There will be a lot of media hype surrounding the results of this afternoon’s out-of-conference game in Boston, but there’s also a pretty significant historical event that could happen on national television tonight.
There hasn’t been a lot to cheer for in Calgary over the last few years. The team made the playoffs each of the first four post-lockout years, but they failed to advance past the first round in either. The last two years have them sitting in five points and three points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
They’re just one of those teams that are not pretty enough for the dance, and not quite ugly enough to make Daniel Wagner’s Bottoms-Up segment every week. This season, six points out at the halfway point, it looks unlikely that the Flames will make a post-season run, while not being bad enough to get good draft position for a potential game-changing player to be their next superstar.
That said, with a four-game homestand coming up on the schedule, starting tonight against the Minnesota Wild, Flames fans may be able to cheer for Jarome Iginla’s 500th goal.
Iginla sits at 499 goals in his career and 1038 points. Only six players—Gilbert Perreault, Stan Mikita, Steve Yzerman, Jean Believeau, Mike Bossy and Mario Lemieux—registered 500 goals, 1000 points and played with the same team their entire career (I guess there’s a technical argument for Joe Sakic in there as well). Who knows whether or not Iginla will last with the Flames for the rest of his career, but in the age of player movement and players spending time with more teams over the course of their careers, Iginla has likely locked up Flames records in both goals and points for eternity.
Of course Iginla, Captain of the Flames, is going to say all the right things when asked about the prospective tally:
“It’s one of those things you try not to think about but you definitely do. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t,” he told reporters. “I’d like to (get it over with). At the same time, I’m trying to stay focused, win a few games and move up in the standings.”
It’s been two steps forward, one giant step back for Calgary this season. After winning just four games in October, the Flames won six games in eight tries at the end of November and into December, before losing four straight. They then got hot again, winning four in a row, before their current five-game losing streak, capped off rather nicely on Thursday with a 9-0 loss to the Bruins. You could say the team is losing focus due to the the spectre of Iginla’s 500th hanging over the locker room, but I’d say it has more to do with the wonky home-road split the team has had to face since the World Junior tournament took over the Saddledome (the Flames have played seven on the road). Calgary haven’t lost a home game in regulation since November 15.
Hopefully he’ll get his 500th on national TV at home like Mats Sundin did, but there are a lot of chances for Iginla to do it next week if he can’t get it done tonight. While he’s only ever played for the Flames of the NHL, he’s played an awful lot for Team Canada in his career, winning two gold medals at the Olympics, and gold in World Championship, World Cup, and World Junior Championship play. You won’t find a lot of people cross-country who won’t cheer for Iginla when this happens. Even in Edmonton, Iginla’s hometown, will a few toasts be made for a guy who has been a terrific characterization of Canadian hockey during his entire career—he’s honest, talented, good with the media, and drops the mitts the way national commentators love: like tha good ol’ boys used ta do!
For the Flames themselves, there’s still a chance that they can make up some ground during this four-game home stand despite the focus on Iginla. They are, by a certain measure, the sixth best home-ice team in the NHL, and haven’t had a lot of chances to play at home, just 17 of their 42 games have been played in Calgary. If they can go on a nice run in the next month with a favourable schedule, perhaps they can delay a few of the trade rumours swirling around Iginla for another year.