Flickering points of hope for Flames

The past offseason is one that will be remembered with great frustration and trepidation by Flames fans.

The past offseason is one that will be remembered with great frustration and trepidation by Flames fans.

Change was demanded, but all they were given was a rehash of old formulas that didn’t work the first time around.

The front office was given the unyielding support of the team president and supporters watched as the Vancouver Canucks left them in their review mirror and the window on their championship contendership closed with not much to look forward to in the future.

The risk is high of falling to the level of the Oilers pre-lockout where just battling for a playoff spot became good enough.

But the outlook isn’t completely bleak.

With Miikka Kiprusoff in net the Flames will always have a puncher’s chance.

While last year’s Vezina Trophy finalists carried the names of Martin Brodeur, Ilya Bryzgalov and Ryan Miller, one could make the argument that Kipper should have been in the discussion.

With a .920 save percentage and a 2.31 goals against average, I have a hard time pointing a finger at the Finnish puck stopper for last year’s failings.

What the Flames are banking on is a series of rebound seasons from just about everyone, beginning with their fearless leader Jarome Iginla who collected just 69 points, his lowest out put since the 2005-06 season when he scored 67. At 33 it is a little unrealistic to expect him to return to his 50-goal and 98-point form from three seasons ago, but he should be capable of a point-a-game season.

Also much more is expected of Daymond Langkow who put up just 37 points and failed to score 20 goals for the first time since 2000-01.

The Flames also hold great hopes for their one legitimate top forward prospect to make an impact this season, with Mikael Backlund expected to be given every opportunity to succeed — he pretty much has to because the offensive fire power in the system drops off drastically after the 21-year-old Swede. However, with Brent Sutter running the bench he will have to earn his place on the team.

But one of the brightest spots for offence may actually come from on of the much maligned returnees.

Originally panned by fans and some media, Alex Tanguay may prove to be what pushes them into a playoff spot this year and helps revitalize Iginla.

Tanguay has much to prove, not only to himself but the hockey world after three sub-par seasons in a row.

The Flames traded him after scoring just 58 points in his second season in his first tour of duty in Cow Town. The Montreal Canadiens held on to him for just one 41-point campaign, like-wise the Tampa Bay Lightning who had enough last year after a 37-point showing.

At 30-years old he still has many miles to go in his career. He is also playing on a one-year, $1.7 million contract that if he hopes to see a return to anywhere near to the $5.25 million he was making the first time around in Calgary he will need to show he is well worth it this year.

The Flames currently have him playing on the top line with Iginla and fellow re-patriated Flame Ollie Jokinen, and in Tuesday night’s exhibition lid lifter he gave a glimmer of what he is still capable of doing in a two-assist performance.

The talent shouldn’t be questioned.

The former 12th overall pick in 1998 is the owner of four 70-plus point seasons and has 617-points in his 739 games.

What everyone wants to see again is the drive and the willingness to compete that he displayed just a few years ago that made him one of the top set up men in the game.

Not unlike the fans’ hopes for the club itself.

But the success of Tanguay will go a long way to gauging the success of the 2010-2011 Flames.

jaldrich@bprda.wpengine.com