We were talking about best and worst trades the other day, and I was reading about Jarome Iginla becoming the all-time leading scorer (836 points in 923 games) in Calgary Flames history, and I wondered aloud: What would have happened if the Stars never made the Jarome Iginla for Joe Nieuwendyk trade in December of 1995.
Now, you have to have some background on this deal to understand the full impact. The Nieuwendyk trade came just after Tom Hicks bought the Stars (the sale was not yet official, but Hicks was running things), and Hicks was looking to make the team good quickly. So, simply not getting Nieuwendyk might not have slowed him down. But, let's assume Bob Gainey went with a quieter path of development.
The Stars likely would have still made the moves to get Darryl Sydor and Sergei Zubov in 1996, so the defense would have remained the same. Because Andy Moog was getting old, my guess is they still would have been in on Ed Belfour as a free agent. Would they have won the battle with the Flyers to get Belfour? Let's say they would have. But even if they didn't, Marty Turco, Manny Fernandez or Roman Turek would have received a shot, so let's assume the goaltending would have been good.
So, now, you have to wonder if they would have gotten another center and whether or not they would have still drafted Brenden Morrow 25th overall in 1997. I think they would have done both.
All of this leads to the question: Would they have messed up the timing of going after a Stanley Cup or would they have been able to put it together in a diffferent way?
They would not have been good enough in 1998, 1999 or 2000 to win it all, I believe. Iginla was still young and still learning, and Detroit and Colorado were just too good. But let's look at 2001 through 2008.
Let's assume they got Morrow and he developed properly. Let's assume Iginla stepped in and was a top scorer by 2001. Let's also assume they kept Jere Lehtinen and did not trade Jamie Langenbrunner and did not sign Brett Hull. That would have potentially given them top lines of:
for a window of maybe eight years. Now, could they have kept that top six together with big salaries? Could they have weathered the ups and downs without changing? It's hard to say.
But had they stayed patient, would you have liked to take your chances with that group for a long stretch? The Western Conference Stanley Cup representatives from 2001 on have been: Colorado, Detroit, Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Anaheim, Detroit.
Is there a window in there when a Dallas team with that group of top six forwards, with Hatcher-Matchvichuk, Zubov-Sydor, with Belfour or Turco in goal would have been able to compete for the Cup? Would the D have gotten too old too fast? Would any of the goalies not named Belfour been able to step up in the playoffs?
It's an interesting hypothetical, and also an interesting game to play while pondering the future.
If the Stars remain patient, they should have: James Neal, Loui Eriksson, Fabian Brunnstrom and Jamie Benn as their wings for the next decade. Is that a group that you could buld around and be competitive for years? They are all left-handed natural left wings, so that does present some problems, but Eriksson is showing he can play the right wing pretty well, and Brunnstrom also seems pretty comfortable on the off wing.
So should the Stars have kept Iginla, and is there any lesson to be learned in this exercise?