When news broke that Jarome Iginla had left the Boston Bruins to sign a three-year, $16.5 million contract with the Colorado Avalanche, many people believed the veteran winger was giving up his pursuit of a Stanley Cup championship to follow the money.
That’s not the case, according to Iginla. He told Adrian Dater of The Denver Post that the Avalanche are well-equipped to contend for a championship over the next few seasons.
“With this group, I think the sky is the limit,” Iginla said. “When I think of some of the teams that have had success in the NHL in the last five or six years, I think of Chicago; they were a very young, very talented team that moved up very quickly, that had a very talented young core when they won.
“Pittsburgh was pretty young when they won. Boston had a pretty young core when they won, too. I think Colorado has a lot of young guys, whether in their first year or third or fourth year or whatever, they’ve been confident and been able to play their way and just keep getting better. I’m excited to be able to come for three years and be part of that, and grow with the guys.”
Iginla’s comparisons of the Avs to the Penguins, Bruins and Blackhawks are fair, to an extent.
Colorado has incredible offensive talent and scoring depth at forward, but it lacks an elite No. 1 defenseman on the back end. The difference between the Avalanche and the three aforementioned teams is the presence of a shutdown D-man on the blue line. Before winning championships, Chicago had Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, Pittsburgh had Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi and Boston had Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. Tyson Barrie is the Avs’ best D-man, but he’s nowhere near the caliber of these six players. Team president Joe Sakic must acquire another top-pairing defenseman for the Avalanche to compete with the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and Blackhawks in the Western Conference.
The early criticism of Colorado’s decision to sign Iginla was that he won’t be able to keep up with the pace and speed of the Avalanche offense. Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon — the Avs’ expected 1-2 punch at center — are two of the fastest players in the league.
But the addition of Iginla isn’t to bring more speed to the roster.
The Avalanche failed to create enough offense in the attacking zone against the Minnesota Wild in Round 1 of last season’s playoffs. The Avs were excellent off the rush and in transition, but when the game slowed down and they needed to keep possession and generate scoring opportunities by winning puck battles along the boards, below the goal line and in front of the net, they were out-muscled. Iginla is the power forward Colorado lacked last season and will provide needed physicality. His one-timers from the faceoff circle also will bolster the Avs’ power play.
“As far as being able to fit in, I believe I can,” Iginla told The Post. “I felt better as the year went on in Boston. Not to be arrogant or anything, but I still believe I can be very good, and not be able to contribute offensively and be a good player.”