"I'll probably tell you that every year until I hang 'em up, but it's been a couple of tough years for me, as far as my expectations of myself and my performance," Cammalleri admitted yesterday when reached in Toronto. "I had a lot going on, but I'm looking forward -- should we be playing -- to be playing well.
"I'm excited about it."
Ah yes, the caveat all in the hockey world are talking about these days.
With the collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the players' association expiring Sept. 15 and seemingly no solution in sight, expectations are there will be a lockout.
It's not a certainty and doesn't have the look of the 2004-05 lost season, but time is running out for a solution, which doesn't appear close to being found right now.
"Yeah, it doesn't look great," Cammalleri said. "It's difficult. I thought the proposal we (the players) made addressed problems in the league and was very fair, with a lot of concessions in it to help the strength of the league.
"We're fans of the game, too. You get to this camp, start skating with one another and playing games, having a blast playing hockey. I don't know what I'll watch on TV if we're not playing hockey."
However, the preparation must continue for all players, including the winger who netted 11 goals and 19 points in 28 games for the Flames after the trade back to the Stampede City.
With a return to Calgary for him and his family coming after Labour Day, Cammalleri is one of the few dozen NHLers taking part in the gruelling BioSteel Camp hosted by Gary Roberts. Also in attendance are Flames Matt Stajan and Greg Nemisz.
"It's a pretty intense training camp, so it gives you a good gauge where you're at conditioning-wise, where you're at skill set-wise going into NHL training camps," Cammalleri said. "I feel good where I'm at, feel good about things like how the puck's coming off (my stick when I shoot), how I'm seeing the game, seeing the ice.
"I'm not exactly where I want to be with my conditioning, but I don't want to be there yet, anyways. It's a long season, and I don't believe in killing yourself for Sept. 1. I believe in getting your body stronger and ready for the long season."
That said, the preparation he needs is more mental.
Cammalleri has spent this off-season working on his skating stride, as well as offensive skills, but has also been figuring things out in his head.
"That's the biggest thing," said the 30-year-old. "There were big changes in my life and things around me, the trade, having a family, settling into that.
"It's all been very positive changes and the happiest things that have happened to me, but you grow and discover more about yourself as a person, and I have to use it to get stronger and better.
"I hope it all allows me to be a better player and a better man."
So, the return to the Flames and sweater change from No. 93 to No. 13, a couple of pieces from Cammalleri's best NHL season are in place.
Of course, impacting things will be the team around him. The Flames did try to add offensive production by signing free-agents Jiri Hudler, Roman Cervenka and Dennis Wideman this summer.
Although the Flames must be a better defensive squad than a year ago, adding offensive touch -- plus having a coach in Bob Hartley who wants to play a more entertaining game -- could bode well.
"It's good to push the play a bit and beat the other team," Cammalleri said. "Players are too good that if you play a hang-on still over 60 minutes and 82 games, it will tilt against you too many times."
On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak