After a slow start Jarome Iginla has fanned the Flames' playoff hopes
Jarome Iginla was dogged by two questions over the past year: What happened to the player who led the league in scoring in 2001-02? And if and when he regained form, would he still be in Calgary?
Two seasons ago the 6'1", 207-pound right wing emerged as an elite power forward, leading the NHL with 52 goals and 96 points. But last season, though he led the team with 67 points, he bore little resemblance to the wrecking ball that had rolled through the league the year before. Another slow start this season and the fact that he's in the last year of a hefty contract ($7.5 million) led to rumors that the shallow-pocketed Flames were looking to trade their star.
That talk has died down since the start of the new year. Iginla is again playing with verve, and the surprising Flames, 26-20-5-3 at the All-Star break last weekend, were on track to end their seven-year postseason drought. Iginla had 12 goals and 19 points since Jan. 1, giving him team highs of 24 and 46, respectively.
More important, he was again dictating play. Also, despite playing on a sprained left ankle for the past three weeks, Iginla was third among all right wings in ice time (21:27 per game) this season.
Injury was partly to blame for his subpar '02-03. He was bothered for months by a dislocated finger suffered in an early-season fight. Now that he's healthy, he appears to have responded to coach Darryl Sutter's tough-love tactics. In October, after Iginla failed to get a point in the season's first four games, Sutter criticized his captain for playing with "zero emotion."
With his career back on track, Iginla may have more of a future in Calgary than expected. A front-office source says that while the team may still listen to offers for Iginla, the odds of him being traded are slim. The team will most likely make a $7 million qualifying offer this summer. "I'm excited about what's going on here and that we're in the playoff hunt," Iginla says. "We haven't been in too many of them."
A Way to Boost Scoring
Go Back to the One-Ref System
During All-Star weekend the suggestions offered to boost scoring and increase the flow of the game ranged from the sensible (restrict the size of goaltenders' pads) to the comical (Flyers forward Keith Primeau's notion that once an attacking team crosses the blue line, the offensive zone would extend to the red line). But one idea that's gaining support should be seriously considered: a return to the one-referee system.
The NHL added a second referee in 1998-99 not only to whistle penalties but also to reduce clutching and grabbing behind the play. But nearly every player polled said obstruction is as rampant as it's ever been and penalty standards can vary greatly from official to official. Removing one ref—and giving linesmen the authority to whistle blatant penalties behind the play—would ease the crowding on ice. And players are more likely to obey the rules when enforcement is consistent.