Jarome Iginla was named the NHL’s first star of the month Tuesday. With 13 goals (including five game-winners) and 17 points in 17 games, he deserves it. He’s one of the most respected, beloved veterans in recent memory and a man whose community service and role model status is beyond reproach. He’s also proving to be one of the best, if not the best off-season acquisition of the summer of 2013.
But let’s not kid ourselves. This is no Benjamin Button of Boston type scenario. Iginla has flourished in part due to his skills and perserverance, but it’s fair to argue the 36-year-old is thriving more because he’s a member of one of the NHL’s best teams and is situated in a city where he can finally get some room to enjoy hockey again.
We all know Iginla’s long and illustrious history as the cornerstone of the Calgary Flames and how terrible the team was by the time he made his exit. When he was dealt to the Penguins at the 2012-13 trade deadline, Iginla had been through an extended emotional wringer and from an offensive perspective was a shell of his former self (nine goals and 22 points in 31 games). He wasn’t a good fit in Pittsburgh, a great hockey city where it’s a little tougher to blend into the background when things go wrong than most major U.S. locales.
However, in Boston, a town that’s enjoyed incredible sporting success in the past decade, Iginla has been afforded the time and space to breathe new life into his career. He doesn’t have to be the primary scoring option the way he was in Calgary – ask yourself, if he signed with Nashville or Columbus in the off-season, would he be putting up anywhere close to the same numbers? – and when he struggled to find his way early this season, few people were breaking out microscopes and scalpels to dissect his game and carve him up personally.
As a result, he’s returned to being a 30-goal-scorer as he was from 2000-2012. He’s Boston’s leading scorer not because he needs to be, but because the pressure has been lifted from his shoulders. He’s been put in the ideal situation for an aging star and has responded in exactly the way you’d expect of a surefire future Hockey Hall-of-Famer.
But he’s not doing it all on his own, and he’d be the first to tell you so. That first star of the month is his in name, but in reality, it’s shared.