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Iginla Grateful for 'Amazing Experience' in Boston, Hopes to Be Back

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins — This season didn’t end quite the way Jarome Iginla expected.

Then again, the same could be said about virtually everyone in the Boston Bruins’ dressing room.

This team believed that it had what it takes to win a Stanley Cup, and anything short of that would have been a disappointment. Losing in the second round to the Montreal Canadiens — in Game 7, no less — has left the Bruins with a bitter taste that will likely last for much of the summer.

Now, though, only one option remains: Start thinking about how to get the job done next season. If you ask Iginla, the Bruins already have all of the necessary components to be right back in the hunt again in 2014-15.

“It’s been an amazing year,” Iginla said during the Bruins’ locker cleanout day on May 16. “It’s a very tough finish — there’s no question about that. But at the same time, it’s been an amazing year, an amazing experience. The guys here, getting to know them, to compete alongside them — so everything but the finish was awesome.

“And like I said, I think with this group, it’s a very committed team and competitive team, and lots of talent, and guys work hard. It’s a team that has a great shot to compete again next year.”

Of course, that begs the question of whether or not Iginla will be one of the players competing alongside them next year. The 17-year veteran signed an incentive-laden one-year deal with Boston last summer, and as Head Coach Claude Julien has said time and again, he came exactly as advertised.

In Iginla, the Bruins got a 30-goal scorer who emerged as a perfect fit at right wing on Boston’s top line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic. The trio developed obvious chemistry right out of training camp, and despite some intermittent struggles, they proved to be the Bruins’ most potent line. Iginla finished the year with 30 goals and 31 assists for 61 points in 78 games, and he brought some much-needed consistency to his line, which helped Krejci (19-50=69) and Lucic (24-35=59) achieve milestone seasons of their own.

The Bruins also got some very welcome veteran leadership from Iginla. For years, Boston’s dressing room has been shaped by seasoned vets who demand accountability, respect and hard work from themselves and from one another, and Iginla fit seamlessly into that leadership group.

Iginla, who spent the first 15-plus seasons of his career in Calgary, will turn 37 this offseason, but he doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.

“I feel good,” he said. “I love playing the game, and I’d like to keep playing for a while longer and keep being effective — not just playing, but putting pressure on myself to be a good player and to help produce and to be effective. So I don’t want to just play for [the sake of] playing. I still believe I can be a very good player and push myself and help out a team, and hopefully, I’ll help the Bruins out.

“I know I’m not the youngest guy, but there are guys that are a decent amount older than I am that are still doing really well. So I just — I do want to keep playing.”

Iginla has loved his time in Boston, and ideally, he would be back in 2014-15 to help the Bruins make another run at the Cup.

“I love playing here, playing with this group of guys,” he said. “I think this group of guys has a great chance to compete again next year for a Stanley Cup. They keep getting better with the young guys they have, with the young D they have, that I thought were awesome this year — Dougie Hamilton, [Torey] Krug, [Matt Bartkowski]. Up front, Reilly Smith — and then the core who, you know, is still very young and stuff. So there’s lots of reasons that it would be very fortunate, if the opportunity’s there and it works, to work out a deal to be back.”

Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli said in the days following Boston’s season-ending defeat to the Canadiens that he has yet to address future plans with his unrestricted free agents, but he did say that Iginla was a great fit for the Bruins' system.

“I think Jarome had a really good year for us,” Chiarelli said. “He plays our style of hockey, he’s hard, he can shoot, he’s combative.”

Following the Game 7 defeat, Julien took the time to reflect on the opportunity to coach a player of Iginla’s caliber. Julien wasn’t surprised that Iginla turned out to be such a great fit in Boston’s room, but he was grateful that the acquisition paid off.

“He had a good year,” Julien said. “Thirty goals — again, those 30-goal scorers are hard to find. Certainly scored some goals for us in playoffs as well, gave us some life there in the second period [of Game 7]. So he’s an unbelievable player, but also an unbelievable person.

“He’s great, he fit in beautifully in our room with our players, and certainly, he was a real important. I thought part of the success that we had after losing Nathan Horton at the last minute — to get him, to be able to get him as the guy to come in and replace him...we got lucky.”

Like most of his teammates, Iginla will spend the next few weeks taking a break from hockey and letting the disappointment dissipate. After that, he will take advantage of his longer-than-expected summer and will use it to train for the next campaign — wherever that may be.

“It’s hard to take the next couple few weeks off to let the body rest and stuff — it sounds easier, but we’re so used to training and playing and stuff, it’s hard to just wind it down all of a sudden,” he said. “But that’s the plan, and after the next few weeks, it’s back to work. It’s training and preparing and trying to be better next year by pushing and skating and preparing for another year. Summers go quick, and to be honest, it’s not always a bad thing — you want to just get playing and get going again.

“But I’ll definitely take a little bit of time to regroup and then get going again. But like I said, I still absolutely love playing, and the training part — the desire to get better and win — is definitely burning, so I’ll be working hard this summer, and I can’t to get playing again next year.”

On breakup day, Iginla was unwilling to speculate about whether or not he will be wearing a Black & Gold sweater when the 2014-15 season opens in October. But as he reiterated time and time again, he really, really hopes he is.

“I’m very thankful for getting the chance to be here this year, and we had a great time,” Iginla said. “I’ve had a great experience all the way through. It’s a great group, and I hope to be able to come back. It’s something that I hope works and there’s a deal there for everyone, but I know that the Bruins got to look at what they want to do or whatever, but yeah, I really enjoyed it and I hope that there’s something that can be worked out there because I also think that it’s a team that has as good a shot as any to win.

“I think with this group — whether I’m here or not — I think they’re going to be a force for a while.”

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