Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy and Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic knew what Jarome Iginla could do when those two played in the NHL. They knew he had a good eye for the puck when it comes to finishing his scoring chances. They were mesmerized with his talent and skill when he was 19. Who wasn’t?
Iginla certainly made an impression to Roy and Sakic for them to sign him as a free agent this summer. He was signed with the idea he could be that wily veteran that can come up with a big moment and score in the playoffs. The Avs certainly could have used him last year in their playoff series against the Wild when their young stars not named Nathan MacKinnon were not ready for the moment.
It’s games like last night that justified the Avs’ decision to sign Iginla. He gave the Avs breathing room in what was a tight game with the Predators all night long by scoring the second goal of the game in the third period, which he finished off several scoring chances by the Avs. He was at the right place at the right time in that moment.
If he does not score, there’s a good chance the Predators tie it late. His 576th goal of his career helped the Avalanche earned a 3-0 victory over the Predators last night at the Pepsi Center. It was also good enough to earn his 1,200th point of what should be a Hall of Fame career. That milestone helped him tie Dino Ciccarelli for 46th on the NHL all-time career list.
Iginla has had a good season for the Avalanche. He leads the team with 16 goals. He has done all he could to keep this team afloat despite the team’s offensive struggles. He has done everything the team can hope for. He is why the Avs don’t miss Paul Stastny.
With the team fighting for their playoff lives, they are going to need more moments like last night from him. They need him to lead the way. He is more suited to come up big than Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly and MacKinnon because he has been there and done that.
Iginla has played for 19 seasons, so he knows every trick that takes place in the game. He knows how to put himself in a position to score like he did last night. Experience has helped him to know how to create moments. The Avs’ young stars can be good one day, but it’s going to take years until they have Iginla’s skillset.
Roy and Sakic understood there was too much burden on the team’s young players in the playoffs, and they wanted someone who can show them how it’s done. That’s why Iginla was signed. It helps he still has it.
Iginla has spent time working with Duchene and MacKinnon at practice. He has encouraged them in getting them out of their slumps. He has always given them pointers. He always tells them not to let their struggles get the best of them. In a way, he is the type of sage these young players can respond to. They never had a teammate who can show them the ropes of playing in the NHL.
The Avs young stars have had a rough go of it, but they should be inspired with how Iginla snapped out of his funk. It wasn’t a good start for him to start the season. He had two goals in the first 20 games he played this season, but he managed to get it going and get to 16 goals. He still has an outside shot to score 30 goals.
What Iginla’s teammates should learn from him is they should not let a rough start or a funk affect their way of play. It’s easier said than done, but they can apply something from it. It’s not like they are rookies anymore.
There’s no question the Avs are going to rely on Iginla to make a run for a playoff spot. He is more suited to play and do well in desperation games. Last night was a good example.
Iginla knows what he is doing. That’s why he has had such a great career. That’s why he is going to play for two decades.
He has that skillset no one can teach.
He is not the player he was when he entered the league. That’s what happens when he is 37 years old.
Still, Iginla has so much to offer in the locker room, on the bench and on the ice. He knows how to play in big games like last night.
The Avs are going to need his wisdom and his play more than ever for them to make the playoffs.
They have faith in him.
With what he did last night, it’s easy to see why.
Follow or Contact Leslie Monteiro: @LightRodWriter
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Leslie is a contributor for Lightning Rod Sports. He covered high school sports in Bergen County out in North Jersey, and has written op-ed columns on sports such as Bleacher Report and NY Sports Digest.