Trade deadline preview: Calgary Flames
What the Puck?
The countdown to the National Hockey League trade deadline is in full swing, and with just 20 days until the annual chopping block, Flames fans have just 20 days before they say good-bye to franchise player Jarome Iginla. That is, if Calgary is smart.
The Calgary Flames have been at or near the bottom of the NHL standings for the better part of four years and haven’t made it past the first round of playoffs since 2003-04 when they made a heroic run at the Stanley Cup only to lose to the Tampa Bay Lighting in the final.
But apart from their second place finish in 2004 – which, let’s not forget, came after an eight-year hiatus from the post season – the last decade has been more of the same for Calgary and it’s fans, often barely making the playoffs, or more likely, missing them, as of late.
Spoken like true fans of a ninth place team, Calgary fans have said that they would rather miss the playoffs than have an embarrassing first-round exit. But, surely the players cannot feel the same way. Year after year of 82-game hockey, only to have an early summer and nothing to show for it isn’t a situation that any player should be comfortable with, but it’s one that is all too familiar for Iginla.
Since 1996, when fan-favourite Iginla entered his first full season with the red and yellow, he has only reached the playoffs five times in his NHL career, four of which the team didn’t make it past conference quarterfinals.
The right-winger celebrated his 35th birthday before entering this year’s season, meaning that the number of years he is able to compete with 18-year-olds is dwindling, making the desperation to hoist the Stanley Cup before his retirement even more eminent.
Calgary is currently tied for second-last in the Western conference and shows no sign of making another heroic Stanley Cup run anytime soon, while most NHL teams would have turned the route of rebuilding many years ago, the Flames have planted their feet, refusing to move like a two-year-old in a toy store.
If Iginla is going to have any shot at a Stanley Cup ring in his career, then he needs to get out of Calgary, and while many fans will say that the Edmonton native will be loyal to his team and finish his career out in Calgary, with or without a ring, the offer to jump ship seems to be tempting Iggy.
No matter how loyal a player is to a team, every hockey player’s dream from the time they first step on skates is to one day kiss Lord Stanley and raise the cup in front of a crowded arena. Every player wants to feel that and Iginla is no exception, which may lead to an explanation as to why Iginla has yet to sign an extension with the Flames, whose five-year 35 million dollar contract is set to expire at the end of this season.
Should Iginla choose to forego his longtime team and make a cup run with a consistently top team, Calgary will hopefully finally begin a rebuilding process, bringing in young prospects and trading other current players for draft picks with the hopes that their playoffs skid will have an end in site.
In just a few weeks’ time, the Flames will announce whether they are buyers or sellers, and Iginla’s fate will be at centre ice.
Photo courtesy of stuartgordon.blogspot.com