September 13, 2011
I often wonder if Vancouver Canucks fans are unaware of just what a blessing the Sedin twins are. A superstar winger that comes with his very own superstar center -- with whom he shares a brain? Yeah, that's pretty ideal.
Just ask Jarome Iginla(notes), who has spent his entire NHL career in a Hell for wingers — a nightmare where the only C of note is the one on the front of his jersey. (No, not that one, the one above it.) In the 14 seasons that Iginla's been in Calgary, the Flames have never sent a center to the All-Star game. They've never even had an 80-point season from a center. In fact, they've only gotten two 70-point seasons from a center.
For the layman: when Iginla scores, the assists go to chumps.
Iginla has led the Flames in scoring every year since the 2000-01 season, averaging 81 points a season over that span. In that time, the average season from Calgary's highest-scoring center is 61 points. In short, Iginla's generated much of that offense on his lonesome. On average, over his career, Iginla has outscored his team's best center by 20 points. On many occasions, such as last season and 2008-09, Iginla the gap has been 30 points.
One wonders if Iginla has been hexed. Proof he crossed a gypsy like in "Drag Me to Hell," after the jump.
For four years, the Flames employed Marc Savard(notes). However, they didn't quite know what they had in him, and he was traded to Atlanta in 2002 for Russian winger Ruslain Zainullin, who never played an NHL game. Meanwhile, Savard averaged a point a game for the next six years, including seasons of 96 and 97 points.
The Flames made a splash at the 08-09 trade deadline, acquiring Olli Jokinen(notes) from the Coyotes. Jokinen had put up seasons of 89 and 91 points in Florida, but the point-per-game guy never showed. He gave the Flames 66 points in 84 games over the next two half-seasons, never really meshing with Iginla in any meaningful way. Disappointed, GM Darryl Sutter traded him to New York at the next year's trade deadline.
Then, the following offseason, searching for that elusive No. 1 center and looking to make up for the Jokinen mistake, Sutter signed... Olli Jokinen.
On the plus side, that was pretty funny.
During Iginla's career in cowtown, the highest-scoring season from a Flames' pivot came in 2006-07, when Daymond Langkow(notes) posted a career-high 77 points. He has never had another season over 70. Also, much of this scoring came while Iginla was hurt.
Also, the Flames just traded him away. For a winger.
This offseason, Jay Feaster went hard after Brad Richards(notes), with whom he won a Cup as the general manager of the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning (ironically, over the Flames). Thinking his past relationship with Richards gave him an edge, he cavalierly cleared space by dumping Robyn Regehr(notes) in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres.
And then he didn't get Richards. From the Calgary Sun:
"We attempted to do something major with Brad (Richards) on July 1. We made a deal at the draft that enabled us to have some cap space to do something," Feaster said of trying to ink the highly sought-after free-agent centre. "That was the biggest issue — would we be able to play in the free-agent pool from the standpoint of having cap space? We had a number of irons in the fire July 1 and, certainly afterward, were right there in the Richards deal to the end.["]
But the gypsy curse remained in full effect (or maybe Richards heard about it), as he chose instead to let the New York Rangers to make him a rich man.
Feaster thought it would be easy to break Iginla's curse. It's not, and he seems pretty frustrated by this realization. This is him, responding to a radio caller when asked about rebuilding the Edmonton Oilers way:
"I'm sorry — Edmonton finished where last year, caller? Want to wager on where we finish relative to Edmonton this year? I'm tired of this question, I'll tell you very honestly. I'm getting a little sour. How many teams . . . every year, for the last 10 years, five years, eight years, have finished in the bottom five, bottom seven, bottom 10? They've had a pick anywhere from No. 1 to No. 10 year after year after year after year, and they still wander in the desert. And they're no closer to getting out than they were 10 years ago.
"You know what? I look forward to the Battle of Alberta for the next X number of years. If the idea is, 'Burn it to the ground,' then [Flames president] Ken [King] can find another manager to do it."
Find another manager indeed. If Feaster's bullishness on this issue continues to waste Jarome Iginla, King may, especially after the Oilers prospects mature and the Battle of Alberts stops being competitive.
The Flames have just over $3.5 million in cap space, and right now, the best center in Calgary is the Telus World of Science.
Of course, this is all just speculation. The Telus World of Science hasn't even opened yet.
Sidenote: I'm writing this at a Tim Horton's in Penticton, and Brent Sutter is sitting directly to my left (omg he knows!). He's not nearly as trollish in real life as television makes him appear. Perhaps it's true that the camera adds 10 pounds of LOTR makeup.