Bourque ready to take the next step

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:38 PM ET

The chart for Rene Bourque's goal total with the Calgary Flames is going in the right direction.

Having gone from 21 to 27, a big milestone is next: 30.

"My goal is to get better every year, so obviously, I'd like to score more goals and keep improving in that area," the big winger said. "If I stay healthy, hopefully, I should be able to get there.

"I think we have a better team than last year, and if we play a little more of an opened-up game, everybody should score more."

You can count on one hand the number of Flames who are coming off very strong, if not career, seasons. Bourque is one of them.

But the player in year one of a six-year, US$20-million contract expects to build on his 58-point season.

"I think I still have a few years in me to keep improving. And I think the older you get, the wiser you get here," said Bourque, 28. "It's my sixth (NHL) season, and every year, you're more comfortable and know what to expect."

How good Bourque can be remains the question.

He has the skill, speed and size at 6-foot-2, 214-lb., to be a dominating player.

In the eyes of head coach Brent Sutter, a very dominating player -- as long as he stays consistent.

"Nights he is there, he's dominating on the ice," Sutter said. "His season last year was a decent year, point totals, but we need more from him now. He's at that stage of his career he needs to be an impact guy for us every night.

"If he does that on a nightly basis, the sky's the limit for this guy.

"You look at the players in the past, the Cam Neelys, the Rick Tocchets, these types of guys that were dominant players in the past with their size and physical presence on the ice. Bourquey has all that. It's inside of him to do it on a nightly basis, that push every night in himself to say, 'I'm going to be the best player on the ice every night.'

"Everything about him as a player you love. It's just that fire in his eyes every night. When he has that, he's an unstoppable player."

Certainly, the system Sutter has instilled plays into Bourque's strengths.

When he's on his game and really driving on the forecheck, you can see defencemen dreading the on-coming freight train.

In fact, Sutter is pushing for even more forecheck from his players.

"I'm usually the first one in on the forecheck and getting pucks, and I really like it when we rush two guys on the forecheck," Bourque said. "We create turnovers a lot more. It makes defenceman make their decisions quicker, and a lot of times, they just throw the puck up the boards or turn it over.

"Our defenceman will be pinching more and keeping pucks in the zone."

Another new aspect this season could be some line consistency.

The past couple of years has seen Bourque bounce between the top couple of lines, sometimes playing left wing with Jarome Iginla, other times skating on either wing on the second trio.

This year, the plan is to have him on the right side with Matt Stajan and Niklas Hagman.

Stajan's separated shoulder has put a wrinkle in that plan, but Mikael Backlund possesses passing skills to give the wingers their chances.

Plus, both Stajan and Backlund are willing to shoot.

"That's good for me, because a lot of times I'm at the front of the net or going to the net for rebounds," Bourque said. "If there are more shots, it's going to provide more rebounds."


Videos

Photos