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Iggy or Vinny? You make the call!

Wednesday, 10.29.2008 / 1:00 AM / Head to Head

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Tale of the tape

IGINLA
RIGHT WING
CGY
(#12)
HEIGHT: 6' 1" WEIGHT: 207
'07-08 Stats:

GAMES: 82
GOALS: 50
ASSISTS: 48
POINTS: 98
Lecavalier
Center
TBL
(#4)
HEIGHT: 6' 4" WEIGHT: 219
'07-08 Stats:

GAMES: 81
GOALS: 40
ASSISTS: 52
POINTS: 92
In the 2004 Stanley Cup Final, one of the most memorable exchanges occurred in Game 3, when the Lightning's Vincent Lecavalier and the Flames' Jarome Iginla, each team's best player and biggest star, dropped the gloves.

The fight sparked both teams to a memorable seven-game series, eventually won by the Lightning.

Who won the fight that night in Calgary four years ago is pretty meaningless. What does matter, though, is who the better player is. That's for the fans to decide. Drop us your opinions at headtohead@nhl.com.

Few players entered the NHL with higher expectations than Lecavalier. The first pick of the 1998 Entry Draft, then-Lightning owner Art Williams memorably tabbed the Ile Bizard, Quebec, native as "the Michael Jordan of hockey."

Lecavalier had size, skills and matinee-idol good looks -- he was the whole package, and he was going to bring a hockey heartbeat to Tampa Bay. But Lecavalier joined a struggling franchise that never seemed to find its footing early in his career. He had 13 goals and 28 points as a rookie and then reeled off 3 straight 20-goal seasons. But he was a combined minus-88 during the first four seasons of his career.

Things changed when John Tortorella was hired as coach. While coach and star player clashed, Lecavalier finally began playing the all-round game Tortorella demanded. The result was 33 goals, 78 points and a trip to the second round of the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The following season was even better. Lecavalier had 32 goals, 66 points and a plus-23 rating. In the 2004 playoffs, he had 9 goals and 16 points as the Lightning won the Stanley Cup.

WHAT FANS ARE SAYING

"I worship the very ice that Lecavalier skates upon..."

CASSIE
READ POST ›
 
After posting his third straight 30-goal season in 2005-06, Lecavalier exploded offensively in 2006-07. He posted career bests of 52 goals and 106 points. He won the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals and was third in the League in scoring.

Like Lecavalier, Iginla was highly regarded first-round pick, taken by the Dallas Stars with the 11th pick of the 1995 Entry Draft. Iginla never played for the Stars, however. Dallas needed to bulk up its offense for a run at the Stanley Cup, so six months after the draft, Iginla was moved to the Flames for Joe Nieuwendyk.

It was the ideal trade that worked for both teams. Nieuwendyk helped the Stars win a Cup, while Iginla has emerged as one of the League's biggest stars and greatest player in Flames history.

Iginla announced his presence with a goal and an assist in his first NHL action -- 2 games in the 1996 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

A 21-goal rookie season in 1996-97 was followed by a drop to 13 in 1997-98. But during the next four seasons, Iginla raised his goal, assist and point totals each season, going from 28 goals and 51 points in 1998-99 to League-highs of 52 goals and 96 points in 2001-02. In addition to winning the Rocket Richard and Art Ross trophies, he was honored with the Lester B. Pearson Award.

Individual success had not equated to team success for Iginla, but all that changed in 2003-04. Named team captain prior to the start of the season, he posted a League-best 41 goals to get the Flames back into the playoffs for the first time since his rookie season. In the postseason, he led all scorers with 13 goals, and his 22 points were best on the team and third in the League as he guided the Flames to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since the club won the 1989 Stanley Cup.

The Lightning have been in a downslide since winning the 2004 Cup, but Lecavalier has stayed above the team's troubles. In his first 23 games last season, he had 15 multi-point games, including 8 in a row in early November. He finished in the top 10 in the League with 40 goals and 92 points.

Lecavalier, 28, signed an 11-year contract extension over the summer, and was named team captain at the start of the 2008-09 season, his second turn with the "C." His name is written all over the Tampa record book, as he is the all-time leader in games played, goals and points.

 
 
He continues to build a presence off the ice where his humanitarian efforts are becoming as highly regarded as his on-ice contributions. Lecavalier was awarded the 2008 King Clancy Memorial Trophy for his charity work, which includes a $3 million pledge to construct the Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Iginla posted his second 50-goal season in 2007-08, and he finished third in the League in goals and points (98), and his plus-27 tied a personal best. In March, he scored the 365th goal of his career, moving him past Theo Fleury and into the top spot in team history.

At age 31, he entered the 2008-09 season with another 3-season improvement in goals, assists and points. He continues to lead the Flames on and off the ice, and his status as one of the best players in the League is cemented.

So who's better? You make the call. Send us your thoughts at headtohead@nhl.com.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.
Quote of the Day

Great players need great players to play with. That's why we'll have a training camp and we'll find who the best two guys are suited to play with Stamkos.

— Tampa Bay Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness on Steven Stamkos' potential linemates for the 2014-15 season