In this, the fifth part of my wish list series in which I examine one player from each NHL team who I would love to see play for the Sabres, I break my own rules (sort of) and discuss a superstar who is not a realistic option (sort of).
Jarome Iginla, Forward
This choice isn’t about what Jarome Iginla can give the Sabres on the ice. Sure, he’s contributing to the Penguins right now – 5 goals, 4 assists in only 11 games – but a lot of that you chalk up to the fact that he has been temporarily rejuvenated by both a change of scenery, and the fact that he has a legitimate chance to win Lord Stanley’s Cup. Iginla is in the twilight of his career, and any team that gets him next year (should he continue playing) will be lucky to get 45 points out of him.
Why do I want an aging superstar like Iginla on the Sabres, then? Are we not hoping the Sabres clear out some of the dead wood they already have? My reasoning is pretty simple: I do not feel the Buffalo Sabres have the culture of winning that is necessary to become a legitimate contender. I am excited by the young players that they have, and I feel the Sabres have the potential to become a great team for years to come. However, I do not feel that there is anyone currently in the Buffalo Sabres organization who has experienced enough success to be able to bring a cockiness, a swagger, a feeling that Buffalo should be expected to win, to the locker room. From top to bottom, there is no one working for the Sabres today who can boast that they know what it takes to win, what it feels like to win, and as a result, the Sabres do not have a culture of winning. Alumni Plaza is a great idea – but every team has history. Winning teams have tradition.
Buffalo has history. That is not enough.
Jarome Iginla carries with him his own personal culture of winning. He was a member of a WHL team, the Kamloops Blazers, that won consecutive Memorial Cups. He led all scorers in the 1996 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships in 1996, when Team Canada won gold. He has brought home Olympic gold medals twice, in 2002 and 2010, as a member of Team Canada. No, he hasn’t won a Stanley Cup –yet. He’s simply won everything else, and done his damnedest to carry his old team, the Calgary Flames, into the playoffs five times despite never really having a championship-caliber team assembled around him.
Are there other players on the Penguins who could help the Buffalo Sabres develop a culture of winning in the locker room? Yes – but no one more respected than Iginla. (And no one who will be moving any time soon, either.) He’s been called on of the most “classy guys in the league” by Trevor Linden, one of those guys who “knows how to win” by Wade Redden, and a player who”doesn’t come around very often” by Pittsburgh GM ray Shero. There’s a reason why so many people would be okay with watching Pittsburgh win the Stanley Cup this year: Jarome Iginla. Does any player in hockey deserve a Stanley Cup more? Many, myself included, would answer, “No.” He has given the sport of hockey everything there is to give, and he is universally respected. He’ll forever be remembered as a winner, even if he never lifts the Cup, and that’s saying something.
Argue with me all you want, but I believe that even one year with Iginla in the locker room, guiding and leading young players such as Cody Hodgson, Mikhail Grigorenko, etc., would be worth every cent the Sabres would have to pay to lure him into the fold.