There was a time when Jarome Iginla in anything but a flaming ‘C’ jersey–with a smaller ‘C’ stitched on the upper left corner–seemed taboo.
On Thursday though, the 39-year-old will make his debut as a member of the Los Angeles Kings, his fifth team in a 20-year pro career and fourth team in five seasons.
Ahead of Wednesday’s trade deadline, last-place Colorado shipped Iginla to L.A. for a conditional draft pick. The move reunites the former Flames’ captain with Darryl Sutter, who coached Calgary from 2002–2006. It was during that time that the Flames produced a Cinderella run to the Cup Final, falling to the Lightning in 7 games. With the Kings presently on the outside looking in, he’ll look for another magical run in what could ultimately be his final shot at a cup.
“I’m not sure what my role will be yet, but I’m happy to do whatever (Darryl) thinks I help out in whatever area,” Iginla said via teleconference on Wednesday. “The biggest thing is just trying to play to the group’s identity of being a fierce competitor and battling and having fun doing it.”
Avalanche general manager, Joe Sakic was in regular communication with agent, Don Meehan in the days leading up to Wednesday. The two explored options that would not only allow for Jarome to compete for a cup, but to do so in a place where he’d feel comfortable. His history with Sutter–and knowing how he expects his teams to play made L.A. a logical choice.
“I’m looking forward to it…I really enjoyed playing for him,” he said. “He’s firm and can be tough, but I think that’s a good thing…It does make it easier having that relationship. It wasn’t that long ago that I was playing for him.”
Though they’re not presently in a playoff spot, Iginla still sees the Kings as a legitimate contender.
“The chemistry they have as a group, the world class players they have on the team and they’ve won before,” he said. “They’re hungry and I think they’re a team that wants the playoffs and their battle and compete level and their grinding level, I think the playoffs suits them well and they’ve proven that.”
With more days behind him than in front of him, the move offers an opportunity for another crack at the cup. That wasn’t going to happen in Colorado. Iginla signed a four-year deal with the team in 2014, one year after the Av’s finished atop the Western Conference. He figured to be a veteran voice in the room for a young core finally on the upswing. Since then though, the team has continued to nose dive and with 37 points in 61 games appears headed for the organization’s lowest point total over an 82-game season.
“It was a very tough year for all of us,” Iginla said. “Losing (Erik Johnson) for three months hurt…It just snowballed and all of a sudden we had some terrible streaks…I hadn’t gone through that in my career. I had missed the playoffs a number of times, but this was a tough one all the way around and being out for that long is something that hopefully the young guys never have to experience again.”
For Iginla, who was dealt to Pittsburgh from Calgary in 2013, the second time around is easier as a result.
“The first time leaving Calgary was a huge adjustment,” he said. “Being in a few different organizations, you get a chance and a little more used to the change. You realize there’s a lot of good guys in the NHL and are very welcoming. You have to kind of go through it to feel it.”
Was Wednesday’s deal a chance at a ‘Ray Bourque’ shot at the cup before retiring? The Edmonton native turns 40 in July and is in a declining season, 18 points in 61 games.
“I judge a lot by some games you don’t have the energy or spark,” he said. “I still have the desire. I don’t feel like my energy is the issue…I think I can still be effective and get better than I have been and produce more than I have. I look forward to that challenge and opportunity to do so.”
Flames’ fans are sure to circle March 19 and 29 on the calendar. The potential final times Iginla will play in Calgary. Adding some more interest though is the Kings chasing down his former team for a spot in the postseason.
“I think it’s great, I love the atmosphere to that,” he said. “I think it will be fun.”
Thursday won’t be Iginla’s first time in a Kings jersey–with his name on it. An avid Oiler fan growing up, he followed Gretzky to L.A., purchasing a custom “Iginla” 88 jersey. That could be the new number he sports on Thursday as Marian Gaborik currently wears 12.
“That’s his number and he’s been very successful with it,” he said. “He’s played a long time too and I wouldn’t even want to ask or anything like that. I look forward to a new number.”