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Five Questions: Iginla optimistic Avalanche can win

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.

The latest edition features Colorado Avalanche right wing Jarome Iginla:

NEW YORK -- Colorado Avalanche right wing Jarome Iginla finds himself in the rarely enviable position as the oldest player on a team loaded with young talent trying to find its way through brutal bouts of inconsistency.

In a way, Iginla's 17-year tenure with the Calgary Flames ended in 2013 because they were a team looking to get younger so they could find their way too. But it came at a time when Iginla was a pending unrestricted free agent who could get traded to a contending team such as the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Iginla chose the Colorado Avalanche two summers ago by signing a three-year, $16 million contract because he had a strong belief in what coach Patrick Roy was building in Denver. He had reason for hope too, because the Avalanche were coming off a 112-point season and an agonizing seven-game series loss to the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference First Round.

The Avalanche were supposed to be on the rise. Or at least that was the plan. What has happened instead has surprised and, ironically, energized Iginla.

The Avalanche finished last in the Central Division last season, but Iginla led the Avalanche with 29 goals. They are last in the Central Division through 28 games this season, but Iginla is still hopeful that he can be a part of a quick turnaround.

Iginla talked about what it's been like for him in Denver, why it's been that way, and what he realistically expects going forward in the following Q&A with NHL.com.

Here are Five Questions with … Jarome Iginla:

Has your time in Colorado been different from what you expected when you signed on two summers ago, or did you think even with the good season the Avalanche had in 2013-14 that it still would be a tough go at times?

"No, I thought we'd be better. I definitely thought we'd be better. I knew it might be a process. I didn't think that we would necessarily be at the top right away. But I thought we'd make the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs last year. At the same time, signing for three years with a young group that was here, you play against them and now getting a chance to play with them, you can see there is so much upside and I think it can come together. I think it's in the process of doing that. I have no doubt it will be a successful group, but I'd like it to be when I'm here. But, no, I thought we'd be doing better. I would have thought that, and I still hope to get there."

Can you describe what it's like for a guy like you to be on a team like this at this stage of your career, a team with young, talented players but rife with inconsistency?

"I don't think it's easy for anyone. In our business, if you win you feel good and everyone is excited after the game. It's amazing the difference of emotions after a win or a loss. It's a results-oriented business so definitely the days when you're not winning are a lot tougher, a lot harder. But I feel like right through the League there are not many teams that are powerhouses, and we look at ourselves and what we look at is our one-goal games. If we could pull out a few more here and there -- I know that is what-ifs -- but it makes it so we feel like we're not so far behind a big group of teams. A third of the season is up. There are a lot of games still left but at the same time you have to start winning two out of three, three out of four, get on a streak. We haven't had a big streak yet and every team seems to go through one. So if we could get on a four- or five-game winning streak it would give us not only the points in the standings, but also the confidence of feeling good and knowing that we can climb back."

You had a streak earlier where you won three in a row on the road at Boston, Montreal and Philadelphia. But before that streak and since it's been that kind of up-and-down play that you don't want. What do you attribute it to? Is it the style? The way you guys play? Lack of focus in certain areas?

Jarome Iginla
Right Wing - COL
GOALS: 8 | ASST: 8 | PTS: 16
SOG: 65 | +/-: -9
"I don't think it's the way we play. I think a lot has been said about trying to get better defensively and I think we are as a team. Our focus is there and we're trying not to get outshot consistently. I think we're improving in that area. I can't really just put my finger on it either or we'd be trying that. But we've had a lot of games like the game against the Islanders [Nov. 30 at Barclays Center] where I thought we had a good game. We were tied going into the third period but we didn't win or even find a way to get a point out of it. We've had too many this year that we've let slip away, too many of those types of games where you're playing pretty well and then it just falls apart for us or we don't get at least one point out of it. Those have hurt us, where we've had a lead in the third and don't even come away with anything. We've had four or five of those. And if you put those points in the standings you're right back in the mix. It's just too many of those close ones, the ones we haven't played bad but didn't make the difference when it counted."

How about for you, how have you handled your new, sort of scaled back role here as opposed to the one you had in Calgary, obviously, and even to a lesser extent Pittsburgh and Boston?

"It's a little bit different. I would say I'm on one of the top couple of scoring lines and you're trying to still go and your minutes aren't that different. But lately, yeah, it's been scaled back and it's a little bit different. Our top line, they're a very good line in their role and they put a lot of pressure on the other team. It's an adjustment for me. But at the same time I have to approach it and get myself ready to make sure I'm going at the best I can be for whatever role I have. That's where my focus has to be. I just have to really go with that. That's what my job is."

You've been on good teams, really good teams, and you've been on inconsistent teams. When you look around this dressing room, do you see a team in here that can establish the level of consistency you need to make a run for the playoffs, and do it soon?

"I believe so. I believe with our young guys, our top line, they've been really good and I only see the players on it getting better and better. They're very dynamic. It's hard to believe that [Nathan] MacKinnon is only 20 and he's already controlling games. It's hard to believe how young Landy [Gabriel Landeskog] is and as a power forward he only keeps getting better. Dutch [Matt Duchene] has been rolling. After a tough start it's pretty neat to see how he was able to turn that around, have such a great November and continue it into December. There are positives there for sure. But all the way around the League it's tight and that's what the [salary] cap did. There are not many teams that you go, 'Oh man, we play these guys tonight, if we can just hang in there… .' That's why you can't lose those games that you're leading going into the third. Each point matters and later it seems teams find a way to get those points, that one or two. It's possible. We know we have our work cut out for us. It's not like we think, 'Oh, there's lots of time, we'll find our way back.' We were here last year and we tried to have a little bit of a later run. But you just can't make it that way."

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