Mystery ailment hindered Bourque

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:39 AM ET

CALGARY - Rene Bourque still isnt quite sure where it all went wrong or why.

But smack dab in the middle of last years 27-goal campaign, the 29-year-old winger hit a rut that saw him disappear from the score sheet and fade into the background for a quarter of the season.

Bourque waited until this weekends camp opening to reveal for the very first time there was far more to it than simply bad luck or a loss of confidence.

For a time, he was worried something was terribly wrong with his 6-ft-2, 213-lb. body, prompting team doctors to delve deep into several test results.

For the first time in my career, I felt everything kind of caught up to me at once for a couple months, said Bourque. who scored just twice in a 22-game stretch starting before Christmas.

I couldnt get anything going. I was tired and hit a wall there at mid-season. It was tough. I had no energy. I was trying to think of why it was happening. I was just trying to get rest and get some help. Id never felt like that before I couldnt move out there on the ice.

While the possibility of mono was a legitimate concern, Bourque says the diagnosis was never that serious. More to the point, there was never any official diagnosis whatsoever, which is probably why his critics simply suggest Bourque is a chronic underachiever who goes through bouts of nothing more serious than laziness.

Its a harsh tag for the teams second-highest scorer, but one hes had to deal with ever since he signed his six-year, US$20-million deal before last season.

I think my numbers are still very good for the amount Im being paid, said Bourque, coming off back-to-back 27-goal seasons, which is, in fact, full value for a player averaging $3.33 million annually.

Ive heard people saying Im being overpaid and for too long, but look around the league and find guys that put up my numbers and see what theyre making. Obviously, I would have liked to have a better season my numbers were a bit off (his 23 assists and 50 points were eight less than 2009-10) but Im not worried about that. I think I can get back to that pretty easily this season.

Having spent most of the season on the second line, what concerns many is the minus-17 he posted last year.

Personally, I dont really care what people think, said Bourque, who insists he doesnt read papers.

I dont let that stuff get into my head.

Limited to 21 goals in 58 games in 2008/09 due to a high-ankle sprain, Bourque said he entered camp last year with ankle and shoulder ailments that hindered him. However, after taking two months off after the season, Bourque said he was able to ramp up his summer workouts in Chicago to get him to a point where he feels hes in top shape.

I think, at some points, I was happy with my season last year, but I had that big slump before the outdoor game, said Bourque, penciled in to be the Flames second-line left-winger alongside Olli Jokinen and Lee Stempniak.

I recovered after that (slump) and started playing well again, but obviously, I want to keep my play level and try to be as consistent all season long. I worked out and trained hard this summer, and hopefully, that doesnt happen this year. I feel a lot better coming into camp this year than last year when I was a little banged up.

Admittedly disappointed and caught off guard by the recent trading of former linemate Daymond Langkow, Bourque said he hopes his linemates will remain a little more constant than they were last year.

Theyll try (Mikael Backlund) on the top line first, so Olli, (David) Moss, (Matt) Staj(an) are others I might play with there are obviously a lot of combinations they can try, said Bourque.

Id like to stay with the same guy more, but we had a lot of injuries and had to move guys around.

Whether he cares or not, his size, speed and flashes of brilliance have ensured the bar has been set higher than the 27-goals he struggled to last year.

Im not going to set goals for myself as far as goals and assists and points I want to improve in every area of the game, he said of this years outlook.

A lot depends on who you play with and in what situations.

And whether you take advantage of your opportunities, regardless of your physical condition or headspace.


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