Flames a better team: Iggy

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:29 PM ET

Jarome Iginla admits he was campaigning to bring Alex Tanguay back to the Calgary Flames.

The controversial return of Olli Jokinen also received Iginla’s thumbs up.

Makes you wonder what’s next on Iginla’s wish list for GM Darryl Sutter.

“I don’t know what Darryl has planned or what management has planned or whatever, but I think we’re definitely a better team today than we finished the season,” Iginla said Wednesday.

“We definitely added scoring and not by trading scoring for scoring. Being able to pick up two free agents like that, at reasonable prices in the market, is going to be huge for our team.”

The captain is in Calgary for this week’s Jarome Iginla/Cassie Campbell Hockey School at Centennial Arenas, and had to continue his week-long trend of defending the moves.

Both Tanguay and Jokinen will have their second stints with the Flames.

Tanguay was traded away at his request two summers ago, and is coming off a career-worst 37-point season, but signed a one-year, US$1.7-million contract.

His return hasn’t created waves. Jokinen’s has.

Jokinen was acquired at the trade deadline of the 2008-09 season, but dealt to the New York Rangers after netting just 50 points in 75 regular-season games.

He was brought in to be the long sought centre for Iginla, but never fulfilled the promise.

Still, the Flames signed him to a two-year, $6-million contract.

Iginla was genuinely excited when those deals took place on Canada Day, and hasn’t wavered.

“You want to start the year believing your team has a shot, and I believe we do. I believe the moves we’ve made so far have helped our club. We can compete,” Iginla said. “You look down the middle, whatever line you’re on, you’re going to have, not going just a hopeful offensive guy, you’re going to have an offensive-minded centre. It’s not just about offence, but the teams winning now can do that.”

Lack of offence was Calgary’s downfall last season, and there is no shortage of players who have plenty to prove.

You can add Jay Bouwmeester, Daymond Langkow and David Moss to the list which includes Iginla, Tanguay and Jokinen.

“We’re getting two guys that are very hungry, very determined, coming off (a down season). A lot of us have that in common, ready to prove ourselves and I think that can be a real positive,” said Iginla, who scored just 32 goals last season.

Still, the negative vibe around the Flames continues, with critics questioning Sutter’s decisions and the abilities of the slew of thirtysomething players.

“We didn’t reach any goal last year. We didn’t make the playoffs and we’re not a young team, so it’s probably hard when you look at is as a fan,” Iginla said. “You can see people saying, ‘if you’re going to miss the playoffs, be like Edmonton and get a first overall pick’ and it turns into a positive.

“But I don’t believe we’re rebuilding. We did make adjustments and had a lot of guys, myself included, who had off years, some of our least productive years. I don’t believe we’ll have that again. I think we can bounce back.

“You can see the negatives, but I believe if you have that many guys ready to have a bounce-back year, it’s not a bad position. I believe we’re going to do that.

“Calgary is a good market. It is a passionate market, and players would say we’re treated well. It’s fair, as far as comments. Last year was a terrible year for us. We didn’t expect it to be an easy summer, people being happy, ‘can’t wait until next year.’ We’ve got to ... respond and earn back some of that respect by proving we can be an improved team and a top team.

“It’s not the easiest to play in Canada if your team isn’t performing or your not performing, but it’s sure a lot of fun when you are winning and you are performing.

“As tough as this summer, the end of the year and last year was as far as dealing with speculation and comments, I’m excited for when we do get it turned around.

“It’s that much more fun.”

STONE JOINS FLAMES

The team officially announced the signing of free-agent centre Ryan Stone. Stone, a Calgary product, spent last season with the Edmonton Oilers. He inked a two-way deal, which includes a $500,000 NHL salary.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca


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