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March 30, 2013 | 8:55am ET
Iginla Goes to Pittsburgh; Boston Plays the Blame Game
By Shawn Hutcheon
TheFourthPeriod.com

BOSTON, MA -- On a Wednesday night during a game against arch-rival Montreal, the world learned that NHL superstar and Hall of Famer in waiting Jarome Iginla had been sent to Boston for Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski, Providence Bruin Alex Khokhlachev and a first round draft pick.

The deal was set. The season had been saved by Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and fans began planning where they would stand along this June's Stanley Cup parade route.

The next morning, people awoke only to find out that their championship dreams had been put on hold, as in the middle of the night, Chiarelli received a phone call from Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster informing the Bruins boss that the deal was dead and Iginla was going to Eastern Conference rival Pittsburgh.

All accounts said that due to Iginla's No Movement Clause in his contract, he could choose where he wanted to play if he were to be traded. When it became clear that Iginla no longer fit into their plans, the now-former Flames captain submitted a list that included Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Los Angeles, but when it was all said and done, Iginla decided against playing in Beantown and chose the Steel City.

In his farewell news conference, Iginla said he chose the Penguins because he could not pass up the opportunity to play with his 2010 Winter Olympics linemate, Sidney Crosby. It should also be noted that Iginla played on Canada's 2002 Olympic squad with Mario Lemieux, who is now part owner of the Penguins.

In Boston, reaction was swift. Fans are provincial by habit, which is understandable, and Bostonians may be at the forefront of that in all of sports. They were hurt and angered by Iginla's decision and the 35-year-old forward quickly supplanted all players who may have been at the top of the public enemy list. As the day wore on, many turned their angst to another target, Chiarelli himself.

Public outcry said that had he offered more to Calgary or given Feaster a deadline to consummate the deal, Iginla would have had no choice but to become a Bruin. It made for good sports talk radio and, most likely, was great for ratings, but it is an absolutely absurd notion.

The trade totally hinged on Iginla's decision. He chose Pittsburgh. End of story.

The players and draft pick offered by Chiarelli was a much better proposition than what Feaster was forced to receive from Pittsburgh. That is not a slight on the two players who are now Flames prospects, they are very talented, but it is simply the truth. Had Iginla's contract not included the NMC, Feaster would have been in full control of the deal and we would not be having this conversation.

Others bemoaned the fact that after the trade was agreed upon, Feaster stopped returning Chiarelli's phone calls and there was no communication between the two for approximately 12 hours. Fans wondered why Chiarelli did not demand a confirmation from either Feaster or Iginla. In fact, Chiarelli asked for permission to talk to Iginla, but was denied access to the player.

The Boston GM was handcuffed; he did everything he could to get the transaction consummated except hop on a plane and knock on Feaster or Iginla's doors (some fans actually wanted him to do this).

Now, it is all water under the bridge and the players are the first ones to say that.

"That was his (Iginla's) choice. It was in his contract," said Patrice Bergeron when asked about losing out on the newest Penguin. "We have no control over it so we can't worry about it."

After some playful bantering with the media where Dennis Seidenberg said he had not heard any news of a trade between his organization and the Flames, the defenseman echoed Bergeron's sentiments.

"That was his (Iginla's) choice and everybody has to respect that," the German native said.

Seidenberg went on to say that he took Iginla's decision as a challenge to the Bruins to be better than they have been.

"I guess you could see it that way," he continued. "It doesn't matter who's on that team. They have a lot of talent and every time we play against them, it's a tight battle so I'm sure it's not going to be any different when he plays. We love to see challenges in this room. We seem to thrive on them and I know it will be a good game (April 19th in Boston)."

Head coach Claude Julien summed up the trade that wasn't.

"I'm still one of those guys that believes we've got a real good team here and we'll move on," he said. "There's nothing you can do about it. Our guys believe in themselves. We've got good chemistry in that dressing room right now and we're very comfortable with what we're going to move forward with and we'll get the most out of everybody because they're committed to it.

"We've turned the page. It's about us, right now. It's not about (Iginla). . . We still gotta do the job so that's where we have to understand that we're a good team. It's just about finding our confidence and it's going to come back."

There is an old adage that says, "Some of the best trades are the ones you don't make." Would adding Iginla to the Bruins' lineup have helped the club down the stretch and in the playoffs? Absolutely, but two days after the deal blew up, it is clear Iginla did not want to play for the Bruins. Let him go to Pennsylvania.

The good news is the Boston Bruins now appear to be a refocused group and has regained that hunger to prove to the world they are very strong contenders for the Stanley Cup. If this group goes on to win its second Cup in three years, this unnecessary blame game will be long forgotten, as it should be.

David Strehle is the Philadelphia Correspondent for The Fourth Period.


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