|Monday, April 8
Updated: April 9, 10:53 AM ET
Why Iggy has more pop
By John Buccigross
Special to ESPN.com
He is everything that the NBA and NFL are not.
Jarome Iginla needs to be showcased.
On the ice, he has been the NHL's most productive player. When the week began he had 51 goals. More than 20 percent more than the next closest goal scorer, Boston's Bill Guerin. He will lead the league in scoring. The fact he is achieving this on a bad team ADDS to his value. He has been hovering around a plus-30 rating all year. His center, 30-year-old Craig Conroy, will end up roughly doubling his career highs in goals, assists and points. His other linemate for much of the year, Dean McAmmond, will set career highs in goals, assists and points. Iginla makes those around him better.
The MVP argument could end here.
Off the ice, he is the NHL's most gracious superstar. Iginla called my cell phone to do our interview Sunday morning. Because of a late night NHL 2Night and daylight savings time, it was about 4:05 a.m. ET when I got to sleep. I didn't hear the first call. Later in the day, a day of a game, he called back again. And this is a player who gets bombarded with interview requests. Imagine Allen Iverson calling back NBA 2Night host Jason Jackson after failing to get through the first time.
He should be bitter, right? ANGRY. Black dad, white mom, and raised by his maternal grandparents. A childhood sprinkled with racial taunts and constant reminders that his skin isn't white. But, he always had that smile and that enthusiasm. A smile, humility, and enthusiasm will go along way in disarming hate or discomfort. The best artillery for fighting obstacles are patience, enthusiasm and grace.
And so he signs every autograph. He gives $1,000 to charity FOR EVERY GOAL HE SCORES. He makes people comfortable. He calls people back. Whether linemates or charities, he makes people around him better.
All this and he's NOT the MVP?
Mats Sundin, Brendan Shanahan, Markus Nasland and Todd Bertuzzi all have had great years. They are all elite players. But, they are on better teams and play with better players. Iginla's production still, relatively speaking, dwarfs theirs. Patrick Roy? No. David Aebischer has started 18 games for Colorado, a pretty good chunk, and has a .930 save percentage. Better than Roy. Colorado is a great defensive team with excellent defensemen. Roy has had a Vezina-winning year, but it is not an MVP year. Jose Theodore? Great goalie. Great player. Against Minnesota, Columbus, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh, Theodore is 12-0-1. Against everyone else he is 17-23-9. Nitpicking? Probably. But, those are facts and these are my rules.
Jarome Iginla is the MVP.
He has performed at a level higher than anyone and has done it on a consistent basis. As the week started he had 26 goals at home and 25 on the road. He has three goals against Chicago, three against Detroit, seven against Los Angeles, three against Colorado and two against St. Louis. He's only played against the Bruins, Flyers, Carolina, and Senators once, and the Maple Leafs just twice, but he has scored a goal against all of them. Additionally, he will likely finish with 50 non-empty net goals.
Ballots are going out this week to the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, the group that votes on most awards, such as the MVP. Because of all the grinding and mucking NHL writers do to provide us with great insight to the game and its players, they don't get to see a lot of games. They rely a lot on the handful of games they see a player play and word of mouth and e-mails from other writers. There is too much travel, writing, and catching up with their lives to watch hundreds of games. My job has enabled me to watch hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of games on television and I've seen games in person as well. I don't have a vote for NHL awards, but if I did, it wouldn't even be a two-second debate on MVP. I've seen portions of just about every game, and seen every player. We can debate on who the best player in the game is. Joe Sakic, Mike Modano, Joe Thornton, Roy, Sundin or Bertuzzi. However, WITHOUT question, the BEST player this year who has had the BEST YEAR and has been the most valuable to his team -- and sport -- was JAROME IGINLA.
It's really not even close.
No. 1: What part of your performance this year pleases you the most?
Jarome was an Edmonton Oiler fan growing up.
Iginla: I really wanted to improve on my previous years, and last year was my first 30-goal season. So, this year I wanted to take the next step and get to 40. I always watch the leaderboard for scoring, and I always wanted to be somewhere on it. The first time I saw my name on top I actually had to cut it out of the newspaper and save it because I was pretty excited about it.
Jarome is getting married next summer. He got engaged at Christmas.
No. 3: Why do wear No. 12?
Jarome wears CCM skates and uses an Easton Synergy stick.
No. 4: How will you feel if you don't win the MVP?
No. 5: What do you do in the summer?
No. 6: With restricted free agency coming up, do you ponder if a big market team will make you an offer sheet that is heavily front loaded, which Calgary may find too hefty to match? Will you let your agent Don Meehan steer the ship or will you be proactive in your future?
No. 7: Is being a hockey player of color something you want to use as a vehicle, or would you prefer to blend in with your teammates and just be one of the guys?
I conducted this interview with Jarome on Sunday. He and the Flames were in Chicago for a game against the Blackhawks that night. Jarome was sitting on 49 goals.
No. 8: When you score your 50th goal tonight, what will you do with the puck?
Jarome scored two goals in Chicago that night.
