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Friday, January 6, 2012
Daily Debate: Should Flames trade Iginla?

By Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun

Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun discuss whether the Flames' best option is to trade Jarome Iginla and which teams would be good fits for the forward.

BURNSIDE: Good day, my friend. As we barrel headlong toward the exact midpoint of the NHL season, fans in Boston must be feeling pretty good about themselves after the Bruins crushed Calgary 9-0 on Thursday night. The win gives them nine wins in their past 10, and the Bruins aren’t just beating opponents, they’re humiliating them. They have a plus-69 goal differential, which means they’re about a goal and a half better than every team they play on average. Wow. For me, though, Thursday’s humiliating effort has to mark a line in the sand for the Flames, who are winless in their past five and have been outscored 24-8 over that stretch.

Jarome Iginla
Jarome Iginla is a goal away from reaching 500. But would Calgary be better off trading the fan favorite?
So, when does GM Jay Feaster put out the "garage sale" sign in front of the Saddledome? Miikka Kiprusoff, who was supposed to have Thursday off until Leland Irving folded under the Bruins' onslaught, surely has to be in play. Olli Jokinen, Captain Underachiever, will likely catch the eye of some team looking to bulk up offensively down the middle (not that Jokinen will provide much of anything given his paltry career playoff performances, but I digress). And what of Jay Bouwmeester, one of the biggest disappointments in recent years after being selected third overall almost a decade ago?

Feaster has already said he won’t trade Jarome Iginla, who approaches the 500-goal mark (he’s got 499), although I must admit I don’t understand that logic. Iginla would yield the most assets of any player on the Flames' roster and would be attractive to a number of Cup contenders -- how about Boston? And in his heart of hearts, wouldn’t he want a shot at a championship somewhere else? He’s certainly not getting anywhere near one staying in Calgary. What say you, friend?

LEBRUN: First on the Bruins, there is no team more impressive in the NHL right now. How about 23-3-1 since October ended? I’ll have more in a blog later today when I preview Saturday’s Canucks-Bruins Cup finals rematch.

The Flames? They’re going nowhere. They’ve teased their fans with a few good stretches this season, but the fact is, they’re not good enough to make the playoffs in the Western Conference. This club is at a serious crossroads. The Flames need to identify their mission plan, their vision for the future, and act. They’ve got 13 expiring contracts, nine of them unrestricted free agents. The window will open this summer to change the face of this team. But I believe Feaster will begin to act before then and will try to sell off some parts before the Feb. 27 trade deadline. The most galling thing of all is that the Flames’ payroll is fifth-highest in the NHL. Look at what that’s getting them on the ice.

Iginla, as you mentioned, will be the sensitive play. Ownership, like the fans, believes he’s the most popular player in franchise history. That puts Feaster in a tough spot. He doesn’t want to be seen as the guy pushing out a legend. But dealing Iginla is the best and fastest way to start re-hauling this roster. But Iginla controls the shots. He has a no-movement clause and another year on his deal, earning $7 million next season. Yes, I believe the Bruins would have interest if Iginla ever became available, as would Los Angeles and several other clubs. He’s a winner, a leader and still a high-end performer surrounded by the right players. At the very least, there needs to be a meeting between Flames management, Iginla and Iginla’s veteran agent Don Meehan to discuss the future. I know it hasn’t happened yet.

BURNSIDE: I guess I don’t see the need to tiptoe around the Iginla issue. This reminds me of the Mats Sundin saga in Toronto. The Leafs were mired in mediocrity and dithered about trading the one piece of the team that could have accelerated a rebuild after the lockout. Oh, we don’t want to hurt Mats’ feelings. He had a no-trade and he exercised his right to stay with the team and avoid any playoff heavy lifting, thereby forfeiting any shot at a berth in the Hall of Fame, but that’s me.

Iginla is a different animal. He has proved to be a fierce competitor and a winner -- his turn in 2004 as the Flames and Tampa went to seven games in the Cup finals was memorable. Is there any shame in approaching Iginla and asking if he might want a shot at a playoff run for the next couple of years? No chance the Flames are a contender before Iginla retires. That’s a fact. His staying in Calgary doesn’t change that one iota. If Iginla wants to adopt the Sundin plan, fair enough, but I think you have to have a serious discussion.

You mentioned the Bruins, but what about those Kings? As I predicted, Darryl Sutter has fully turned the Kings’ ship around (OK, I didn’t see that coming), but while they are winning (5-0-3 since Sutter took over), they still can’t score with any regularity, as witnessed by their 1-0 overtime win Thursday over Phoenix. Drew Doughty got his first goal in almost two months, but if the Kings look like the kind of team that can defensively play with the big boys in the West, they cannot hope to advance far without a shot of offensive adrenaline. And a guy like Iginla is going to be far more attractive than a lightweight like an Ales Hemsky.

LEBRUN: I disagree with you regarding Sundin on both fronts. First, he is a Hall of Famer. Second, it was within his rights to decline a trade. That’s the whole point of players negotiating no-movement clauses into their contracts. Otherwise, what’s the point of having them? Just because a team needs to rebuild and doesn’t want you anymore, that doesn’t mean you should automatically acquiesce and drop your no-movement clause. Sundin at that point wasn’t ready to move on. That’s his prerogative.

Iginla, however, might be ready to move on if it’s the right fit and if the whole thing is handled properly. He certainly doesn’t want to be seen as wanting to get out. That’s why it’s such a delicate situation. The optics of any Iginla trade will be just as important as the actual deal-making.

Regarding the Kings -- who would be a great fit for Iginla -- they just keep rolling under Sutter (did someone I know predict that?) and they’re finding different ways of getting it done. Most notably, Doughty has more jump in his game. Whether that’s because Sutter is behind the bench or simply because he’s finally got enough games under his belt after missing camp and preseason, Doughty is playing his best hockey of the season. That, in itself, has had the biggest impact on wins and losses in Los Angeles.

BURNSIDE: You’re right about Sundin. I forgot about all of those Cup wins in Toronto and the long playoff runs, oh wait, there weren’t any. And seriously, I do agree on the no-trade, but I think it’s fair to question someone who chooses comfort over a chance to win, as did Sundin and the rest of the Muskoka Five back in the day in Toronto. But that’s a debate for another day.

Let’s close with this thought: Is it possible the Chicago Blackhawks suddenly have some question marks about whether they’ve got the goaltending chops to advance deep in the playoffs? Chicago still leads the Central Division and is a point behind Vancouver for the top spot in the West, but it is 10th in the Western Conference in goals allowed per game. On Thursday, the Hawks blew a couple of leads en route to a 5-4 loss in a 2010 Stanley Cup finals rematch against Philadelphia. Ray Emery was in for all five goals, although the Hawks did give up a whopping 46 shots, and only recently has Corey Crawford been given repeat starts. Does Stan Bowman need to think about an upgrade to give the Hawks a better matchup come April?

Hmmm. What about Kiprusoff? Just asking.

LEBRUN: If you’re the Hawks, you’ve made your bed with Crawford and you have to give him the chance to figure it out. He was sensational in the first round of the playoffs against Vancouver last spring and you have to believe that Crawford can return. If I were Stan Bowman, I would focus on bolstering the blue line as well as picking up a veteran checking forward -- both elements could help with the team’s defensive play.

Until next week, my friend.