Blue Jackets at Flames Preview: Turning the Page

Kirk Irwin

The Flames officially begin the post-Iginla era tonight when they take on the Columbus Blue Jackets at home (7 p.m. mountain, 9 p.m. eastern on Sportsnet West and The Fan 960).

After everything that has transpired since Wednesday evening when Jarome Iginla was held out of the lineup in the Flames' win against the Colorado Avalanche and later traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the show must go on.

Tonight's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Scotiabank Saddledome is just the second time the Flames will hit the ice without their former captain since the 2006-07 season when Iginla missed 12 games with a knee injury.

As many have already said, the package the Flames ultimately managed to secure from the Penguins in return for Iginla was less than expected, but then again, I have to wonder if any return would have been acceptable for a player with ten consecutive 30-goal seasons who had been the captain of this team for nine years, and the face of the franchise for 16.

No matter how much Flames fans collectively began to prepare for the day when Iggy was no longer a Calgary Flame after rumblings of his decline first began several years ago, nothing could ready us for the messy chain of events that unfolded two nights ago, for not even getting to give him a proper send-off in what was his final game donning the Flaming 'C.'

In the hours that passed between the Flames confirming that Iginla would be a healthy scratch for Wednesday night's game, the initial rumours of an impending trade to the Boston Bruins for Alexander Khokhlachev, Matt Bartkowski and a first round pick (later rumoured to be conditional), the faux-confirmation of that trade and the final confirmation of the deal of Pittsburgh, I began to come to terms with the deal.

Kokhlachev, a second-round pick of the Bruins in 2011, was a 20+ goal scorer in each of his three seasons or partial seasons in the OHL with the Windsor Spitfires, but had struggled a bit in the KHL with just seven points in 26 games, and had played in just two games with the Bruins' AHL affiliate in Providence. He was slated to go in the first round in 2011 but his stock began to fall partway through the season, and he was thought to be a bit of steal in round two by some.

Bartkowski was kind of a throw-in, a 24-year-old defenceman drafted in the seventh round by the Florida Panthers with a grand total of 11 games NHL experience.

Neither player is a top-level prospect and the return was underwhelming, but Khokhlachev's potential was enough to excite some Flames fans, including myself.

If the return in the Boston deal was underwhelming, then what the Flames got back in the trade with the Penguins appeared to be even more so.

Khokhlachev (who is a natural centre by the way) was projected to be a second line player and Bartkowski was essentially a bottom-pairing/eighth defenceman, and Corey Pronman projects Ben Hanowski to be a second-liner at his peak. Kenneth Agostino? Likely a bottom-six forward. The first-round pick the Flames received will likely be in the 25-30 range if the Penguins are the Cup contenders most people believe them to be.

That's not to say they won't get a good player out of that pick in a fairly deep draft, but the likelihood that that player will be the next Jarome Iginla is very slim, unless the Flames can somehow leverage their two first round picks to get a higher pick (assuming they finish out of the top five).

Both NCAA wingers (Hanowski sometimes plays C), Hanowski and Agostino could be serviceable NHL players, or they could be flops, such is the nature of trading a star player for anything else but another bonafide star player and/or an unmistakably upcoming one.

If there was a deal in place with Boston and then Iginla informed Feaster that he preferred the Penguins, then yes, Feaster's hands were tied, but if he did inform the Bruins that the deal was done before confirming that Iggy wanted to go to Boston/would waive his no-trade to go there, then it was nobody's fault but his own. And I don't think it necessarily prevented him from securing a better deal with Pittsburgh, especially if he did like the Bruins deal better. If Feaster told Ray Shero that Jarome would only waive his NTC for them and a contract extension wasn't in play, that pretty much guaranteed he wasn't going to get the return he may have wanted. Iggy exercised his contractual right in deciding where he wanted to play and where he would have the best chance to win his elusive Stanley Cup, and throughout 16 years of dragging mostly sub-standards Flames teams along with few other high-calibre players, he damn well earned it.

If anything should be under the microscope as a result of this mess, it's certainly not Jarome Iginla's motives, but rather Jay Feaster's negotiating tactics/skills.

Game day links to follow:

***

The Flames will wait until the summer to name a new captain. Mike Cammalleri, Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Giordano and Curtis Glencross will rotate the three 'As' for the remainder of the season [CBC Sports]

Kenneth Agostino had a goal and an assist today as 15th overall Yale beat the 2nd ranked University of Minnesota Golden Gophers 3-2 in overtime:

With six players currently playing in the NCAA hockey tournament, the Flames have the second most college hockey prospects of any NHL team. Here's a handy guide to following all the action [College Hockey Inc.]

Bruce Arthur's take on the Jarome Iginla era in Calgary and the state of the Flames [The National Post]

Our friends at FN say goodbye to Iggy [Flames Nation]

What does the future hold for Agostino and Hanowski in Calgary? Potentially, not much. [The Hockey News]

Did Jay Feaster throw Jarome under the bus? [Puck Daddy]

After losing 6-4 in a barn burner at Rexall Place last night, the Columbus Blue Jackets prepare to take on the Flames [The Cannon]

See you tonight.

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