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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Unveiling the 50 Greatest Players in Calgary Flames History



Now that the NHL has hockey fans all fired up after unveiling its 100 greatest players on Friday night in Los Angeles, it's time to shift the focus to Calgary and go through a similar exercise. So, I set out to identify the 50 greatest players in Flames history.

One thing I'll proudly boast is there is no fence-sitting with me. Rather than take the high road like the league did and just say here is the list of 100, you speculate what order they come in, I rank them from No. 1-50.  I think the order is the most intriguing part and while it's difficult to do, it's necessary to do.

First, a few general comments about the process.
  • Only Time with the Flames Counts - For my list, the only thing considered is their time with the Flames. This makes for a way different dynamic than the league's list as you have to dismiss what they did with other teams prior to coming to Calgary and/or after they left. e.g. Sorry Brett Hull, you didn't make the cut.
  • Only Time in Calgary Counts - Further, this is team history only. This is a Greatest Calgary Flames list, not a Greatest Flames list. So, also not considered is their performance in Atlanta prior to the team moving to Calgary in 1980. e.g. There's no Tom Lysiak or Eric Vail.
  • Many Factors to Consider - It's not a scoring race nor a longevity contest. There are many other factors beyond points and games played I considered such as team success, individual accomplishments or records, overall impact, etc.
  • Current Players are Tricky - Like last night and the furore over three current Blackhawks being selected, one struggle is wear to rank current players. You're not really projecting what they'll be -- even if they're likely to become that, but it's possible for a player to already be great in just a short time. That said, there is some earning that needs to happen too so tenure does play into it.

Lastly, like anything one does that is subjective like this, there is some personal bias. I was in grade six when the Flames moved to Calgary in 1980 so while I have familiarity with all the players on the list, my observations as a fan at age 12 would be different than as a member of the media as has been the case for the last two-and-a-half decades. 

While a time-consuming process, it was fun to do and very nostalgic and I hope you enjoy. The best part is there are no right or wrong answers, which means bring on the arguments!


The 50 Greatest Calgary Flames



1. RW Jarome Iginla 
  • 1996-97 to 2012-13
  • 1,219 gm, 1,095 pts (525 g, 570 a)
The Flames leading scorer for 11 straight seasons from 2000-01 to 2011-12. In team history, he's first in games (1,219), first in goals (525), second in assists (570), first in points (1,095), first in game-winning goals (83). Won Maurice Richard trophy as top goal scorer in 2001-02 (52 g). Was runner-up for the Hart in 2003-04 and finished third in 2007-08. Led the Flames to game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup final. He captained the team for over a decade and will always be the face of the franchise.


2. D Al MacInnis
  • 1981-82 to 1993-94
  • 803 gm, 822 pts (213 g, 609 a)
Won Conn Smythe in 1989. Finished top-3 in the Norris voting four times. Is Calgary's career playoff points leader with 102 pts (25 g, 77 a), which is 30 more than second place. Known for his hard slapshot, he was especially dangerous on the power play. In team history, he's third in games (803), sixth in goals (213), first in assists (609), third in points (822), first in plus/minus (+241), fourth in PP goals (102). His presence on the power play was a game changer for Calgary in the late 80s. 


3. RW Theoren Fleury
  • 1988-89 to 1998-99
  • 791 gm, 830 pts (364 g, 466 a)
An eighth round draft pick, he overcame the label of being too small to play over 10 years in Calgary. His first season was the year Calgary won the Stanley Cup. He was brought up from the minors halfway through the season and never looked back. He was exciting to watch and a real spark plug. In team history, he's fourth in games (791), second in goals (364), second in points (830), second in game-winning goals (53), third in playoff goals (29) and third in playoff points (62).


4. G Miikka Kiprusoff
  • 2003-04 to 2012-13
  • 576 gm, 305-192-68 record, 2.46 GAA, .913 SV%
Made immediate impact after being acquired from SJ in November 2003 and helped turn team's fortunes. In 38 games, went 24-10-4 with a 1.69 GAA and a .933 SV%. Then he went 15-11 in the playoffs with a 1.85 GAA and .928 SV% as Calgary got to game 7 of Stanley Cup final. For four straight seasons, finished top-five for the Vezina. In 2003-04 and 2005-06, finished third and fourth for the Hart. Is the team's all-time leader in wins (305), GAA (2.46), SV% (.913) and shutouts (41).


