth line role. He was actually one of the better PKers last season, so I feel the Flames were comfortable bringing him back as a depth piece. If he can show up and perform well in a fourth line role during rough stretches of the season, they’ll live with that.

I don’t think the Flames should’ve qualified him though (over Nick Shore, no less), but I’d rather he be in the press box than a Spencer Foo or a Morgan Klimchuk. I just think the ~$800K or whatever he will be awarded is a steep price given that you could probably bring back Shore for league minimum to do the exact same job, but slightly better.

I think he would’ve already have to leave (Europe’s season starts soonish, so probably too late for a contract, if anyone was interested) for that to be an option, but it is certainly a workable option for RFAs. If a team qualifies an RFA who then bolts off to Europe, they hold their rights forever, like the Flames do with Linden Vey.

I’m not sure going to Europe would’ve solved his issues though. In Vey’s case, he’s 27 and has proven time and time again that he’s a good hockey player in any league other than the NHL. He’s ripped up the AHL with ease. Eventually, he was going to strike gold somewhere. There are a bunch of players (Aaron Palushaj, Joakim Lindstrom, Nigel Dawes, Linus Omark, Brandon Kozun, to name a few) who look promising in the AHL, never find their way to the NHL, and head overseas to play some top tier pro hockey.

Sometimes, they turn into superstars across the pond. Who knows if it’s the international ice, the lack of pressure, the quality of the league, or whathaveyou, but some players just look better overseas. Perhaps they’ve turned a corner, but it’s most likely that they just look better. Generally speaking, if this is an option you have to consider, the chances that the prospect will turn out are very low.

Financial issues aside (the Flames would have to pay a transfer fee to get him back if he goes to any league but the KHL), sending Hunter Shinkaruk over would be pointless. If he tears it up, there’s a lot of reasons to be skeptical about that production coming back over, and if he doesn’t tear it up, well you’ve wasted your time.

Here’s how it breaks down:

2019-20 2020-21
With Brouwer and Stone $8M 0
Brouwer buyout, Stone stays $5M $1.5M
Stone buyout, Brouwer stays $5.67M $1.17M
Both bought out $2.67M $2.67M

So, you have to move at least one of them out. Besides Mike Smith’s $4.25M salary, no significant cap comes off the books next year. Any savings from that will likely be invested in Sam Bennett, Brett Kulak, Curtis Lazar, David Rittich, Garnet Hathaway, Andrew Mangiapane, and/or their replacements. Tkachuk can likely expect $6M next year, given the salaries of Mark Giordano, Gaudreau, and Monahan. All we have to work with is the salary cap raise and a bit of change left over from Smith’s contract expiration.

So the optimal solution is both. You free up over $5M in cap instantly for 2019-20, which should be enough space to give Tkachuk an extension while being able to handle other business. Sure it might be a bit harder on the cap the season after than any other buyout, but it’s really pennies when you consider another cap jump.

But who knows if ownership is up for it. They can be reluctant to buy out players, especially pricier ones, and especially two of them. If they have to pick one or the other, the Bryout is the option. You clear $3M in salary immediately, which is more than you can save if you retain salary in a trade. I can’t imagine how Brouwer can salvage that salary cap hit at age 33, so it’s gone for him. Given that Stone’s contract (and Brouwer’s, if you dump Stone) expires after 2019-20, you have only a smidge to pay in 2020-21.

Stone, I imagine they might be able to shop around and trade. Buying out him makes less sense when you need to save every penny for Tkachuk in 2019-20, so they might just try and dump his whole $3.5M. If that doesn’t happen though, they may be backed into a corner where they need to use two.

  • brodiegio4life

    Saddest thing for me was the fact that for pretty much Iggy’s entire time here he never played with a true #1 centre. Then right after he leaves we get Mony and Backlund 🙁 I mean just look what Iggy did with Krejci that one year in Boston. Imagine the damage he would’ve done playing with a legit #1 centre during his prime.

    • brodiegio4life

      Yes Backlund was here when Iggy was, but he never developed into a top end centre until Iggy was already gone. Should’ve worded that better (why is there no edit option?)

      • canadian1967

        Backlund is still not a Top end Center.
        He has nowhere near the Offensive game of a Langkow or Conroy who you are obviously saying were not Top end Centers.

    • Jessemadnote

      It’s just so dumbfounding that they had him, they had him the same year as Iginla was winning the art ross and they traded him for nothing. He went on to score 501 points in 488 games… Marc Savard.

        • oddclod

          And St.Louis. What a joke. Then Sutts took Phaneuf over the Getzlaf. Iggy had no luck. He and Kipper just wasted away. Sad. Going to Colorado was mind numbing to watch. Shoulda chased cups on 2milli salaries for the last few yrs. But the money was good. What can ya say? Great player, greater surrounded by the world’s finest (olympics) can’t take anything away from him. God blessed Iggy. Hope he enjoys his transition and comes back to the game in some PR capacity. Such a personna. Respected like an Yzerman, Sakic. God love him.

  • canadian1967

    “Best” can mean so many things to people when it comes to rankings.
    If we are talking which RW do you want on the ice if you need a goal… then it’s Mike Bossy.

  • Burnward

    Jarome Iginla is probably the reason I’m still a Flames fan today.

    I can’t imagine the black hole this franchise would have been without him through those years and it probably wouldn’t still be in Calgary, either.

    This guy was everything and more. Best Flame of all-time by a mile.

    Thanks for all Jarome!

    • calgaryfan

      They would have had a lot of early draft picks and maybe a better team if Iggy was elsewhere. But Flames were not good at drafting in those years anyway.

        • calgaryfan

          not saying he isn’t the best Flame ever or a great player, just pointing out they would have probably been near the bottom of the league and would have had good draft picks. Have an awesome woman in my life and no need for anyone else thank you.

  • aye

    Since it’s Iggy day today, and Brouwer is the favourite whipping boy of Flames fans, does anyone remember the Iggy-Brouwer fight? Boy, Iggy pounded him that night.
    Great career, and Happy retirement Iggy!

  • Roger the Shrubber

    I still remember when Iggy was traded. I was so mad when he vetoed the trade to Boston (because I thought Bart and Khoko were better prospects…turns out they were also dog-poop.)

    Watching the presser today with him made me feel absolutely stupid for any salt I had at the time. It brought back all the joyous memories of Iggy and all the great things he did in the Calgary community. Iggy truly is one-of-a-kind and I’m gonna go on a limb and say that we’ll probably never see another player of his ilk again. Jamie Benn is the best comparable to him but after that, there are no true power forwards who can beat you in literally every way.

    So glad that I got to see Iggy play for the Flames for as long as I did. The Flames better retire #12!

  • oilcanboyd

    I wouldn’t waste another dime on Lazar….total bust and he has had too many years to prove himself already. I would rather have more Hathaways than even one Lazar.

    • oddclod

      Lazar ain’t an NHLer. Literally farts in critical moments. Hard to watch the inconsistency. One great shift followed by weeks of imitating a ghost. If I were him i’d crash and Bang like Tootoo. Do something. Anything. He might be dumb. IDK. Seems like a nice guy tho.