Just days before the NHL trade deadline, the Calgary Flames lost one of their most productive players ever when Jarome Iginla chose to be traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The streaking Pens have won fifteen games in a row. Their streak included the first ever perfect month in an NHL season, going undefeated in the month of March. Iginla’s debut in Pittsburgh, on Friday night, was a nail-biter for Penguins fans as their star and league-scoring leader Sidney Crosby took a puck to the teeth early in the first period and had to leave the game a bloody mess. The New York Islanders eventually fell to the Penguins in the third period, giving Pittsburgh their 15th win in a row.
Iginla, who lined up on the right wing in Calgary, found himself on the left side of a line with Evgeni Malkin, the NHL reigning scoring champion, and James Neal, who scored one of the goals in the Penguins 2-0 victory on Saturday night.
Bolstering the strength of their team for their Stanley Cup run, Pittsburgh also accquired Brenden Morrow from the Dallas Stars and defenceman Doug Murray from San Jose.
The Penguins are on track to beat their own franchise record for most wins in a row set by Mario Lemieux’s ’92-’93 Penguins. Crosby is the league’s leading scorer by a ten-point margin with 15 goals and 41 assists. His teammate, Malkin, is the NHL’s 2011-12 reigning scoring champion. With the addition of three outstanding players before the trade deadline, the already very strong Penguins have incredbly talented depth on their roster.
The Flames lost the most recognizable name and face of their franchise when Ignla waived the no-trade clause in his agreement to move into a Penguins Uniform. The Alberta native will be missed by teammates and opponents alike. The Flames now have a void to fill as they struggle for success this season. Iginla led Calgary’s NHL Franchise in games(1 219), goals(525), points(1 095), and shots(3 992).
Iginla’s choice to play in Pittsburgh has been seen as a self-serving choice by many. The 36-year-old chose to play for the team with the best chance to win a Stanley Cup this season, not necessarily a team that needed his services, or where he would be a good fit. Lord Stanley’s Cup would be the crowning glory on top of Iginla’s other accolades. His long list of victorys includes two Olympic Gold Medals, a World Cup victory, a World Championship, and a Junior World Championship.
Since their 2004 run to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Flames have been a highly ineffective play-off team, and have struggled to play 500-hockey the past few seasons. With Iginla gone, the Flames have cap space and roster wiggle room to bring in fresh, young faces. The only player left from the nucleus of the 2004 team is goaltender Mikka Kiprusoff.
While surely the Flames, their fans, and the Battle of Alberta will be going through some growing pains, the future has to be nothing but bright for Calgary’s struggling NHL franchise who has gone through too many coaches in too many years without even coming close to returning to the NHL finals.
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