Here’s a question to ponder: How many times in the last year has Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said “Iginla?”
Boston winger Jarome Iginla had been something of a white whale for Chiarelli and the Bruins beginning with last year’s trade deadline fiasco and culminating with signing the unrestricted free agent this past summer. Add in the fact that the Bruins had to go through Iginla and the Pittsburgh Penguins in last year’s Eastern Conference finals, and you start to realize that Chiarelli has become quite familiar with the future Hall of Famer in the last year.
Chiarelli said Tuesday on Sportsnet’s “Hockey Central at Noon” that he kept a close on Iginla down the stretch and into last year’s playoffs as well. Iginla scored five goals and had 11 assists in 13 games after being acquired from Calgary and posted 4-8-12 totals in the Penguins’ first two rounds. Iginla went cold in the conference finals, however, as he was held pointless. He was far from alone in struggling against the Bruins, but Chiarelli was still pleased with the forward’s play on the whole.
“I don’t think he had a complete lack of success in Pittsburgh,” Chiarelli said on the show. “I thought maybe up until that last series, I thought he actually played pretty well. We watched him pretty closely. He’s still a robust player, he keeps himself in good condition. You’ve gotta look at where you’re going to play and how you’re going to play him. I’m not suggesting that Pitt played him wrong because they made it to the conference finals, but it was something that we didn’t rule him out because of how he played. I actually thought he played well up until our series. It’s something that, these things happen, trades fall through and you try and not harbor any ill will toward anybody, and especially not toward Iggy and I guess he felt the same way.”
Some of Iginla’s perceived struggles with the Penguins may have stemmed from the fact that he didn’t have a training camp or a full season with the Pens. He got that with the Bruins, and despite a slow start to the season, Iginla has been one of the Bruins’ most valuable players after signing a one-year, $6 million deal in the summer.
“One of the things he did say to me shortly after we signed him was that he was excited to have the full year and excited to have the training camp and all of that stuff,” Chiarelli added. “I’m sure that made the difference.”
Iginla has been absolutely fantastic in his first season with the Bruins, and he’s been at his best recently. He has six goals in his last four games and has been arguably the club’s best skater over the recent 10-game winning streak. Despite the fact that Iginla didn’t score until the team’s ninth game of the season, he leads the Bruins with 26 goals and is striking distance of the 12th 30-goal season of his career.