It may have been Jarome Iginla’s final visit to the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary but Iginla and the Flames weren’t interested in a nostalgic trip down memory lane. In fact, it was trade talk and a spat in the third period between Flames captains past and present that dominated the conversation when Iginla almost scrapped with former teammate Mark Giordano.
“I have a lot of respect for him,” said Iginla of Giordano to NHL.com. “He’s a great competitor. It’s just part of playing in the moment, going into the corners against each other on some different plays. We were a bit frustrated on our side and trying to fire things up a little bit. It’s nothing personal. Just one of those heat-of-the-moment things. Maybe it’s best we didn’t go?”
Flames Trade Speculation
Ironically, Eric Francis from the Calgary Sun seems to think the two combatants could once again be teammates, suggesting that the Flames may trade for Iginla before the March deadline. No doubt, Iginla would add some much-needed grit and a powerful right-handed shot that has scored 616 career NHL goals to Johnny Gaudreau’s line. However, it’s likely to remain a fantasy for Flames fans.
Iginla’s declining foot speed and the no-trade clause he has with Colorado are probable barriers to bringing the fan favorite back to Calgary. After all, the Flames aren’t likely to be Stanley Cup contenders this season and it’s easy to guess that at least a little bit of bad blood might remain between Iginla and the organization from which he originally requested a trade in order to pursue the NHL’s biggest prize.
Still, after watching Colorado perform miserably in their recent 4-1 loss to the Flames, it’s looking like the Avalanche could be making roster changes very soon. What they seem to need most are some young, mobile and intelligent puck-moving defencemen and that’s an area where the Flames have some considerable depth. The problem is that the assets in Colorado who are most coveted and likely to be moved, in Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, are players that will also come with high price tags.
Normally that wouldn’t be a huge problem, but for the Flames, moving defencemen like T.J. Brodie or Dougie Hamilton would create big gaps on their current roster that would probably destroy their season. That’s because defensive prospects like Oliver Kylington, Rasmus Andersson, Adam Fox or Brandon Hickey are all still at least a season or two away from playing at the NHL level. So, as long as the Flames are still in playoff contention, it doesn’t look very possible that a blockbuster trade with Colorado will be in the works unless the Flames’ current defensive needs could be met.
Why Mess With Success?
It might only be the mid-season but there’s no doubt the Flames are playing some great hockey right now. The team has won 11 of their last 15 games and boasts the No. 1 power play in the NHL since Dec. 1 (35.7 percent) that most recently went three for seven in their game against Colorado. Leading the way is the line of Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik and rookie Matthew Tkachuk, who have all been outstanding over the last couple of weeks.
Backlund has scored six goals over his last five games to notch his 200th NHL point versus the Avalanche while Tkachuk continues to impress as a rookie by riding a six-game point streak and drawing a lot of penalties along the way. Frolik is also consistently contributing with five assists over his last four games, even though he went on a nine-game point scoring drought just before Christmas. Everyone on the line has been impressive but it’s been Backlund who has really stood out this season so far.
“This is the best I’ve seen him in his career,” Giordano said to NHL.com “That’s saying a lot because he has been really good the last couple years. He’s a two-way centerman who doesn’t get the acknowledgement all the time because he doesn’t have the high-end numbers offensively. This year things are going in for him. He’s feeling really good. Even in practice playing against him you can just tell. The puck’s on a string for him.”
Continuing to Climb the Ladder
As they head into a home-and-home doubleheader with the Vancouver Canucks this weekend, Calgary has a lot left to prove about their playoff hopes. They have all four of their lines rolling and have been getting solid goaltending from Brian Elliott, who has won each of his last five starts.
They also have four of their next five games against teams who trail them in the standings, giving them a great opportunity to collect the points they desperately need to make up after their horrible start to the season in October and November.
The playoffs are in reach but even with their solid play, the Flames are still just three points away from falling out of the hunt. The margin for error is very slim and the challenging part for Brad Treliving and Flames management will be on how far to gamble this season. No doubt, there are a lot more teams than the Avalanche who will be coming to Treliving with trade requests and the Flames will need to seriously forecast what they believe they can accomplish now against how the team could continue to grow in the future.
Sure, the Flames could make significant moves now to create a playoff push this season but when you think about the players developing with AHL Stockton Heat, like Andersson, Mark Jankowski and Andrew Mangiapane, it’s hard to justify mortgaging the future. In addition, the Flames also had all five of their prospects playing at the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championships reach at least the semi-final games with their respective teams, which bodes well for their future NHL careers too.
As tempting as it is to go for it all this season, I think Treliving and Flames fans would be better served by staying the course on what looks to be a very bright future in Calgary.
Jon is a Calgary resident and life-long Flames fan who is a new contributor on TheHockeyWriters.com. You can follow Jon on Twitter @sportfanyyc where you’ll probably learn a bit more about sledge hockey as well.