Alex Tanguay couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to return to Calgary to play for the Flames this season when he was offered a one-year free agent contract on July 1, 2010.
Tanguay jumped at the chance to re-sign with the Flames who he previously had two productive seasons with in 2006-07 and 2007-08.
“The transition is certainly going to be a lot easier because I know a bunch of the players and a lot of the people who work in the organization, so it’s nice to be back I’m looking forward to it,” Tanguay said. “When they came calling on July 1, I felt that the fit was right and it was a good situation for me to help this team out and for me to have a good situation personally.”
After six seasons with the Colorado Avalanche, including a Stanley Cup victory in 2001, Tanguay was originally acquired by the Flames in July of 2006 in exchange for defenceman Jordan Leopold and a pair of draft picks.
The move paid immediate dividends as the 6-foot, 194-pound left winger found chemistry playing on a line with Jarome Iginla. Tanguay recorded career high totals for assists (59) and points (81) that season before adding a goal and three helpers in six playoff games.
Although his productivity fell off a bit the following season, Tanguay still put up a respectable 18 goals and 40 assists in 78 games before the Flames opted to trade the native of Sainte-Justine, Quebec, to the Montreal Canadiens for a first round draft pick in June of 2008.
Despite a separated shoulder that sidelined him for most of the 2008-09 campaign, Tanguay still managed to put up 16 goals and 25 assists in 50 games with the Habs. He then signed a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning prior to last season, but finished with a disappointing (by his standards) 10 goals and 27 assists in 80 games.
“After the year I had last year, I have things to prove,” Tanguay said. “Last year was a really difficult year and, mentally, at times it wore on me at the end of the year, I certainly took time to reflect on the things that went on, and I just realized how much I like hockey. I’m here now to give my best effort and, hopefully, that will be enough to help the team.”
Right from the beginning of training camp, Head Coach Brent Sutter reunited Tanguay on a line with Iginla at right wing and placed fellow reclamation project Olli Jokinen between them at centre.
“Obviously, Iggy’s an outstanding player. It’s a lot of fun to play with him,” Tanguay said. “He’s such a gifted goal scorer, and we all know about his physical abilities and his skating. When you give him the puck in the slot, he always finds a way to put it in, so it’s fun to be out there with him, but I’m just looking to do my thing If I have the puck and I can pass it to him, I’ll find a way to get it to him for sure.”
Seeing as how he already knows Tanguay’s tendencies, Iginla has confidence he can be productive playing alongside his old linemate once again.
“It literally feels like we were just playing together last year,” Iginla said. “We read off of each other pretty well as far as where we’re going to go and where we want the puck. We have a good rapport as far as talking the game out with each other. I think it’s going to be a huge help. It’s not just because he’s a really good passer, which he is. He can score goals and he can turn a game around with his abilities.”
Calgary’s top trio tallied three goals and three assists through the first five games of the season Tanguay has confidence that the line can be productive all year.
“It’s fun to play with those two,” Tanguay said. “Olli’s a great skater and, obviously, he can put the puck in the back of the net. It could be a good fit, but it’s just going to be up to (our) play and we’ll see where everything goes. I think the key to our game is going to be skating. We’re going to try to use that speed to create a little more offence than the team had last year.”
Jokinen, who the Flames also signed to a one-year deal on July 1, 2010, went so far as to call Tanguay one of the smartest guys he has ever played with.
“He sees the ice well, makes good passes,” Jokinen said. “A lot of times, he’s able to make those passes…you don’t think the puck’s going to come to you, but he finds a way to get the puck to you. It has been a pleasure. I think we can do a lot of damage this year. It feels great. It’s great to have a guy on the line who likes to pass first, there are no complaints.”
For Sutter, it was an easy decision to put Tanguay on the line with Iginla and Jokinen.
“Olli and Jarome, they both like to shoot the puck,” Sutter said. “Tangs is a really, really solid playmaking type of player. He sees the ice very well. He can make plays and make passes that other guys have a little bit more difficulty trying to do.”
While he won’t be afraid to break up the trio and put them on different lines, Sutter said he’s willing to be patient with them at the start of the season in order to give them time to develop chemistry.
“Let’s just see what happens with it,” Sutter said. “Nothing’s written in stone, but I think anytime you think and put some things together, you have to give it some time to see if it works.”
Whether he’s playing on the top line or relegated to second or third line duties, Tanguay said he’ll do his best to maintain a positive attitude.
“There are a lot of talented guys on this team and I’m going to try to help them out as much as possible. I’m sure they’re going to help me out,” he said. “I’m going to work as hard as I can to make it work.”
While many pundits have picked Calgary to finish outside of a playoff spot, Tanguay has confidence that the Flames can prove those naysayers wrong.
“Our team is better than people think it is,” he said. “It’s just up to us to come in and prove it.”
“He can make plays and make passes that other guys have a little bit more difficulty trying to do."- Brent Sutter.