CHICAGO – We’re pretty sure that Jarome Iginla, even at his 50-goal apex in 2008, never wore the belt as the best player in the game.
But like a Jonathan Toews today, he was often our answer to that question: “If you could take one player to start your team around, who would it be?”
In his prime he was the league’s premier power forward. Iginla was a lock for 35 goals, and he’d give you four or five fights a season at absolutely the perfect moment to motivate his team.
He had his code on the ice, but if you broke that code, he was like the black Gordie Howe. He’d break it too. Then maybe something else would end up broken.
In the end, that complete package has made Iginla the best Canadian-born player on a Canadian team over the last decade.
While Vancouver has the Sedins, Ottawa has Daniel Alfredsson, Toronto had Mats Sundin and now Phil Kessel, and Montreal had Saku Koivu, Calgary had the kid from St. Albert (an Edmonton suburb) who played the game the way another old St. Albertan named Mark Messier had.
"He's been a top player for a long time, because he has refused to be a dot-to-dot player," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock told us not long ago. "A lot of guys that are shooters like that, later in their careers they become dot-to-dot players. They need other people to get them the puck; they need other people to do the work while they play on 160 feet of ice. Jarome has refused to play that way.
"He is willing to go and get his own puck. He is willing to do his own work. He is willing to go to all the hard areas, year in and year out. That's why he keeps being a productive player."
Today, as a Canadian franchise girds itself for a deal that will send away its captain, it has become the transaction that will overshadow all others on 2013 trade deadline.
Here's the latest on the Jarome Iginla trade front:
-Calgary GM Jay Feaster is asking for goaltender Malcolm Subban to be part of any package from Boston. Boston GM Peter Chiarelli flatly refuses to include Subban in any package.
-Feaster, who is looking for two prospects and a draft pick for Iginla, has also approached Los Angeles about goalie Jonathan Bernier. It is believed that Bernier and a first-round pick would be enough to make Iginla a King.
-A Pittsburgh source suspects that GM Ray Shero may not be willing to part with the prospects required to land Iginla, but will stay in the auction to drive price up for Boston.
-Chicago was contacted by Feaster, not the other way around -- and the Blackhawks are now discussing internally the cost of a rental player, and whether Iginla would be able to play the left wing behind right wingers Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane. Chicago has not made an offer to Calgary yet, nor received a trade proposal from Feaster. But if 20-year-old Brandon Saad is in the equation, "That trade is not happening," said a Blackhawks source.
-If Feaster succeeds in landing a goaltender, that could put Miikka Kiprusoff on the block. We keep hearing that the Toronto Maple Leafs will stick with what they have in goal, rather than succumb to their age-old practice of dealing away draft picks or prospects for ageing players.
This isn't the first time the Calgary Flames considered a trade for their captain.
Back in 2003, a year before the Flames' magical run to Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup against Tampa, then-GM Craig Button told the Calgary Herald: "If we make a deal it will be for guys who can step in now and do the job at the NHL level. We have enough prospects already. We're not in the same situation as Pittsburgh... We're not under any financial pressure to unload our top guys for anything but quality players."
Although Button never came out and said they were toying with dealing Iginla, he did not slam the door on such speculation either. It was estimated the Flames were losing $7 million per season in the pre-salary cap era, and Iginla was in the midst of winning or sharing in two of three Rocket Richard Trophies between 2002 and 2004. The Rangers were stalking him then, but are not in the stakes race today.
Jarome Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis Iginla was born on Canada Day, 1977, drafted 11th overall by Dallas in 1995, and dealt to Calgary along with Corey Millen in return for Joe Nieuwendyk on Dec. 19, 1995.
He has done everything a player can hope to do -- except win a Stanley Cup, which will be on the to-do list this spring, should a deal be consummated.
He has played in a World Cup and a Stanley Cup. A World Junior, where he was the leading scorer and named the tournament's best forward. Two Memorial Cups, both won by his Kamloops Blazers. Three Olympic Games, including two goals and an assist in the gold-medal game at Salt Lake in 2002, and the assist on Sidney Crosby's winner in 2010. He's won the Art Ross (2002), been a first-team All-Star three times, and played in six All-Star games.
In his 1,218th NHL game Sunday night -- all with Calgary -- he scored the game-winning goal against Hitchcock's Blues.
"The goal against St. Louis was typical Jarome Iginla fashion -- scoring a big goal when you need it, to win a game," said teammate Mike Cammalleri.
But there just aren't enough of those opportunities for Iginla in Calgary anymore. The organization has fallen apart around him, and with his 36th birthday on July 1 -- four days before Iginla will become an unrestricted free agent -- it is obvious he'll need to move on to win a Stanley Cup.
Twelve hundred games. You'd think it could have happened in Calgary.