Peace of mind leads to Iginla's success

Nicholas J. Cotsonika
Jarome Iginla was told in the offseason he wouldn't be asked to waive his no-trade clause, and he believed it

DETROIT – Jarome Iginla(notes) is not going anywhere. The Calgary Flames have told him they will not ask him to waive his no-movement clause this season, apparently putting the trade rumors to rest. So the question is no longer whether Iginla – the captain in Calgary, the face of the Flames – will be wearing another sweater soon.

Now the questions include "Exactly who in the organization gave that assurance to Iginla?" and "If the Flames don't go anywhere, what does that mean for the future?" The impression is that the answers go all the way to the top, that a weight has been lifted off the shoulders of the once-slumping, now-scoring superstar – and that a lot is riding on the rest of the season.

"As tough as this is, it's not a current rebuild," Iginla said Sunday night after the Flames suffered a heartbreaking 5-4 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings to fall to 8-10-1. "We're having some lapses that have cost us, but we think once we get this corrected, we're going to be a good team. The biggest thing is the direction and believing we can still be a good team now."

Current. Now. Those seem to be the key words.

Currently, for now, things are looking up. Iginla has scored five goals in two games, as the Flames have earned three out of four points against top competition.

Iginla had a hat trick Friday in a 7-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, the defending Stanley Cup champions. He scored twice Sunday against the Wings, the 2008 champs and '09 finalists.

The Flames gave away a point in Detroit, blowing a 4-2 third-period lead – allowing Henrik Zetterberg(notes) to tie the game with 3.1 seconds left in regulation and Nicklas Lidstrom(notes) to win it in OT. But they outplayed the Wings for much of the game. And the past two games are progress when you consider Iginla had scored only three goals in his first 17 games – only three in his past 28, going back to last season – and the Flames had been in a 1-7-0 funk.

"It's not just that he's scoring goals; it's just his whole game has been better," Flames coach Brent Sutter said. "He's getting chances now in the last three or four games that he wasn't getting for the first 15 or so games. He's getting them now because the pace to his game is better."

Asked if Iginla's performance had improved because he felt more secure, Sutter gave an interesting response.

"Whatever's been said above me, I don't know that side," Sutter said. "I'm not privy to those discussions. I don't know why everyone was thinking that was going to be the situation with Jarome anyway. He had a tough start. There was still a lot of hockey left. He's played well the last three or four games."

Sutter is not privy to those discussions? Not only is he the coach, but he's also the brother of the general manager, Darryl Sutter. Does that mean ownership is involved? Iginla would not identify the person with whom he spoke most recently, but he said it was consistent with what he had heard before from Flames officials.

"In the summer, they told me their plan, and we're not rebuilding," Iginla said. "I think we can still be a really good team. So I wasn't worried every day coming to the rink if they were going to tell me. They told me in the summer, and I believed them."

Why was everyone thinking Iginla could be traded? Few teams have the budget or cap space to add Iginla's $7 million salary. But the Los Angeles Kings are one of them, and Iginla still could make an impact for a contender at age 33.

He's an up-and-down winger who doesn't have a bona fide first-line centerman with the Flames, someone who can get him the puck in places where he can pop it into the net consistently. The latest report involving the Kings popped up Wednesday.

"It's not the best part of the game, because it usually means that you're not doing as well as a group or individually," Iginla said of trade rumors. "You hear about different guys. You read it. Sometimes, especially near the deadline, I pick up the papers to read about other guys, too."

Iginla laughed.

"And," Iginla continued, "you wonder what truth there is or not."

Flames assistant GM Jay Feaster told reporters Thursday there was no truth to reports about talks with other teams involving Iginla. It hardly seems to be a coincidence that Iginla started scoring after learning he would stay in Calgary, where he has played his entire NHL career, since debuting in the 1996 playoffs following a trade from Dallas.

Linemate Alex Tanguay(notes) noted "that confidence seems to be coming back to him." Said teammate Brendan Morrison(notes): "Apparently they told him it's not going to happen, so you have to put some merit into that."

"To be honest," Iginla said, "there's a little bit where, at least you don't have to read every day where you're going. So that helps in that area, not reading all different teams and stuff. I never … I wasn't, like I said, worried that they had already changed their mind. But at the same time, it helps not to have to answer questions and get texts and stuff from buddies everywhere with a new team."

For now, this seems like a smart move. The Flames must have an idea of what they could get for Iginla, and in a limited market, that might not be much – at least not enough to part with their captain and face of the franchise.

They must know Iginla has been squeezing his stick, and the best way to get him to relax, play and produce was to ease his mind. And everyone, especially the Sutters, must know that just because this isn't a "current rebuild" doesn't mean it won't be a future rebuild if the Flames don't become "a good team now."