Bruins Fans Will Grow to Love Jarome Iginla, But Winger Must Prove Himself First

Jarome IginlaJust after midnight on March 28, word came out that Jarome Iginla had been traded to the Bruins. B’s fans celebrated the news. Their team had just locked up one of the best scorers of the past 20 years, the final piece to turn the (at the time) struggling Bruins into true Stanley Cup contenders.

Then, just like that, he was gone. The original report proved to be false, as Iginla had in fact turned down Boston’s offer to instead join Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh.

The Bruins ended up getting the better end of the deal in the long run — the team picked up another aging legend in Jaromir Jagr, former trade bait Matt Bartkowski emerged in the playoffs and the B’s advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, handing Iginla and the Penguins an embarrassing four-game sweep along the way — but Iginla was never truly forgiven in the eyes of Bostonians.

Now, Iginla — the same man who was booed more loudly than Matt Cooke during the Eastern Conference finals — is a Boston Bruin. Give that a second to sink in.

Many Bruins fans will not embrace Iginla immediately with open arms, but his immense talent should quickly change that. Though it’s unreasonable to expect the 36-year-old to put up 90-plus points like he used to in the mid-2000s, he certainly still has the ability to be a dangerous scorer out on the wing.

Take a look at the stats. Iginla has scored more points than the highest-scoring Bruins player in each of the last five seasons. He’s also scored more goals than the leading Bruin in four of those five, with Phil Kessel edging him by a goal in 2008-09. It’s easy to equate this with the fact that Iginla spent all of those years playing with subpar teams in Calgary. But those Flames teams were, in fact, surprisingly balanced, not entirely carried by Iginla’s totals.

In Boston, Iginla should be a great fit for the first-line slot vacated by Nathan Horton, playing alongside two of Boston’s steadiest forwards in David Krejci and Milan Lucic.¬†This would allow fellow newcomer Loui Eriksson — who came over in Fourth of July blockbuster that sent Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley to Dallas — to settle in with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on the second unit.¬†With more than three months remaining until the puck drops on the 2013-14 season, that’s not a bad place to start.

Iginla will have a short leash this season, no doubt, especially among the talking heads on sports radio. If he fails to produce or shows a lack of effort, fans and pundits alike will not hesitate to run him out of town. But if he plays up to anywhere near his potential, Jarome Iginla will be a star in Boston, and No. 12 jerseys will fly off the shelves at the Pro Shop.

And remember, this is a guy who has played 16 NHL seasons without ever lifting the Stanley Cup. That, coupled with last season’s playoff debacle, should provide more than enough motivation.