When the Calgary Flames pulled out the golf clubs early last season, not many people thought they were going to see the same team next year.
They were half right. The Flames brought in two big-name free agents who, as it turns out, have been here before. Olli Jokinen, an all-too-familiar former Flame, departed the team near the trade deadline last year after playing 56 games. After a short stint with the New York Rangers, Jokinen was surprised to hear that Darryl Sutter was the first to call when free agency began on July 1st this past summer.
Another big signing the Flames made was familiar face Alex Tanguay, who joined the team along with Jokinen on July 1st. Tanguay and Jokinen are expected to play on the top line with Jarome Iginla. Last year the Olli/Jarome experiment was de-railed when both players coincidentally had sub-par seasons.
Coming into training camp this past weekend, Flames fans are trying to find a bright side to bringing two players that have disappointed during previous stays in Cowtown. The goal scoring abilities of Jokinen and Iginla put together with Tanguay's pass-first mentality should result in pretty plays from a line with chemistry. Driving home after the game should at the very least be more enjoyable and less disappointing.
Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regehr, Ian White and Mark Giordano form arguably the best defensive core in the league. That makes a high-calibre top four mixed with offensive specialists and solid, shut-down defensive d-men.
With the plan to play a more offensive system this year, Bouwmeester should be able to have a comeback year-- especially following last year's struggles when he only put three tallies up on the board and helped with 26 assists. In order to be competitive this year, J-Bo needs to be better offensively and with a more offensive focus, expectations for him to come through are higher. Giordano, also an offensive d-man, had an average season in the 2009/2010 campaign and should jump in on offensive chances more often this year.
For the first time in a long time, the Flames will see a new face between the pipes. Don't worry Flames fans, our beloved Kipper will still be the main man. With last year's backup, Curtis McElhinney , being traded at the deadline, the Flames were in the market for a new, more reliable back-up. (Youngsters in the farm system, Matt Keetley and Leland Irving were deemed not ready for the jump to the big show and needed more development in the minors). So, the Flames went out and got six-foot-five Swedish elite league goalie Henrik Karlsson from the San Jose Sharks. Ring any bells Flames fans? Kipper was nabbed from the Sharks in a very similar deal. This raises hopes of dejÃ vu as Kipper is nearing the age of decline in an athlete's life. Karlsson is expected to play between 20 and 25 games this season as Kipper's back-up.
With the season opening training camp beginning this weekend, the weather getting colder and the summer sports coming to an end, IT'S TIME FOR HOCKEY!