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Flames go back to the future in search of offense

Tuesday, 09.21.2010 / 3:00 AM / 2010-2011 Season Preview

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Flames go back to the future in search of offense
Calgary GM Darryl Sutter went back to the future in his season for more offense, bringing back Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay.
After failing to qualify for the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 10th-place finish in the West, Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter was driven to give his team a different look this summer.

But one has to wonder if Sutter was driving a DeLorean.

In search of more offense, Sutter decided to bring both Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay to Calgary. Jokinen, who started last season with the Flames before being traded to the New York Rangers on Jan. 31, signed a two-year deal on July 1. Although Jokinen struggled in his first stint in Calgary -- he had just 35 points in 56 games with the Flames last season -- Sutter is confident things will be different this time around, especially with the addition of Tanguay.

"I think when we traded him, we said that if we could get him at a number that worked for us, we'd pursue it again," Sutter said. "It wasn't just Olli. It was Olli and Tangs that was important. After discussing it with the players, Jarome (Iginla) and Olli, what they felt they missed was the playmaker with them and certainly Tanguay is capable of that."

Tanguay struggled last season, too. The 30-year-old tallied only 10 goals in 80 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning and has produced only 78 points in the last two seasons. However, Tanguay did average a point per game for the Flames in 2006-07 and has scored 20 or more goals five times in his career.

"I feel like I have some unfinished business in Calgary," Tanguay said. "I am very excited. It's a great opportunity. When I sat down at the end of the season, where I saw myself fit on a team, Calgary was at the top of the list."


 
Even though they scored the fewest goals in the League last season (204), the Flames still possess one of the best forwards in the game in captain Jarome Iginla. The 33-year-old has enjoyed nine consecutive 30-goal seasons and also brings a ton of grit. But Iginla can't do it alone.

Joining Iginla, Jokinen and Tanguay are Niklas Hagman and Matt Stajan -- who were acquired in the deal that sent Dion Phaneuf to Toronto. Both are set to enter their first full seasons in Calgary. The pair combined to score 44 goals last season and will be heavily relied upon to produce again. Let's also not forget Rene Bourque, who hit career highs in goals (27), assists (31) and points (58) last season.

Stajan will battle with Daymond Langkow for the No. 2 center spot. Langkow, who is still recovering from a slap shot that struck his neck on March 21, saw his production drop for a second straight season in 2009-10. He had just 37 points (14 goals, 23 assists) in 72 games. Langkow wasn't the only Flames' forward to have an off-year, though; David Moss went from 20 goals in 2008-09 to just 8 last season.

Mikael Backlund also will be given every opportunity to make the club. The Flames' 2007 first-round draft choice (No. 24) split last season between Calgary and AHL Abbotsford. In 23 games with the Flames, the Swedish center had a goal and 9 assists. Also in the mix are 39-year-old Craig Conroy -- who is nine games away from 1,000 in his career -- as well as Ales Kotalik and Ryan Stone, who appeared in 27 games for Edmonton last season.

The Flames lost Eric Nystrom and Christopher Higgins to free agency, but replaced them with Tim Jackman and Raitis Ivanans. Neither shies away from the physical game, and Jackman is certainly capable of scoring the occasional goal. He had 4 tallies last season with the New York Islanders.




Without a doubt, the Flames are looking for more from No. 1 defenseman Jay Bouwmeester this season after the 26-year-old had just 29 points (3 goals, 26 assists) in his first campaign in Calgary.

So is Bouwmeester.

"Lots of up and downs," he told the Calgary Herald. "It's a lot like our team. For a lot of guys, there were times when it was good and things were going well. And there were a lot of times where it was a struggle to get things going. Why? I don't really know."

Bouwmeester will be joined on the blue line by Robyn Regehr. The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder had 17 points and 80 penalty minutes in 81 games for Calgary last season and provides an imposing presence on the blue line.

Ian White, who was also part of the blockbuster deal with Toronto last season, will likely be on the Flames' second pairing alongside Mark Giordano. Just 26, White had 12 points in 27 games after the trade. Giordano, meanwhile, is coming off a breakout season that saw him appear in every game and tally 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists).

Rounding out Calgary's defense are Corey Sarich, Steve Staios, Adam Pardy and Stefan Kronwall. All will likely receive their share of playing time.
 

 
In Calgary, goaltending begins and ends with Miikka Kiprusoff.

The 33-year-old was the last one to blame for the Flames missing the playoffs last season, as he went 35-28-10 with a 2.31 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. The 73 appearances he made were the fewest since 2003-04, when he posted a 1.70 GAA in 38 contests. As long as he stays healthy, Calgary has a chance. It's that simple.

Kiprusoff will likely be backed up by Henrik Karlsson. Although he's yet to play in the NHL, the 6-foot-5 Swede, acquired from San Jose during the summer, had a 2.45 GAA and three shutouts in 34 games for Farjestads in the Swedish Elite League last season.  

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL


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