5. C Joe Nieuwendyk
  • 1986-87 to 1994-95
  • 577 gm, 616 pts (314 g, 302 a)
Burst upon the scene joining the Flames late in the season in 1986-87 and scoring in his NHL debut. The next year in his first full rookie season, the 21-year-old scored 51 goals and 92 points to win the Calder. He sniped another 51 goals the next year, then posted back-to-back 45-goals seasons. In team history, is third in goals (314), fourth in in points (616), second in PP goals (130), second in playoff goals (32). Was third on the team with 10 goals in 1989 playoffs as Calgary won its only Stanley Cup.





6. RW Lanny McDonald
  • 1981-82 to 1988-89
  • 492 gm, 406 pts (215 g, 191 a)
With his famous moustache making him the most recognizable player in team history, his 66-goal season in 1982-83 remains a club record.


7. G Mike Vernon
  • 1982-83 to 1993-94, 2000-01 to 2001-02
  • 526 gm, 262-187-57 record, 3.26 GAA 
Local kid drafted by Calgary in the third round in 1981 was the team's No. 1 goalie through the glory years of the 80s including a team-high 43 playoff wins. 


8. C Kent Nilsson
  • 1980-81 to 1984-85
  • 345 gm, 469 pts (189 g, 280 a)
The 'Magic Man' was an electrifying talent. Set the team record for points (131) in Calgary's first season as he finished third in scoring behind Wayne Gretzky (164) and Marcel Dionne (135).


9. LW Gary Roberts
  • 1986-87 to 1995-96
  • 585 gm, 505 pts (257 g, 248 a)
Longtime pal of Joe Nieuwendyk but a more physical player, the two Ontario kids were a dangerous duo. His 53 goals in 1991-92 remains the second-most in a season in team history.


10. D Gary Suter
  • 1985-86 to 1993-94 
  • 617 gm, 564 pts (128 g, 436 a) 
Won the Calder with a 18-50-68 season as a 21-year-old as Calgary reached the Stanley Cup final in 1986. Two years later, had a 21-70-91 season and finished third in the Norris voting.



11. RW Hakan Loob
  • 1983-84 to 1988-89
  • 450 gm, 429 pts (193 g, 236 a)
Scored 30-plus goals each of his first three seasons. When he scored 50 goals in 1987-88, he became the first Swede to ever hit that number.


12. RW Joe Mullen
  • 1985-86 to 1989-90
  • 345 gm, 388 pts (190 g, 198 a)
Undersized winger was a huge part of the Flames last 80s success. Led team in goals (51) and assists (110) in their Stanley Cup-winning season in 1988-89.


13. C Doug Gilmour
  • 1988-89 to 1991-92
  • 266 gm, 295 pts (81 g, 214 a)
Brought in from St. Louis, he was a huge part of the 1989 team with a 26-59-85 regular season and an 11-11-22 playoffs in which he was second in goals, third in points.


14. D Mark Giordano
  • 2005-06 to Current
  • 644 gm, 323 pts (92 g, 230 a)
Captain and current face of the franchise, the late-bloomer is steadily climbing up the Flames various all-time lists.


15. D Robyn Regehr
  • 1999-00 to 2010-11
  • 826 gm, 163 pts (29 g, 134 a)
Second in team history in games played, he was a solid defensive defender, who played an honest and very physical style of game.




16. C Joel Otto
  • 1984-85 to 1994-95 
  • 730 gm, 428 pts (167 g, 261 a) 
Fourth all-time in Flames playoff points (61). A physical two-way centre, who went head-to-head with Mark Messier in the heydey of the Battle of Alberta.


17. LW Johnny Gaudreau
  • 2013-14 to Current 
  • 202 gm, 173 pts (66 g, 108 a) 
Is already arguably the most exciting player in team history. Tied for the league scoring lead as a rookie. Finished sixth in NHL scoring as a sophomore.


18. C Craig Conroy
  • 2000-01 to 2003-04, 2006-07 to 2010-11
  • 507 gm, 308 pts (97 g, 211 a)
A fan favourite, developed nice chemistry with Jarome Iginla for many years including in Calgary's Stanley Cup run in 2004.


19. D Dion Phaneuf
  • 2005-06 to 2009-10
  • 378 gm, 228 pts (75 g, 153 a)
His career-best season of 20 goals came as a rookie. Finished runner-up for the Norris two years later.