2. Jose Theodore, Montreal Canadiens: Only Washington's Olaf Kolzig has seen more shots. Montreal appears to be in the playoffs. Yes, they can thank him. Doug Gilmour's leadership is also a big factor. It will be fun to watch him in the playoffs. If the Canadiens meet the Bruins in the first round, it will be very interesting. The Bruins have among the best group of forwards in the league and have a HUGE advantage over Montreal in that area. However, the blue line is even and Montreal has a pretty good edge in net. Theodore has seen over 400 more shots than Byron Dafoe and yet has allowed fewer goals. Is Theodore Team Canada's goalie in the 2006 Olympics?
3. Nikolai Khabibulin, Tampa Bay Lightning: This man deserves to be in Toronto for the awards show. He has seen all kinds of shots, his team didn't score for him, and he somehow had seven shutouts when the week began. No goalie on this list felt more pressure to STOP EVERY SHOT like this man. His team had one 20-goal scorer when the week began and it was 65-year-old Dave Andreychuk, who entertains fellow Lightning players with his stories about playing with Bobby Baun in the late 50s.
4. Sean Burke, Phoenix Coyotes: Another guy who's always under pressure to have a good game. Although, Daymond Langkow and Daniel Briere's career years cannot be overlooked when figuring the success of this team. That -- and the better D-men in front of him -- is why I went with Khabibulin third. Burke has just 29 games of playoff experience.
5. Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose Sharks: This guy is very good. His NHL career began last season and he has averaged one shutout every 10 games. He is very well coached and apparently very coachable. Great technique on a very good team. He's sees a lot of shots and receives most of them with cool and calm. I get one of those unexplained senses that he will win a Stanley Cup some year.
The tie-breaking procedure...
1. The greater number of games won.
2. The greater number of points earned in games between the tied clubs. If two clubs are tied and have not played an equal number of home games against each other, points earned in the first game played in the city that had the extra game shall not be included. If more than two clubs are tied, the higher percentage of available points earned in games among those clubs, and not including any odd games, shall be used to determine the standing.
3. The greater differential between goals for and against for the entire regular season.
...and other relevent stuff
Man, I am hotter than a pot of butter beans at Sports Illustrated for calling Patrick Roy the most important goalie of all time. The greatest maybe. Probably. But the most important? Roy's innovations save goalies' GAAs and save percentages. Jacques Plante's chief innovation -- the mask -- saves eyes and lives. I've been watching goalies since 1955. My top five? Roy, Hall, Sawchuk, Plante and Dryden.
Hey Bucci, check this,
A completely healthy 36-year-old Mario Lemieux or a completely healthy 28-year-old Eric Lindros.
a) Who would you want on your team during the regular season?
b) Who would you want on your team in a seven-game series?
c) Who would you want by your side in a bar fight?
c) Jack Daniels
I guess it wasn't your fault, but I was disappointed with the Bettman interview. He's wishy-washy and won't take a hard line on anything. Every NHL fan knows the truth and Bettman won't admit it. The league has way too many crappy, talentless teams and the league would kick butt if there were only 20 teams and not 30. This sport needs contraction, badly, and he won't admit it.
I'm 17. I don't know what to do with my life. I don't know what to go to college for. All I know is that I love hockey.
College is a great place to drink and sleep. That's the whole point. It's also a great case study: Yes, you can live on pizza, burgers, and Starburst and survive. Yes, you can change the sheets on your bed just once a semester and not contract leprosy. Yes, you can skip 60 percent of your classes and graduate. Steve, life is simple. Do these five things and you'll be fine: 1) drink lots of water, 2) listen to Lou Gramm's song "Midnight Blue" and use that as your anthem, 3) don't listen to anyone but yourself, 4) have a vision and stick it out, 5) tell the next girl you see either a) "Your hair looks great today," b) "Wow, I like your shoes," or c) "Is your all-time favorite Sabre, Jerry Korab or Gerry Meehan?" However, Steve, when asking these questions don't be a) slobbering, b) naked, or c) wearing your Walt Poddubny Maple Leaf sweater. Good luck.
I disagree that we need netting, or anything else, to make hockey safer for the fans. If I want to see bubble hockey, I will go to the ESPN Zone and play it myself.
You always talk about different bands and you haven't mentioned what I feel is one of the best. Radiohead. How about your top five from them?
1) "Karma Police," 2) "Fake Plastic Trees," 3) "Fitter Happier," 4) "Optimistic," 5) "You."
Thanks for using the "Smell the Glove" catchphrase on NHL 2Night. My friends and I enjoy few things beyond Islander hockey and Spinal Tap. You using that phrase for an Osgood save on NHL 2Night may have been my happiest hockey moment.
"Slap Shot 2" was an opportunity to add to something legendary, but instead wound up like "3 Ninja's Kick Back -- The Director's Cut." If anything, they should have made it with an 80s feel. Hold on to the original, folks, there will never be anything like close to it.
I work at NASA and one of our centers is called NASA Langley Research Center, located in Hampton, Va. Could it possibly make the PANG list as NASA PANGley Research Center?
Goddard Space Flight Center
Nothing warms the cockles of my heart more than a highly intelligent man, who works for one of the highest budgeted arms of the federal government, sitting on his government paid computer and racking his brain to come up with a new entry to the Pang link. God bless you, Brian. God bless me. And God Bless America.
Check out the page for new Pangerisms.
John Buccigross is the host of NHL 2Night, which airs Tuesday-Saturday on ESPN2. His e-mail address -- for questions, comments or cross-checks -- is firstname.lastname@example.org.