Hard-boiled Iggy

Jean Lefebvre of the Calgary Herald talks about the new and improved Jarome, ten pounds lighter, replaced with vim and vigor:

Now understand that the previous No. 12 model wasn't exactly porky, and it's not like the Flames brass was diverting the dessert cart away from Iginla's table.

Indeed, the shucked pounds were mostly muscle and because of that, some wondered if the rough-and-tumble evening would come when Iginla would miss those 10 pounds of all-star mass.

Well, Iginla Lite has ripped out of the gates and obliterated his recent history of spotty starts by notching points in 13 of the season's first 16 contests.

It's an argument that is being used to justify Iginla's "rebirth" in the league, an argument written well by Lefebvre, as the latter does in most of his articles. My only problem with this is that, while Iginla is certainly faster than he was last year, it doesn't mean he still wasn't effective then. The team still won their division in 2005-06 and Iginla was a big part of this accomplishment, mostly because of his increased focus in developing his defensive game, and working on his presence in all ends of the rink.

Indeed, you would be hard-pressed to find a better all-around player in the league today, one who takes face-offs, works the corners, backchecks, steaks down the wing, battles in front of the net, shoots lasers, takes on tough guys, handles the puck in traffic, and leads the team when they're behind. Save for his firey temper, Iginla has no weaknesses; he is the composite hockey player.

Last season, though his scoring wasn't as plentiful as it could have been, was when he developed this improved facet. It isn't so much as a regenesis for him as much as a continuation from his consistent year-on-year improvement which he has experienced since he came into the league. For instance, while Calgary isn't alone in using star players on the PK, Iginla came into his own last season when Darryl Sutter began to call upon him to front the opposition when they were a man down. With Stephane Yelle, Iginla lead a ferocious checking squad which allowed the fewest goals in the NHL. The Flames won the Jennings Trophy not only because they had the best goalie, but also because they were led by a man who took pride in defensive hockey, and the rest of the team responded in kind.

This year, a new man stands behind the bench and, while Jim Playfair hasn't tinkered with the system too much, it is clear that the team is making more of an effort to put points up on the board. This change has resulted in higher shots against, not to mention an unusually high GAA for the Kipper, but it seems the defensive system has been altered to allow more clear shots on the goalie provided that the defensemen get the rebounds out of the way and up the ice. Their faith in their goaltender allows for a quicker transition to offense, the type of transition which benefits a fast, straight-away skater like Iginla to flourish. In other words, it's not so much that Iginla is playing better, it's that the team changed their system to benefit their star.

Again, this doesn't change the fact that Iginla is much faster than he has been in the past and that he is more consistent in his play. Just don't discount last year because his statistics dropped a bit.