Jarome Iginla was the NHL’s top player last November.
If the Calgary Flames captain can’t come close to duplicating his performance this upcoming month, the criticisms and trade talk will grow louder. He knows it.
Traditionally, when the season’s opening month is in the book and the Halloween decorations put away, Iginla tends to heat up.
Last November, Iginla (who had four goals and nine points in October) lit it up with 13 goals and 20 points in 14 outings.
Will we see a similar script unfold?
“I don’t know why Octobers haven’t been as good to me, so it’s nice it’s done,” Iginla said after Tuesday’s practice. “I’m still working at finding that groove, finding my game. I think once you get a certain number of games in, you stop thinking, start playing and you go.
“That’s what I need to do. That’s what I plan on doing.”
Iginla and his teammates need him to find his groove, starting with Tuesday’s home date with the Detroit Red Wings.
Among all the fallout from Calgary’s consecutive losses last week, including the 7-2 shellacking from the Washington Capitals, was intense criticism of Iginla from coast to coast.
With just two goals and seven points through the first 11 games, Iginla has found himself a lightning rod for all that’s gone wrong for a team which has a 6-5-0 record.
He admitted the criticism for his lack of production is part of the gig. What’s unsettling is the continuous rumours he doesn’t want to buy into the gameplan head coach Brent Sutter has created.
“If we lose a game, people say it’s a ‘bad locker-room’ and that’s not the case. We were really good defensively last year, and were going through some growing pains trying to implement the offence,” Iginla said. “When people say ‘selfish’ those type of things, I find those hard. I want to win and everybody in here wants to win. And we like playing together.
“At the same time, I’ve got to ignore it.”
Or, make it go away.
“He’s trying (so hard) to do well,” linemate Alex Tanguay said. “I think it’s all about percentages. If he shoots 100 pucks, he’s probably going to score 20. If the first 80 don’t go in, the next 20 will go in.
“I know he wants to score, and I know it’s gonna come. It’s just a matter of time.”
Tanguay put his legs where his mouth is during practice, too. The team had a showdown drill, and players who believed their teammate would score went to one side of the rink. Those who figured the goalie would make the save went to the other.
Whoever was wrong, had to skate back and forth.
When it was Iginla’s turn, Tanguay and Matt Stajan, Iginla’s linemates, were among four players who picked the captain to score on Henrik Karlsson.
Their faith wasn’t rewarded thanks to a glove save, but it’s a sign somebody believes in Iginla.
He does, too.
“No question, I’ll get better. Tangs has been rolling and Staj had a good first month, and I’ll get going with them,” Iginla insisted. “I know if I’d have been better, it would have resulted in a few more wins for the team.
“We have a lot of good things going, and I look to join them.”