CALGARY - The fans have spoken and so has Jarome Iginla, making it clear two-thirds of the parties involved are at least starting to come to grips with the possibility of a trade.
We’ll hear from the club at noon Tuesday when GM Jay Feaster treads carefully around an issue that has dominated the Calgary sports scene the last week like never before.
And while Feaster and the ownership will have the biggest say in whether the Flames’ retooling involves replacing their current captain, it’s evident the door is opening for what was seemingly impossible just three months back when he scored No. 500.
After more than a decade as the face of the franchise and the most popular player in Flames lore, the captain’s standing as the most untouchable piece of the Flames is essentially now over.
He admitted as much Monday, acknowledging he will be subjected to the same off-season scrutiny as mere mortals around him for the first time since he became an NHL star.
The 34-year-old said he’d prefer to stay in Calgary but doubted he’d be interested in sticking around for an Edmonton-like rebuild, reiterating he wants a chance to win. Once again loathe to admit his team is any worse than various top-eight outfits, the consummate company man still thinks the Flames are “close.”
Time for a baseline test, Iggy.
Far more shocking than his admission he may not want to be around for a sizeable overhaul were the shocking poll results in the Calgary Sun Monday showing that 49% want Iginla traded.
Never before has the classy man with such iconic status ever come close to what amounts to a 50-50 split in support of an open-ended stay.
He hadn’t dipped below the 80% approval rating since the turn of the century.
It’s a shocking departure for Flames faithful that speaks volumes of the heightened penchant to make massive changes following three straight seasons out of the playoffs.
It’s not so much a knock on Iginla as it is a realization that unless the Flames want to go the Mats Sundin route and get nothing for him, the best way to effect meaningful change any time soon is to cash in your largest chips.
And while Miikka Kiprusoff may land the club even more on the open market, no trade in team history would be as emotional as the one Jay Feaster and ownership will contemplate heavily the next few weeks and months.
The fact that public support is suddenly split on No. 12 doesn’t mean Ken King and the Flames have a mutiny on their hands. Quite the contrary. What it means is the club is being afforded an unexpected opportunity: The stage is being set for management to contemplate what was seemingly unthinkable the last decade.
After all, the trickiest part of the inevitable split between the two image-conscious sides will be somehow making it look like it was a mutual decision aimed at helping both parties. Theoretically, a united front would make it more palatable to the masses.
In the midst of players’ exit interviews, physicals and a record number of food-craving journalists, a lone painter wandered almost symbolically through the bowels of the rink with a roller and a brush, touching up paint throughout the rink.
Indeed, the Dome makeover has officially begun.
Whether the changes will be of the wholesale variety or simply another coat of paint for the aging also-rans is now up to Feaster and his bosses.
How much light he’ll shed on his leanings while things are still emotional will be revealed at high noon.
And while the possibility of accelerating a rebuild will undoubtedly be the toughest decision this organization has ever made, any potential blow may already have been cushioned considerably over the last 24 hours.