After struggling down the stretch of the 2009-10 season and failing to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Calgary Flames made some changes in personnel during the offseason.
In hopes of generating more offense, the Flames are turning to some familiar faces, having signed two former players, Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen, shortly after free agency began. GM Darryl Sutter hopes the returning veterans will provide Calgary's leading scorer, Jarome Iginla, with some offensive support.
Tanguay knows Calgary, playing for the Flames from 2006-08. In his first season with the Flames, he put up a career-high 81 points and will be expected to provide offensive production to take some of the load off of Iginla.
The well-traveled Jokinen is back after being dealt to the Rangers prior to last season's trade deadline. He has 252 goals and 316 assists in 881 NHL games and spent parts of the past two seasons with the Flames after coming over from the Coyotes.
Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff was a workhorse once again, accounting for 35 of the team's 40 wins last season and finishing with a 2.31 goals-against average. He appeared in 73 games, more than anyone except New Jersey's Martin Brodeur (77).
The Flames have a solid defensive core and have been able to sign a few prospects that they plan to develop to help give the blue line some depth in the future.
Jay Bouwmeester is looking to rebound from a season in which he saw his string of three straight seasons with at least 12 goals end—he put up a meager three goals in 2009-10. Expect him to be taking more shots (130 last season) and lighting the lamp a few more times.
Entering the 2010-11 season, the Flames will look to the veteran leadership of their "Big Three" in Iginla, Jokinen, and Tanguay to lead them back to the playoffs.
The Flames lost forwards Eric Nystrom, Christopher Higgins, and David Van Der Gulik to free agency.
Nystrom, who signed with the Wild, played in all 82 games last season, registering 11 goals and 19 points, so the Flames are losing a dependable forward.
Higgins, whose scoring touch has disappeared during the last two seasons, moved south to the Florida Panthers after splitting last season between the Rangers and Flames.
Van Der Gulik appeared in six games during the 2008-09 season, tallying two assists. He was the Flames' seventh-round pick in the 2002 Entry Draft and is looking for a fresh start and a chance to crack the roster in Colorado.
Calgary also sent Jason Jaffray to Anaheim in exchange for young forward Logan MacMillan. Jaffray was held scoreless in three games last season after playing 33 NHL games for the Canucks from 2007-09.
Tanguay is back in town and looking to build off a poor season in Tampa Bay that saw his offensive production drop to career lows of 10 goals and 37 points. Tanguay has five seasons of 20 goals or more.
Jokinen rejoins the Flames after playing 75 games for them between the two previous seasons. His production has also taken a hit since he put up 91 points for the Panthers in 2006-07 and 71 the following season. He combined for 15 goals and 50 points during his stays in Calgary and New York last season.
The Flames also brought in enforcer Tim Jackman, who spent the last two seasons with the New York Islanders. Jackman led the team in penalty minutes both seasons, and in 2008-09 led the team with 151 hits. He will add some muscle to the lineup and complement the speed and skill of players like Iginla. Calgary also added Raitis Ivanans from Los Angeles to provide more muscle.
The Flames addressed their need for additional offense with the additions of Jokinen and Tanguay. Last season, only the Bruins (2.39) scored less than the Flames' average of 2.45 goals per game. Their power play converted at just 16 percent, tied for the fourth-worst in the League. Calgary scored two goals or less nine times during a January stretch in which they lost 11 of 12 and plummeted in the Western Conference standings.
They are going to be depending on role players to step up and take some of the offensive pressure off of Iginla, who led the team with 32 goals and 69 points. Rene Bourque comes off a career-best 27 goals and Niklas Hagman scored 25 in a season split between Toronto and Calgary. Curtis Glencross will also be counted on to light the lamp, and a healthy Daymond Langkow would be a boon.
Look for John Armstrong to make an impact this season. After missing parts of the previous two seasons with shoulder injuries requiring two surgeries, he will be competing for a spot as a defense-first center. A third-round pick back in 2006, Armstrong is confident that his shoulder will hold up and he will be able to make a serious push at making the opening day roster.
With plenty of healthy competition to make the roster, the Flames plan to put an exciting team on the ice in 2010-11. This is the second season with Brent Sutter behind the bench, and the fans in Alberta hope it will extend well beyond mid-April.