20. D Paul Reinhart
  • 1980-81 to 1987-88
  • 438 gm, 398 pts (100 g, 298 a)
Was a major part of the 1985-86 team that reached the Stanley Cup final going 5-13-18 in 21 playoff games.




21. RW Sergei Makarov
  • 1989 to 1992-93
  • 297 gm, 292 pts (94 g, 198 a)

22. C Robert Reichel
  • 1990-91 to 1996-97
  • 425 gm, 354 pts (153 g, 201 a)

23. C Daymond Langkow
  • 2005-06 to 2010-11
  • 392 gm, 288 pts (123 g, 165 a)

24. C Carey Wilson
  • 1983-84 to 1992-93
  • 355 gm, 263 pts (102 g, 161 a)

25. LW Jim Peplinski
  • 1980-81 to 1989-90, 1994-95
  • 711 gm, 424 pts (161 g, 263 a)




26. C Mikael Backlund
  • 2008-09 to Current 
  • 432 gm, 209 pts (86 g, 123 a) 

27. LW Alex Tanguay
  • 2006-07 to 2007-08, 2010-11 to 2012-13 
  • 342 gm, 284 pts (86 g, 198 a) 

28. C Sean Monahan
  • 2013-14 to Current 
  • 289 gm, 190 pts (96 g, 94 a) 

29. C Guy Chouinard
  • 1980-81 to 1982-83
  • 196 gm, 235 pts (67 g, 168 a)

30. D Brad McCrimmon
  • 1987-88 to 1989-90 
  • 231 gm, 83 pts (16 g, 67 a) 




31. RW Valeri Bure
  • 1997-98 to 2000-01 
  • 256 gm, 192 pts (93 g, 99 a)

32. C Dan Quinn
  • 1983-84 to 1986-87 
  • 222 gm, 191 pts (72 g, 119 a) 

33. D Jamie Macoun
  • 1982-83 to 1991-92 
  • 586 gm, 246 pts (62 g, 184 a)

    34. LW Curtis Glencross
    • 2008-09 to 2014-15
    • 418 gm, 242 pts (114 g, 128 a)

    35. LW Mike Cammalleri
    • 2008-09, 2011-12 to 2013-14
    • 216 gm, 178 pts (89 g, 89 a)
    36. D Jay Bouwmeester
    • 2009-10 to 2012-13
    • 279 gm, 97 pts (18 g,79 a)

