CALGARY - As if Jarome Iginla’s achievement of scoring 500 goals — and more than 1,000 points — for the Calgary Flames wasn’t impressive enough.
Consider that from the start of the 1996-97 season to now, only one other player, Daymond Langkow, has scored more than 100 goals for the Flames in all that time (123 over six seasons).
Chew on that for a while.
OK, so now does anybody doubt whether Iginla has forever been on an island in leading the Flames?
Sure, nobody has played close to as many games as Iginla for the Flames over that time, but nobody other than Theoren Fleury can grasp what it’s been like for Iginla to be the main man during all those years.
Fleury, who skated with Iginla for nearly three full seasons before being traded to the Colorado Avalanche Feb. 28, 1999, also had to deal with being the face of the franchise for a couple of seasons.
But it was only a few years after the likes of Joe Nieuwendyk and Gary Roberts had departed that Fleury departed the team, as well. Ever since then, the spotlight has shone brightest on No. 12.
Through some thick and a lot of thin seasons, he’s been the one people have turned to for the solution. He’s the one people have said must make the difference — the one who’s been asked “what’s wrong?” when things aren’t going right.
He’s the one who’s been pushed the hardest to make the seemingly impossible happen.
Sure, he’s had spells with quality talent — Langkow, Dion Phaneuf, Alex Tanguay, Michael Cammalleri, Marc Savard and Chris Drury come to mind.
But nobody has been more than a second fiddle, with nowhere near the expectations heaped upon Iginla.
And a few players have wilted under the scrutiny.
When Drury arrived, he was supposed to be the player whose game-changing abilities would give the team a one-two punch. It didn’t happen.
Olli Jokinen’s first tour of duty never lived up to expectations, either. Since returning as a free agent prior to last season, Jokinen has dealt with the pressure so much better.
But it’s still nothing like what Iginla faces.
Craig Conroy is one of the few who immediately saw the importance of stepping up to deflect the criticisms fired Iginla’s way and had no trouble telling people to ‘back off’ when his good friend was put under fierce scrutiny.
Too often, it’s been easy to believe players have seen the days Iginla has been under siege as a good thing, because it diverts attention from their struggles.
No player embraced pushing himself to match Iginla as well as Cammalleri, and that’s why he’s the only player to have scored more goals than Iginla in a single season since Val Bure had 35 goals to Iginla’s 29 in the 1999-2000 campaign.
All those elements make Iginla’s accomplishments all the more impressive.
In an era during which it’s far too easy for athletes to find an easy way out — such as demanding a trade to a contender — Iginla has remained steadfast in believing he can be the solution. So many times, he has.
Too bad this organization hasn’t found others capable of standing alongside him to do the job.
Just imagine if he would have had a top-flight centre alongside over the last decade or so, such as Pavel Datsyuk.
But the fact Iginla continues to perform at such a level without the supporting cast so many others who have reached the 500-goal plateau skated with makes his achievement all the more incredible.
On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak
Flames’ top goal-scorers from 1996-97 NHL season to present
1. Jarome Iginla
1996-97 to present
500 goals 1,149 games
2. Daymond Langkow
2005-06 to ’10-11
123 goals 392 games
3. Craig Conroy
2000-01 to ’03-04; ’06-07 to ’10-11
97 goals 507 games
T-4. Cory Stillman
1996-97 to ’00-01
93 goals 309 games
T-4. Val Bure
1996-97 to ’00-01
93 goals 256 games
6. Rene Bourque
2008-09 to present
88 goals 249 games
7. Theoren Fleury
1996-97 to ’98-99
86 goals 223 games
8. Dion Phaneuf
2005-06 to ’09-10
75 goals 378 games
9. Kristian Huselius
2005-06 to ’07-08
74 goals 216 games
10. Curtis Glencross
2008-09 to present
69 goals 261 games
11. Alex Tanguay
2006-07 to ’07-08; ’10-11 to present
67 goals 271 games
12. Matthew Lombardi
2003-04 to ’08-09
65 goals 347 games