His “C” is gone, left behind in Calgary with his old Flames sweater. Jarome Iginla will begin the upcoming NHL season as just another player — albeit one with Hall of Fame credentials slated for the Bruins’ top line.
That could yield problems for a team less confident in its leadership. But that is not the way of the Bruins, who have been led by Zdeno Chara since his arrival in Boston, along with Patrice Bergeron. That leaves Iginla, 36, without the pressure to be a leader on a team he has just joined.
And that’s fine with him.
“I plan on just being myself,” Iginla said. “I definitely don’t come in thinking that they need any leadership help or anything. They’re a very strong crew and have had a lot of success together, been together a long time, know each other well. I want to come in and be myself.”
That’s not to say that Iginla will sit back.
“I don’t want to be just a fly on the wall,’’ he said. “I want to be part of it. But I think the biggest thing is just play hard and compete.”
He’s more than happy to do that, especially on a team that might finally give him a Stanley Cup.
When asked about team leadership earlier in the week, Bergeron sounded confident about Iginla’s ability to fit in, to help and be a part of things, to not upset a fine balance the Bruins have established. Bergeron believes that Iginla has spoken to former Bruin (and former Flame) Andrew Ference about the atmosphere in the locker room, and about the way it works in Boston.
“I think he knows we do have a good core and guys are actually all pulling in the same direction,” Bergeron said. “I think he’s coming in to be a guy that helps us and doesn’t try to change everything.
“It’s a great addition for us, not only on the ice but as one of the leaders of this team.”
Not having a “C” doesn’t bother Iginla, nor is he worried about fitting in. For now, he’s just ready to start training camp — his first with a team other than the Flames — and ready to start a season on a line that should provide plenty of power and physicality.
“I say it often, you don’t need a letter to be a leader,” coach Claude Julien said. “There’s a lot more leaders in that dressing room than you see with letters on their jerseys.
“I’m sure you get to a certain stage in your career that you don’t really care about that. It might excite certain players. Other players don’t care. It doesn’t stop them from doing their jobs.”
That job, it appears, will be alongside Milan Lucic and David Krejci as the right wing on the top line. All early signs point to that scenario. When the two practice groupings were announced for training camp, for instance, there were notable names clustered together: In Group A, Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and Loui Eriksson. In Group B, Lucic, Krejci, and Iginla.
For Iginla, there’s excitement in joining a line that combines power and passing, both things that should be a boost to a game that has already yielded more than 500 career goals.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Iginla said. “They’ve been a great line. They have great chemistry. They play hard and compete hard and do a little bit of everything.”
The forward was full of praise for both Krejci and Lucic Wednesday, having skated with them during informal captain’s practices the last couple of weeks and having played against them in the playoffs.
“Krejci is a very smooth player,” Iginla said. “He just finds way to score or make things happen. He’s a great passer. I like to shoot the puck and you always love to play with a great passer.
“Looch is the best power forward in the game and as tough as they come, but also is a smart player and creates a lot of room for his linemates so I’m looking forward to that opportunity.”
He is not expecting everything to be perfect immediately; he’s not willing to put that on himself or his new linemates. That would be too much pressure for any of them.
“I think it’s one of those things with chemistry as a line, you can’t really force it,” Iginla said. “It just happens. It comes.
“And so there’s no goal — tomorrow we’ve got to do this or that or the next day. Each guy does what [he does] and hopefully that makes a real nice dynamic.”
They’ll find out soon. Official on-ice sessions begin Thursday for the Bruins, and Iginla will get the chance to see how it all works in the next couple of weeks before the season starts in October.
And while the streets of Boston have bedeviled him in his first weeks in the city (“As soon as I start thinking I don’t need [GPS], I’ve gotten lost a few times after,” he said), TD Garden should be more comfortable for him. He likes what he sees in the locker room, and is looking forward to seeing the team dynamic on ice.
“Everybody’s prepared,” he said. “Even though it was a short offseason, you can tell nobody took it off. They work hard, but they also have fun playing together. Guys are relaxed. You can tell they have that swagger and that confidence that they’re a really good club and it’s fun to join that.”