    37. RW Jiri Hudler
    • 2012-13 to 2015-16 
    • 248 gm, 192 pts (68 g, 124 a) 

    38. LW Martin Gelinas
    • 2002-03 to 2003-04 
    • 157 gm, 87 pts (38 g, 49 a) 

    39. D Phil Housley
    • 1994-95 to 1995-96, 1998-99 to 2000-01 
    • 328 gm, 238 pts (50 g, 188 a)

    40. G Reggie Lemelin
    • 1980-81 to 1986-87
    • 303 gm, 136-90-45 record, 3.67 GAA

    41. LW Kristian Huselius
    • 2005-06 to 2007-08
    • 216 gm, 182 pts (74 g, 108 a)

    42. RW Colin Patterson
    • 1983-84 to 1989-90
    • 416 gm, 187 pts (88 g, 99 a)

    43. LW Cory Stillman
    • 1994-95 to 2000-01
    • 393 gm, 235 pts (109 g, 126 a)

    44. D Denis Gauthier
    • 1997-98 to 2003-04
    • 384 gm, 58 pts (13 g, 45 a)

    45. C Mike Bullard
    • 1986-87 to 1987-88
    • 136 gm, 157 pts (76 g, 81 a)



    46. D Derek Morris
    • 1997-98 to 2001-02
    • 343 gm, 163 pts (34 g, 129 a)

    47. D TJ Brodie
    • 2010-11 to Current
    • 388 gm, 162 pts (28 g, 134 a)

    48. C Doug Risebrough
    • 1982-83 to 1986-87
    • 247 gm, 169 pts (68 g, 101 a)

    49. LW John Tonelli
    • 1985-86 to 1987-88
    • 161 gm, 116 pts (40 g, 76 a)

    50. RW Tim Hunter
    • 1981-82 to 1991-92
    • 545 gm, 108 pts (49 g, 59 a)


    10 Honourable Mentions

    LW Eddy Beers (1981-82 to 1985-86) - 226 gm, 87-105-192
    C Olli Jokinen (2008-09 to 2011-12) - 236 gm, 59-106-165
    LW Paul Ranheim (1988-89 to 1993-94) - 354 gm, 94-100-194
    D Phil Russell (1980-81 to 1982-83) - 229 gm, 23-66-89
    D Cory Sarich (2007-08 to 2012-13) - 379 gm, 10-49-59
    C Marc Savard (1999-00 to 2002-03) - 221 gm, 60-94-154*
    C Matt Stajan (2009-10 to Current) - 461 gm, 53-118-171
    C German Titov (1993-94 to 1997-98) - 345 gm, 107-121-228
    D Rhett Warrener (2003-04 to 2007-08) - 231 gm, 11-26-37
    C Stephane Yelle (2002-03 to 2007-08) - 339 gm, 31-65-96

    * Omitted errantly on the original list so a late addition.



    By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.

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      15 comments:

      1. How great would Iginla in his prime look on a line with Gaudreau and Monahan right now. I bet teams wouldn't mess with Gaudreau as much.

        ReplyDelete
        Replies
        1. Goodness. Yes, I think that would have worked out gloriously. All we're missing is a De Lorean and Doc Brown.

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      2. 50 might be too great a number for team that has only won one Stanley Cup. When Phaneuf is way up there, it's kind of meh.

        ReplyDelete
        Replies
        1. First of all. My favourite expression is "I would have written less if I had more time."

          Secondly, I considered titling the story "50 Least-Bad Flames of All-Time" but not sure that would make it a ratings bonanza.

          Thirdly, are you also in the front office of the National Football League? (I.e. No Fun League). Let me have my 50, damn you. No, this isn't an all-star team but come on, there are some beauty names from the past in there. Maybe it even reminds people to enjoy the current.

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      3. But, your top picks are spot-on.

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        Replies
        1. Happy to have you as an ally. I've chatting with someone right now that is furious that Iginla was No. 1 as he would have had Iginla behind guys like Joel Otto. I suppose 'great' can be interpreted in different ways.

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        2. Sorry, I never said I was furious. Just didn't agree and I showed my stats and reasoning. Funny how people jump to conclusions so quickly. Next time just make it a popularity contest and then you won't need to get up set Mr. Haynes.
          Sean Elekes

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        3. Presumptuous and regrettable word choice by me at the end of a long day. Sorry about that. Thanks for engaging and I love the passion. Like I said, comments, feedback is great, but I'm not a fan of those that criticize then walk away without providing an alternative. You did the latter, backed it up with why, it's all good. I don't agree but that's fine and that's not what this is about. Thanks again for reading. Cheers.

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      4. Why doesn't Gaudreau stat line say "to current" is there something we should know?? :O

        ReplyDelete
        Replies
        1. What you should know is my editor (also me) sucks!

          Delete
      5. Darren, I'm a Flames fan living in Tulsa, OK where very few know anything about hockey. Your game and team analysis is much appreciated in the South. Loved this list and thought you did a great job but I'm surprised I didn't see Marc Savard or Fred Brathwaite (not only because he was beloved, but because of the way you valued longevity). I'd be interested to know why you left these two guys off of the list.

        ReplyDelete
        Replies
        1. Oklahoma! Whoa. You must be missing the days when the Flames AHL team played in Omaha, Nebraska. Savard was an oversight, which I knew would happen tackling a project like this in a condensed time frame. I should have done more prep/planning but it was an impulse idea and along the way, overlooked a couple guys that slipped through the cracks. In fact, I've since added him to the honourable mentions. Could he have been higher? Probably. Had some great chemistry with Jarome Iginla in their brief time together. But he was a petulant lad when he was here too, that worked against him. As for Freddie B. Great story when he arrived on the scene but at two-plus seasons only, I didn't feel he had done enough. Was behind others also not listed in wins like Roman Turek, Trevor Kidd and Rick Wamsley. So there you go, but good question. Thanks for reading.

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      6. Love that picture of Juice going between the legs. Did he score on that play?

        ReplyDelete
        Replies
        1. Does a bear shit in the woods? (Actually, not really sure, but he was a talented dude, for sure.)

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      7. Of the current guys, Brodie is too low and Monahan/Gaudreau too high (TJ Brodie is the best playsr among thoze three). Otherwise a solid list.

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