As the Colorado Avalanche gets ready to start up its 20th season in Denver, likely future Hockey Hall of Fame forward Jarome Iginla is preparing to lace up his skates for his 19th year in the league. But that’s irrelevant to the veteran, who showed no signs of slowing down during the 2014-15 campaign.
Iginla proved himself to be a vital asset to the club, leading the Avs in goals (29) and points (59-tied) while playing in all 82 games.
The 38-year-old collected 30 assists, eight power-play goals and two game-winning goals last year while maintaining an impressive 15.3 his shooting percentage—the third highest percentage in his career and the best it has been over the last 11 years. The Avs were likely to be happy with the outcome of any game when Iginla put the puck in the net, as the club sported 19-4-2 record last year when he scored.
The native of Edmonton, Alberta, was just one tally short of reaching the 30-goal mark for the 13th time in his career. He gave a run at the total in the last game of the season, putting up two goals in a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Iginla entered the night with 27 goals on the year, and after collecting his 28th tally in the second period, the Avalanche alternate captain broke a 2-2 tie with 32 seconds left in the third when he sent a wrist shot through goaltender Scott Darling to end the season on a high note.
“We wanted to finish strong," Iginla reflected at the end of the season. “We feel like during the year we’ve grown in some areas and have learned some things. We are getting better as a team so we wanted to finish playing the right way.”
Iginla is at the point in his career where it seems like he has a shot at reaching another milestone every time he touches the ice. Last season, he went from 24th on the NHL’s All-Time Goal Leaders list to 19th with 589 career markers, passing Guy Lafleur, Mats Sundin, Joe Nieuwendyk, Mike Bossy and Mark Recchi. On top of that, Iginla is just 36 goals away from tying fellow gold-medal winning Olympian and current Avalanche executive vice president/general manager Joe Sakic (625) for 15th place in the annals. Iginla also went from 50th overall to 40th in all-time scoring last season, upping his total to 1,226 career points. After playing 18 seasons, Iginla finds himself in 37th place in games played, with in 1,392 career contests under his belt.
When the Avs played the Nashville Predators on Jan. 30, Iginla became the 47th player in NHL history to reach the 1,200-point milestone.
"It's cool," Iginla said of his accomplishment after the game. "Honestly, I definitely feel fortunate. When I started, I wouldn't have guessed that. You know, I just wanted to get in the League and I was so excited to be in the NHL, and then you just want to stay in the League for a while. I've been so fortunate, blessed, to play a long time with some great players and be on power plays, play in some great cities and stuff. It's been fun."
A strong second half of the season from Iginla (17 goals in the final 41 games) helped the Avalanche catch fire down the stretch, and it foreshadows another season of excellence at the top tier of the sport for the veteran. With two more years left on his contract, Iginla has the opportunity to keep climbing the ranks.