Second tour of duty for Tanguay

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:04 PM ET

Things might have been too easy for the young Alex Tanguay.

Drafted by a Colorado Avalanche club already peppered with stars, the kid from Ste-Justine, Que., was part of deep playoff runs in his first three NHL seasons, winning a Stanley Cup as a sophomore.

The ups and downs were relatively minor, and Tanguay racked up 137 goals and

400 points during his six seasons with the Avalanche.

He’s faced his share of adversity since.

It started with his trade to the Calgary Flames in 2006 and ended last year — at least, that’s the hope — with a season spent in virtual obscurity with the Tampa Bay Lightning

The suddenly well-travelled winger is once again wearing the Flaming C on his chest and is saying all the right things.

He appears to be a much different man than the one who begged Flames GM Darryl Sutter to trade him during the 2007-08 season because he was unhappy with his role under then-head coach Mike Keenan.

“I think I’ve learned from some of the mistakes I’ve made mentally and physically over the course of the last few years,” Tanguay said.

“Mentally, I think I’m at a level I know how hard it is to have success in this league, and I’m willing to work at it and do my best to make it work this year.”

Work is the key, and his effort on the ice is the only thing that can back up his words.

His talent shouldn’t be questioned. Before a heavy hit separated his shoulder

34 games into his season with the Habs in 2008-09, Tanguay had 26 points. Even under the depressing rule of coach Keenan the previous year, Tanguay racked up 18 goals and 58 points in 78 games despite being used to kill penalties more often than he was put on the powerplay.

Keenan is gone, and Tanguay is back, but the 30-year-old playmaker knows the Flames bench boss these days, Brent Sutter, is just as demanding when it comes to his forwards playing smart defensively.

“Looking back, did I make the right move asking Darryl (for a trade)? I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t,” Tanguay said. “Maybe the year after, things would have been different. Who knows?

“I’ve learned a lot.”

A year like the one he endured in sunny south Florida can have that effect on a player as proud as Tanguay.

He seemed to take it personally when Keenan demoted him and might have been even more upset when Bolts boss Rick Tocchet scratched him last year — it ended up being an off season by Tanguay’s standards that ended with 10 goals and 37 points in 80 games.

“Last year, maybe I wasn’t prepared mentally. I thought I was going to get a certain opportunity, and when I didn’t get it, as opposed to maybe fighting a little more for it and prove myself out that way, I just kind of stood back,” Tanguay said. “I was unhappy with the situation, and, as opposed to keep playing and keep working, maybe I sat back a little bit.

“It’s certainly tough to get to the rink in a bad frame of mind. You guys know it. You guys work every day. When you’re not happy, it makes things that much harder.

“I wasn’t happy.”

He was thrilled to get a call from the Flames and signed July 1 on the first day of unrestricted free agency this summer for a second tour of duty.

But this soldier seems more prepared to do whatever is asked of him.

“My expectations? I have none for this year. I’m just here to work my hardest and see how I can help this team,” Tanguay said. “Coaches are the ones that make the decisions, and as a player, you have to support them 100% to help the team win. Maybe, at times, I was expecting a different role, and maybe

I didn’t do my share as much as

I should have.

“I’m in a frame of mind that whatever it is that Brent and the coaching staff ask me to do, I’ll work my hardest and, hopefully, things will pan out for our team this year.”

Ideally, he’ll have the kind of personal and team success he enjoyed with the Avalanche.

“When you’re a young guy, you don’t realize how lucky or how fortunate you are to be in that kind of situation,” said Tanguay, admitting he can appreciate it more now. “A couple of right breaks at the right time and we could have skated out of (Colorado) with three Stanley Cups.”

Fans in Calgary are pining for one, and Tanguay knows his every move on the ice will be scrutinized because of his history.

“It’s fun for us players to be in that environment where you know you have to perform on a daily basis,” Tanguay said, citing it as one reason for re-signing here. “I don’t see it as additional pressure. I think if you don’t put a certain pressure or expectation on yourself to perform, you’re in the wrong line of work.

“It definitely feels right.”

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/MacfarlaneSteve


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