SUN Hockey Pool

Y all the fuss about Iginla?

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:28 AM ET

CALGARY - Steve Yzerman is well aware of the obvious parallels drawn between his career and that of Jarome Iginla’s.

Both longtime captains and snipers played for just one organization and are local icons who will reside close to one another in the Hockey Hall of Fame soon after Iginla retires.

The Detroit Red Wings legend also knows they are further linked by the fact Iginla was on the ice in Motown the day Yzerman’s career was ended by a puck to the face, as well as by the assist Iginla had on the Golden Goal that gave Yzerman’s Canadian team Olympic glory in 2010.

What he can’t understand is how the two are being lumped together with regards to Yzerman’s shift in focus from offence to defence.

“Jarome Iginla has always been a good two-way player. Why, all of a sudden, is there any question of him not being able to play both ends of the rink?” asked the Tampa Bay Lightning GM when contacted by the Calgary Sun.

“He’s a smart, all-around player. I think he can play any style.”

Yzerman certainly saw that capability in Vancouver, where Iginla was more than happy to play any role the Olympic team GM asked him to assume.

However, Flames coach Brent Sutter doesn’t feel he’s seen a similar buy-in, and said as much last week when he reiterated that if his club is to have any success this year, it will come only if every player follows the team-first concept.

Without naming his captain, it was evident Sutter feels Iginla needs to play a greater role defensively.

It immediately brought to mind the role change Yzermen underwent in the mid-90s, when Scotty Bowman asked No. 19 to focus more on his two-way play, despite six straight 100-point seasons.

A five-time 50-goal scorer who is the only man not named Lemieux or Gretzky to accrue more than 150 points in a season, Yzerman was told they no longer needed him to snipe.

“It wasn’t just me, it was the whole team,” recalled Yzerman of the easy sell-job Bowman made.

“All the guys wanted to win and we felt we had a good team. We just couldn’t get over that hump. It takes work. Not overnight, but we as a group were committed to it.”

The Flames are also trying to get over a different sort of hump — the playoff bubble — and given their lack of skill, Sutter insists everyone must buy in defensively for the club to have a chance.

While Iginla has certainly made concessions in that regard, he stands firm in his belief that he needs to score for the Flames to succeed. If not him, he wonders, who else will?

“No question, we could score a lot of goals as a team so it wasn’t an issue. We could generate offence,” Yzerman agreed from Tampa Bay, where he’s in his second year as GM of the Lightning.

“But Scotty wanted to be able to put me out on the ice at any time and not be worried we’d be scored on.”

Citing the fact that after years of losing in Detroit, his only focus was on winning a Stanley Cup, Yzerman bought in. His motivation was strengthened by trade rumours at the time — a move he didn’t want.

What followed were Cup wins in 1997, 1998 and 2002 and a Selke Trophy for top defensive forward in 2000.

Calling the new role re-energizing for his career, he still scored with regularity, while his repertoire expanded to include shot-blocking, chipping the puck out and staying high to prevent odd-man rushes.

From afar, Yzerman doesn’t think Iginla needs to make major concessions to his game defensively.

Iginla seems to agree, which is just one more thing the two have in common.


Videos

Photos