For his entire career, Jarome Iginla has been the Calgary Flames. He's already the Flames' franchise leader in games played, goals and points and is second in assists to Big Al MacInnis. He is as much a part of Calgary as the Stampede.
So it was almost a shock across the hockey world and the mainstream media in Canada when the rumors circulated for a large chunk of this season about Iginla being traded. The rumors continued to persist until Jay Feaster took over as GM and announced to the hockey world that Iginla wasn't going anywhere and that the rebuild would be built around him.
Many media members, namely ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, have publicly slammed the move. But it looks like at least for now, Iginla isn't going anywhere. But should he be shipped off?
Iginla is one of the better players of our era and one of the more recognizable. Yet in his career in Calgary, he's only advanced past the Conference Quarterfinals once, and that was in 2004 when the Flames made a Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Final. Iginla still has a good amount left in the tank and it would be fair to him to give him another chance to win a Cup.
Iginla's been the face of the franchise and worn the C for years. He's the unquestioned leader of the Flames. So if he is traded, who takes his place? Do either Alex Tanguay or Olli Jokinen seem like captain material? Who becomes the emotional leader and who becomes the physical force on the Flames? Heck, who scores?
Iginla has been a loyal player during his time in Calgary. But he's also leaving the prime of his career and he's not going to be the cornerstone of a rebuilding team. For the work that needs to be done, a lot has to change and Iginla doesn't have that kind of time left in his career to go through another rebuild.
As bad as the Flames have looked at times this year, they are still technically in the hunt for the playoffs in the bunched up Western Conference. Of course, sneaking into the playoffs to set up a matchup with a Vancouver or Detroit is not overly appetizing, but it might buy the Flames and this current group some time.
At this point, the only way to really fix the Flames with the mess in place now is to really start from scratch. As much as Jay Feaster might believe it, the Flames aren't rebuilding around Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff, both of whom are over 30 and starting to decline. Trading Iginla is really the only way to do a rebuild and ensure the top prospects will be there.
Jarome Iginla has been a model citizen during his time in Calgary, but the truth is the problem goes much deeper than him. The flurry of bad contracts (Jay Bouwmeester) and bad personnel moves (paging Mr. Jokinen) along with the lack of a farm system has set this team back for years, and trading Iginla now won't solve the problem.
If you follow hockey, then you know the Flames' farm system consists of Mikael Backlund and little else. There are teams whose farm systems are stacked compared to the Flames. Trading Iginla would at least get some top-name prospects in to replenish the system and start rebuilding.
The fans have stuck by the Flames considering the roller coaster ride they've been on the last two years, but they've also seen a lot of bad hockey over the years and especially in the last 15 years. What would trading Iginla accomplish more than maybe admitting that it's time to tear it down and rebuild, and lead to more bad hockey?
Thanks to some questionable deals by Darryl Sutter (I'll never forget the looks of stunned, disbelief silence on TSN when news broke that Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen were coming back), the Flames have some definite cap issues that need to be fixed. Trading Iginla would not only bring in prospects, but clear up cap space to perhaps make up for some of those bad contracts.
Iginla being traded will not spark the Flames. It won't make Jay Bouwmeester play defense and it won't make Matt Stajan score a goal. It won't even make Olli Jokinen useful. It might just rip the heart and soul out of the Flames and the fan base in Calgary and leave the painful realization that there's a long road ahead to return to the promised land for Flames fans.
So, now that we've seen a couple of the pros and cons, what should the Flames do with Iginla?
As I mentioned, trading Iginla won't make them better and it won't spark a playoff run. He's still the best forward they have and the best chance to make the playoffs will be with him. And somehow, this team is still in it.
But if the Flames really want to turn the franchise back in the right direction, they need a rebuild. And that won't happen around Iginla. He's the only one that can bring back the top prospects and cap space needed right now, especially with the goaltending market pretty much dried up.
When it comes down to it, the Flames won't trade Iginla. But there's no harm in at least listening.