Iginla pulls the Flames out of the fire
Tuesday, December 18, 2007 | 10:24 PM ET
If there were one word used to describe the early part of this season for the Calgary Flames it would have to be “inconsistent.” This veteran team with depth and skill at all the key positions was thought by many to be a real threat in the Western Conference.
With Iron Mike Keenan at the helm, Miikka Kiprusoff in goal, Robin Regehr and Dion Phaneuf anchoring the blue-line, and the likes of Jarome Iginla, Daymond Langkow, Alex Tanguay and Kristian Huselius up front, Flames fans were expecting at least another Northwest Division crown from their team, if not a legitimate shot at a long playoff run.
As the December cold rolled into Alberta, the Flames looked to be more like pretenders than contenders with a less than impressive 10-13-3 record. With Calgary sitting at 12th in the West and out of a playoff spot, questions were surfacing about how Keenan was handling his team. And when Iron Mike publicly questioned and criticized the play of his Vezina winning goaltender, critics of the veteran bench boss were watching with interest anticipating a meltdown in Cowtown.
While the overall play of his team was filled with the ups and downs of inconsistent play, Calgary captain Jarome Iginla has been anything but. The Flames’ all-time leader in games played and owner of a new five-year contract extension has been by far the best player on the ice for his team all year. Iginla is having the best year of his career offensively and on a nightly basis his play has been inspiring to fans and teammates alike.
Iginla’s leadership and intensity on the ice may have, by itself, grabbed this troubled team from the brink of a disastrous season and brought them back into the race for the conference lead. An eight-day period from Dec. 9-16 may be remembered as the stretch the Flames roared back on track, and it was their captain who led the way.
With Calgary embarking on a season-long, six-game road trip and sitting two games below .500 and out of a playoff spot, the success or failure of this trip, could define the season.
While Iginla was unable to hit the scoresheet in the first game of the trip, his team gutted out a 3-2 win in Chicago to set the tone for the remaining games. With four games in four cities over the next six nights, Jarome Iginla took over.
Down 1-0 to Florida, Iginla scored with 10 seconds remaining to force overtime, and watched as his linemate Kristian Huselius scored the shootout winner. Two nights later in Tampa Bay, the Flames captain had a 4-point night in a wild 9-6 victory, scoring his sixth hat trick of his career, including the game winner. A night later, he scored again in a 4-3 win in Carolina. In their fourth game in six nights, Iginla was at his best. His two-goal, two-assist effort gave the Flames a five-game winning streak, and put them back into a playoff spot. In a four-game span on the road, Iginla had seven goals (two of them game winners) and three assists for 10 points, earning him player of the week honours in the NHL.
Great leaders are intuitive
Leadership can be displayed in many different ways. Great leaders seem to always know what is needed of them, when it is needed, how it needs to be done, and who they need to help them do it.
Jarome Iginla is a great leader, and his play this season has reminded us all just how much he has grown into that role. Whether his team needs a big goal, a big hit, a fight, a blocked shot, or an emotional boost, the Flames captain has been there.
Calgary has never had a Hart Trophy winner in their 28-year history, but Jarome Iginla should be their first. After 34 games he has only been held pointless seven times. He leads his team in goals, assists, points, power-play goals, game-winning goals, shots and faceoff winning percentage. He is second in NHL scoring and third in goals.
With all that he has done to this point in the season, his greatest accomplishment however may have been how he has guided his team through a difficult start, and carried them on his back through one of the toughest parts of their schedule.
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About the Author
Former NHL player, coach and broadcaster Craig Simpson brings over 18 years of expertise to his analyst role on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada. Craig played 10 years in the NHL with Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Edmonton, capturing two Stanley Cups with the Oilers in 1988 and 1990. He continues to hold the distinction of being the last Oiler to score 50 goals in one season (56 goals in 1987-88).
Injuries cut his playing career short in 1995, but the native of London, Ont., didn’t stray far from the game. Simpson worked for eight seasons as a hockey commentator with TSN, FoxSportsNet and Rogers Sportsnet and was an assistant coach with the Oilers organization for the past four years (2003-07) before joining CBC.
Simpson lives in Edmonton with his wife and three children. Viewers can catch Craig on Saturday nights providing analysis and commentary during the second game on HNIC. His blog appears every Tuesday on CBCSports.ca.
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