Once the 2016-17 season came to a close, one particularly interesting question has been floating around the hockey world: What’s next for Jarome Iginla? The now 40-year-old Iginla is currently an unrestricted free agent, after the Kings passed on bringing him back. In June 20th’s edition of 30 thoughts, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said Iginla told him that he’s “planning and preparing to play again”. Since then, the Jarome Iginla debate has emerged amongst the Flames fanbase.
Simply pondering the idea of a return sparks quite a heated discussion. As you will see, both sides of the debate are very firm in their beliefs. The pessimists are convinced it’s time to move on. The optimists believe he should indeed return to Calgary for one last run. Let’s take a look at this scorching hot topic from both perspectives, being as objective as possible.
Calgary Flames: Analyzing the Jarome Iginla Debate
First, let’s start with the plethora of positives his return can bring. Iginla has a very special place in the hearts of almost every single Flames fan. The idea of the former captain coming home to chase that ever-elusive Stanley Cup is very exciting. Who doesn’t get goosebumps thinking about that familiar number 12 stepping on the Saddledome ice donning that flaming C? I know it gives me chills.
While there are statistics that suggest otherwise, it is possible that Iginla can be productive in Calgary’s lineup. Will he score 50 goals like prime Iginla did? Probably not. But even if he can contribute 15-20 goals it should be considered a successful season. Realistically, Iginla only has to outperform Troy Brouwer to stay in the lineup. That seems very doable, given Brouwer’s seemingly permanent decline that became apparent last season.
Another suggestion is that Jarome can be used as a mentor for the next generation of players. Whether it’s Sam Bennett, who is still trying to show his potential, or a guy like Curtis Lazar, Iginla can be of great value. This is a man who has won Olympic gold, multiple NHL trophies, and has scored 1,300 points, including 625 goals. The wealth of knowledge he has to pass on can greatly impact their careers, both on and off the ice.
Now, the pessimistic point of view. While it might be a feel good story for the ages, the reality is it won’t be a promising endeavour. Iginla is 40 years old, and with the game getting faster every year, there’s no way he can keep up.
The word anchor seems fitting, as it’s a near certainty that Iginla’s linemates would be dragged down by carrying him every shift. That is not something you want to bestow on a young player or prospect still trying to crack the NHL. Also, a young player sitting in the press box so an older player can take his spot is not ideal.
Aside from the on ice problem bringing him back creates, there’s also a belief that his presence might rock the boat. This is now Mark Giordano’s team, and many feel that Iginla may be nothing more than a distraction to the team.
Another issue these fans have is that they feel like Iginla betrayed this team with how he handled his trade. These same fans lost more respect when he chose to go to the Colorado Avalanche simply for the money. Finally, they remind us that there is the possibility that he will not want to tarnish his legacy by coming back.
The once universally-loved captain has undoubtedly worn out his welcome with some fans. However, there’s also fans who still want him to come back and have a shot at his Ray Bourque moment.
Only time will tell what happens with this situation. Maybe he signs a PTO with another team when training camp rolls around and this debate was all for nothing. Or, perhaps he signs a one-day deal and retires a Flame, and we are left with only cherished memories.
If this is the end for the greatest Flames player of all time, no matter what side of the Jarome Iginla debate you are on, should all consider yourself lucky. After all, we got to witness one of the best players in the history of the game proudly represent the Flames organization.