Reporting Colin Dunlap
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PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — Jarome Iginla was supposed to play the part of Ray Bourque in this Stanley Cup passion play.
The main character and storyline simple: A future hall-of-famer, after leaving a long, indelible mark in one place without the reward of lifting the Cup, was going to skate off toward the sunset with one final stop; the sole purpose of it reaching hockey’s team pinnacle before retirement.
Bourque, who played 21 seasons for the Boston Bruins, was shuttled along in a trade to Colorado late in the 1999-2000 season where his Cup dream with the Avalanche ended short. In 2000-01, however, his final season, Borque won a Stanley Cup with Colorado.
For Iginla, the blissful ending wasn’t supposed to wait a season.
It was supposed to happen now, this season with the Penguins.
In the final few days of March, just before the deadline, Iginla was traded from Calgary to Pittsburgh. It was a Calgary organization Iginla debuted for in Dec. 1995, scoring more than 1,200 points as he wore that red sweater emblazoned with two Cs, one a mark of the city, one a mark of his leadership.
Remember the giddiness with which we all carried ourselves when we found out Ray Shero pulled off that stunner, acquiring Iginla in a middle-of-the-night arrangement and, in a sense, swiping him away from Boston?
Sure didn’t think it would end up like this, huh?
Sucks, doesn’t it?
Now, with the Penguins staring at a 3-0 deficit — and almost-certain elimination — in the Eastern Conference Final against the Boston Bruins, it is fair to say that Iginla has underwhelmed. In fairness, however, it hasn’t all been his fault.
In five of the games against Ottawa and three now against the Bruins, Iginla has been held without a goal.
Iginla played well in the opening round series against the Islanders, but since has seen a noticeable decay in his game, collecting just two points over the last seven games.
That isn’t good enough for the guy who was supposed to make a huge splash.
Over the past three games against the Bruins, especially, the wear and tear of even this 48-game regular season looks as if it has gotten to the 35-year-old.
He has been a stride slow, a step off, a moment late — seemingly always.
Those words are tough to write about a man who, by the account of just about everyone who has ever interacted with him, is one of the most gracious humans to ever lace up skates.
But that much is the reality.
Jarome Iginla didn’t come to Pittsburgh to win a popularity contest or some Mr. Congeniality award. No, he came here to win a Cup for him and help this team win a Cup.
It doesn’t look like either of those is happening.
In Game 3, Iginla was relegated to a third-line right winger, shifting there from his unnatural position of left wing, where coach Dan Bylsma had him on a line alongside Evgeni Malkin and James Neal for much of the time since his arrival in Pittsburgh.
Was such a move a tactical error, playing Iginla for such a large chunk of time on the left side? Probably, yes.
And that is where it can be pointed out, again in fairness, that this might not be all on him.
Whatever the case, wherever most of the blame can be pointed, it can be agreed upon that when Iginla was acquired, this isn’t what Penguins fans had in mind.
When this Penguins season ends, Iginla will become an unrestricted free agent.
No one knows if he will be back in Pittsburgh, if he will take his hockey talents to another city or if, quite simply, he might call it a career and retire.
What is known, for certain, is that when Iginla was whisked away from Calgary, this isn’t what anyone had in mind.
Iginla’s Raymond Bourque moment was supposed to happen this season, and it almost-certainly isn’t going to.
Colin Dunlap is the featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at email@example.com. Check out his bio here.