CALGARY, AB -- As he strolled over to address the media after his first day of training camp, there was an obvious bounce in Alex Tanguay's step.
"This summer, it's the best I've felt in a long, long time," he smiled. "Last year is behind me, I want to forget about it. I'm out here to prove myself and I'm going to try to use training camp to get ready for the season. Hopefully I can contribute and help this team win some hockey games."
The embattled winger resigned with the Flames on July 1st, marking his second go-round with the team. He spent the two seasons with the club between 2006 and 2008 before being dealt to the Montreal Canadiens at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
"It was nice," he said of his first couple days of camp. "I knew what the tests were like so I knew what to expect. Obviously there's a lot of familiar faces from before. Knowing some of the people and knowing some of the players on team makes it an easier transition."
Tanguay has used the summer as an escape from the pressures of the game and said he's coming into this season with a totally new frame of mind.
"When you have the family at home, they don't care how bad it went on the ice last year. They just want their dad to be at home. It's nice. For us, my wife knows the area here and my daugther was born here so it feels like a homecoming. It feels good to be here."
Since leaving Calgary in 2008, Tanguay has suffered a decline in his point production with his career-low coming last season in Tampa Bay.
"Last year was a difficult year and I think I've learned a lot from that. Hopefully I won't do the same mistakes that I did back then.
"I had a bad year and it's up to me get back to a level I think I can play at. I'm 30. I think I've still got some hockey ahead of me and I'm looking forward to the challenge. I don't know what my role is going to be yet but I'll try my best to help this team out. I'm happy to be back and I'm looking forward to the challenge."
While he may not know what his role is going to be, there is an expectation Tanguay will be the pure passer the top line, comprised of himself, Jarome Iginla
and Olli Jokinen
, that desperately needs a playmaker.
"I think you guys know the type of player that I am. I'm not a shooter-first mentality, I'm a passer-first mentality. When you look at this team with guys like Jarome, Olli, Rene Bourque, Daymond Langkow, there's a lot guys who can put the puck in the back of the net. With me, I'll just try to be myself and try give them the puck at the right opportunities and hopefully the puck will go in for us."
Tanguay acknowledged that for the first time since the NHL lockout, expectations for the Flames are fairly low. He said those who think the team will barely make it into the playoffs or not make it all are simply underestimating the club.
"You look at teams last year - I don't think anybody expected Phoenix to be where they were at or expected Colorado to make the playoffs. Hockey is played on the ice and I think we've got a mature group in here, we know the task at hand is going to be and the goal is to get in the playoffs.
"If you look at our team, we've got a solid goaltender, we have a defensive core that is pretty sound and offensively, we feel that we have some depth. It's just going to be up to us to play up to our level and we'll see where we stand."
In addition to the confidence he has his in his teammates, Tanguay is going into the season with a much better mindset than he ever has before.
"I was really affected by it," he said of his last season with the Lightning. "I was thinking I was getting a certain role and when I got there, I wasn't playing a whole lot and mentally I got affected. It's certainly tough to get to the rink on a bad frame of mind. You guys know it, you guys work everyday and when you're not happy it makes things that much harder. I wasn't happy.
"Now, I think I've put that in the past and my expectations ... I have none for this year. I'm just here to work my hardest and see how I can help this team. I know that a lot of people have said a lot of things about me in the media and whatnot but I'm not worried about that. I'm just worried about helping the team and we'll see how it works out."