General manager Jay Feaster is charged with getting the Calgary Flames back to the playoffs and making them legitimate contenders.
For Flames fans, it has been a long wait. The team has failed to make the playoffs the last three seasons and the previous four years saw them lose in the first round each time.
Back in the last season that the NHL still allowed games to finish with tie scores—2003-04—the Flames had a remarkable playoff run and got to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games.
Their go-to guy in that championship season was 26-year-old Jarome Iginla, who scored a league-high 41 goals. Iginla used his bullish strength to dominate the area between the faceoff circles and the front of the net. He also had a blazing shot that gave the Flames a major threat any time he had the puck inside the offensive zone.
Iginla is still the Flames' go-to guy eight seasons later. He scored 32 goals and had 35 assists last year, and has been over the 30-goal mark every season since the start of 2000-01.
Consistency, thy name is Jarome Iginla.
Because the Flames have been going backwards since their one Finals appearance in the Iginla era, and because their star is now 35, it's time for Feaster to give Iginla a chance to win his cup. It would be the crowning moment to a brilliant career. He has 516 goals and he is destined to end up in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Feaster probably should be tearing his team down and rebuilding. Take a look at goalie Mikka Kiprusoff. he had a solid year in 2011-12, recording a 35-22-11 record with a 2.35 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. But consistency has not been Kiprusoff's signature. He struggled the year before with a .906 save percentage and he seems to be on a one good year, one bad year pattern in recent seasons.
The Flames should be rebuilding, and that means trading Iginla to a contending team for young players, prospects and draft picks. He has been with the Flames his entire career and there would be a lot of emotion involved if and when he moves.
Iginla has enjoyed great success in Calgary and is loyal to the team. The team has returned the loyalty. But like any dominant athlete, Iginla would like to win the Stanley Cup. He told George Johnson of the Calgary Herald that he wants to be on a Stanley Cup winner before he retires and lifting the Cup would mean more to him than adding to his goal total.
If the time comes, it will be tough for him. It was for Ray Bourque when he was traded after more than 20 seasons in a Boston Bruins uniform. Bourque had toiled as one of the greatest defensemen in NHL history on a team that had been a lot more successful than the Flames. However, the Bruins could not lift the Stanley Cup during Bourque's tenure, and it was clear that the team was going in the wrong direction in the 1999-2000 season. The Bruins did not want to see Bourque waste his final season and they traded him to a Colorado Avalanche team that included goalie Patrick Roy, Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg.
The Avs did not win the 2000 Stanley Cup. But Bourque decided to give it one more try during the 2000-01 season and the Avalanche had a stellar year. They got to the finals against the New Jersey Devils and found themselves trailing three games to two. The Avs won Game 6 in New Jersey to tie the series and took Game 7 at home to win the Cup. The picture of the jubilant Bourque lifting the Cup is one of hockey's most memorable moments.
Iginla is just as deserving of such a moment. While it doesn't look like Feaster is going into rebuilding mode right now (since he traded for veteran defenseman Dennis Wideman Thursday), he could change his mind if the Flames don't have a turnaround this season.
if the Flames are out of the playoff picture prior to the trade deadline, Feaster, the Flames and Iginla would be best served by a trade to a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. They should do it right now, but waiting until the trade deadline would be good enough.