I wouldn’t see why this team wouldn’t be competitive in the very new future. That’s my hope for this team and that’s what I think is very possible. - Alex Tanguay
CALGARY, AB -- When Alex Tanguay laced up his skates on Jan. 20 for the Flames home opener, he envisioned a productive season in which he played a key role for the club offensively and acted as one of the team's leaders.
For the first half of the year, he succeeded in those ambitions. The 33 year-old went on a tear early on, recording eight points in his first ten games and went on a seven-game point streak. He was the team's scoring leader in the early going and was a staple on the top line's left wing. Even when he wasn't on the scoresheet, he was generating chances for himself and his linemates.
Then the rumors started to pick up steam.
The Flames weren't making the push they wanted to and their playoff hopes were dwindling as the season rolled along. Jarome Iginla became the hottest topic in trade talk but there wasn't a single veteran in the lineup who wasn't subject to the rumors. If there was a discussion about which players could be dealt at the trade deadline, you could almost guarantee at least a few Flames names were dropped in there.
Having your presence in a lineup scrutinized on a nightly basis and reading about possibly being traded can wear on any player and Tanguay began to feel the heat.
"I was doing pretty good the first 20-25 games of the year and then when the distraction came about I think that mentally I got a little bit affected by it and that’s on me.
"You have to be a professional. You have to play your best every night."
That period of intense frustration, which Tanguay estimates hovered in the 10-12 game range, was also impacted by the team's performance. Every time Calgary took a step forward and strung together some wins, it felt like they would fall back into old habits shortly after.
"You start the year expecting yourself to be in the playoffs and expecting yourself to be in a position where you can battle … and be competitive until the end of the season.
"After 20 games and you’re nearly out of the playoffs, it’s definitely frustrating."
After the NHL trade deadline had passed and the proverbial dust had settled, Tanguay began to get back into his early-season groove. He scored in back-to-back games in early April, tossing six shots on net in the process, but on Apr. 12, he suffered a grade two MCL sprain that would end his year.
All and all, it was a season of setbacks for the winger but rather than stew about it, Tanguay is channeling that irritation into something productive. He has taken every bump in the road and turned them into lessons he can take into the 2013-14 campaign.
"There are things that I need to do better in my game," he acknowledged. "I’m looking forward to the challenge of getting myself to that next level. I still feel that I can be a better player. I’m 33 years young ... Physically I feel great."
He singled out his physical play as an area he would like to make adjustments to in the coming season. While he will never be known as an overtly physical guy, he wants to be more tenacious when it comes to puck pursuits and battles along the boards.
"I’m not going to be the guy to put people through the boards, but I can be the guy that can be hungry on the puck. I can be a little bit more like I am on the penalty kill."
Looking ahead to the coming campaign, Tanguay isn't sure what the team will look like come October but is optimistic about how the club will fair in 2013-14.
"I wouldn’t see why this team wouldn’t be competitive in the very new future. That’s my hope for this team and that’s what I think is very possible.
"That’s the beauty of a new season. We’ll all start fresh and we’ll all have a chance to prove yourself."