Early in the season, the cries went out for a massive blockbuster trade..."Send Jarome Iginla somewhere, anywhere that we can get something valuable in return." A lot of fans did not realize that poor play for the beginning third of the season was not the only factor looked upon when the higher-ups were making this decision.
Jarome's work in the community would be sorely missed, not to mention there is a massive fanbase that may jump ship if the smiling face of the franchise left town. Especially if he started lighting it up with a new team. Also he was a major factor in marketing...until Sydney Crosby came along, his was the most purchased jersey in the NHL, and drove the best selling jersey (the flaming "C") in NHL history in '04.
Iginla has countless endorsement deals and brings in big viewership in and out of the city. A lot of people buy tickets to games they normally would not when superstars come to town, and Jarome is definitely in that category.
And then he became the Jarome of old...the Iginla we as Flames fans are used to seeing. Coupled with the "stepping down" of Darryl Sutter, a few tweaks to lines and freeing up cap space by sending Ales Kotalik to the minors and offering Craig Conroy a seat beside acting GM Jay Feaster, the team was suddenly in buying mode, not selling.
The Flames did not take long to get back into the race. Since Dec. 23, they have strung together an incredible 21-6-6 record. Even more amazing is that before that the record from Opening Day to Dec. 23 was 14-18-3. It seemed as though this team had found its footing, and was really outworking teams, including some of the top teams in the league, proving that Calgary could hang with anyone, any night.
Can Jarome hit the 40 goal plateau?
Part of the reason behind the run has been Jarome Iginla. He has amassed 30 goals and 36 assists to give him 66 points in 68 games. If he had been playing this way all season, he would be well over the goal per game rate, and possibly in the top three for scoring in the league...although he is ahead of names like Jonathan Toews and Alex Ovechkin.
His hard work paid off in a big way on Sunday night versus the Nashville Predators. On a rare breakaway opportunity, the defender got a stick on his arm prompting a penalty shot. Knowing that his shootout/penalty shot was not that good, most fans saw an opportunity for Jarome to prove the critics wrong. He did just that with a great deke on a very good goalie, Pekka Rinne. He went five-hole as the goalie was forced to cross the crease and provide an opening.
The goal was a nice one, but even more special was what it meant. Jarome Iginla had become only the 10th player in NHL history to score 30 or more in 10-plus seasons. He joined such names as Wayne Gretzky, Jaromir Jagr, Bobby Hull and Phil Espisito to name a few. An accomplishment he downplayed in classic Jarome fashion saying the win was the important thing about the night. The next morning he was named the First Star of the Week for the NHL with five goals and three assists in four games, three of which the Flames won.
It's been a year of ups and downs for Jarome, but when it matters most he's putting this team on his back, scoring timely goals and giving a city real optimism about a playoff run again. Considering the cry for blowing it up and trading and firing everyone a mere few months ago, that's not a bad place to be at all.