On March 27, 2013, Jarome Iginla was on the verge of being traded away from the only team he’s ever known. All signs pointed to the Boston Bruins and even TSN went so far as to say that the deal was done. Hockey fans woke the next morning to find out that he had instead spurned the Bruins in favor of the Pittsburgh Penguins and shocking the NHL world. The luster of him playing alongside Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin was too much for Iginla to pass up.
It was fate that the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins would meet in the Eastern Conference Finals. It was something out of a Shakespearean play, one player and the team he so scorned. The Bruins were clearly the stronger team and beat the Penguins in almost every aspect and snatched the Prince of Wales trophy from the vaunted Penguins.
Many said after the win, “Iginla picked the wrong team”. Well, did he really? Sure, the Bruins beat the Penguins and now have a chance to play for the Stanley Cup, but would they have gotten there with Iginla?
First, we have to go back to the very, very near deal with the Boston Bruins. The Bruins reportedly offered center Alex Khokhlachev, defenseman Matt Bartkowski, and a first rounder for Iginla. Flames GM Jay Feaster preferred the Bruins offer to the Penguins offer of a couple of college players and a first rounder. Unfortunately for Feaster, it wasn’t really his call. Iginla had a no-trade clause and had the right to veto any trade and that’s exactly what he did.
The Bruins eventually picked up Jaromir Jagr from the Dallas Stars in place of Iginla and kicked the tires on Martin St. Louis. Not as big as picking up Iginla, but a solid pickup by the Bruins front office.
So, in the midst of all the rubble, the Penguins ended up with Iginla and the Bruins kept Khokhlachev and Bartkowski. If the Bruins picked up Iginla, the playoffs would have been a whole different story for both the Bruins and the Penguins.
Bruins-Maple Leafs Series
You all probably remember Game 7 of the Bruins-Maple Leafs, the Bruins came back from three down in the third and score the series winner in overtime. However, what people forget is the first goal scored by the Bruins in the game was scored by Matt Bartkowski. The same Matt Bartkowski that pretty much had a plane ticket to Calgary. Without that goal, Toronto would have built a four goal lead by the third and the Bruins most likely wouldn’t have come back from that. The Bruins lose Game 7 to the Maple Leafs, don’t play the Penguins, and don’t play for a shot at the Stanley Cup.
The Pittsburgh Penguins would have still beaten the New York Islanders and the Ottawa Senators in this scenario, but without the Bruins in the picture, the Eastern Conference gets shaken up quite a bit. The Maple Leafs, with much bravado and a very confident James Reimer, go on to play the New York Rangers. The Rangers underachieve against an overachieving Maple Leafs team as Toronto moves on to the Eastern Conference Finals. Since the Rangers still don’t advance past the second round, head coach John Tortorella still gets fired in this scenario. Sorry, Coach.
Eastern Conference Finals
The Pittsburgh Penguins easily get past the Ottawa Senators as they did in real life. Now we have the Penguins against the Maple Leafs for the Prince of Wales Trophy. The long suffering Toronto fans have been waiting for awhile to get back to this point, but unfortunately run into the offensive juggernaut that is the Pittsburgh Penguins. See in this world, Earth 2 if you will, the Penguins would’ve never been matched with the defensive masters in the Boston Bruins and the duo of Crosby-Malkin wouldn’t have been shut down and would have decimated Toronto.
So, without Jarome Iginla, the Pittsburgh Penguins become the Eastern Conference representatives in the Stanley Cup Finals. The sky is the limit for the Penguins at this point and they probably would have been the favorite to win the Stanley Cup regardless of whether they had to play the Chicago Blackhawks or the Los Angeles Kings.
The Boston Bruin Jarome Iginla would have to wait another season for his long sought after Stanley Cup. Bruins head coach Claude Julien, who was on the hot seat, gets fired after blowing a 3-1 lead with their prized acquisition, Jarome Iginla, and thus changing the whole franchise.
Dan Blysma, currently on the hot seat after laying an egg against Boston, gets hailed as one of the best coaches in the NHL and has a shot at his second Stanley Cup title during his tenure in Pittsburgh.
As for Jaromir Jagr, he never gets traded to Boston since they already have Jarome Iginla. Jagr stays in Dallas since there really was no other market for him, other than a floundering Philadelphia Flyer squad, and never gets a chance at another Stanley Cup, at least for this season.
Did Iginla Make The Wrong Choice?
So, did Jarome Iginla pick the wrong team? No, not really. True, the Bruins are still playing while the Penguins are currently making golf reservations, but the Bruins, in my opinion, would have lost to the Maple Leafs without Matt Bartkowski, who would’ve been shipped out to Calgary. It seemed as if Iginla was doomed from the start, but hindsight is 20/20.
Mark Wallace Graham has been a writer for TheHockeyWriters.com since March 2013. Growing up in New England, Boston Bruins hockey was in my blood. Follow me on Twitter, @MarkWGraham