Colton Pankiw The Hockey Writers
Calgary Flames Best All-Time
The Calgary Flames were originally founded in 1972 and started in Atlanta, but relocated to Calgary in 1980. They have had many great seasons over the years, none better than 1988-89 when they won the Stanley Cup. Although they have not been able to win another to this point, they have still had many great players and teams along the years. In today’s article, I will be breaking down their top-four players of all time.
Despite having many great players over the years, Jarome Iginla is pretty much a no-brainer for the top Calgary Flame of all time. Iginla could do it all. Whether it was scoring a big goal, throwing a crushing body check, or dropping the gloves. He was a tremendous leader as well, wearing the “C” for the Flames for nine seasons.
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Iginla had plenty of incredible seasons with the Flames, perhaps none better than 2001-02. His 52 goals and 96 points were good enough to capture the Art Ross Trophy, the Rocket Richard Trophy, and the Lester B. Pearson Trophy. In 2003-04, he scored 41 goals to win his second Rocket Richard Trophy along with Rick Nash and Ilya Kovalchuk who also scored 41 that season.
That same season, Iginla led the Flames on a surprising run which resulted in them playing the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final. Though the Flames were not able to win the series, Iginla was fantastic throughout the entire playoffs with 13 goals and 22 points in 26 games. Unfortunately for him, that was the closest he would ever get to hoisting the Stanley Cup.
Fast forward to the 2012-13 season, when the Flames struggled for the fourth consecutive season. They ended up making the decision to trade Iginla, who was in his 17th season with the club. This marked the end of an incredible era. His regular-season totals with the team ended with 525 goals and 570 assists in 1,219 games. He also had very impressive playoff numbers with 49 points in 54 games.
Iginla would play another 335 regular-season games and 27 playoff games split between the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, and the L.A. Kings. Though he never won a Stanley Cup, he still had a Hall of Fame career, the majority of it spent with the Flames. Despite often playing on rosters that lacked talent, he continued to put up big and consistent numbers year after year. He is without a doubt the greatest Calgary Flame of all time.
During the 1981 NHL Entry Draft, the Flames selected a defenceman by the name of Al MacInnis from the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL with the 15th-overall pick. He spent two additional seasons with the Rangers after being drafted, which were extremely successful. He helped lead his team to two consecutive OHL championships, and also won a Memorial Cup in 1982. He finished his junior career with 74 goals and 198 points in just 157 regular-season games.
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MacInnis became a regular NHLer soon after his junior career and made an instant impact. In his rookie season, he put up an incredible 45 points in just 51 games, and another 14 in 11 playoff games. As it turned out, that was just an early glimpse of a very bright future.
MacInnis played 11 seasons for the Flames, and was nearly a point-per-game player, if not better, for everyone. In the 1990-91 season, he tied his career-high 28 goals and put up a jaw-dropping, career-high 103 points. He would go on to score 28 goals one last time in 1993-94, his last season as a Flame.
As far as trophies are concerned, MacInnis’ best season came in 1988-89. He posted great numbers yet again, but it was his playoff performance that Flames fans will remember. He was dominant, leading the charge with 31 points in 22 games and helping the Flames win their first-ever Stanley Cup. He was also awarded the Conn Smythe trophy for his efforts.
At the end of the 1993-94 season, MacInnis became a restricted free agent. Unable to agree on a new contract, the Flames decided to trade him to the St. Louis Blues, marking the end of his career with the team. (from ‘BLUES ACQUIRE RIGHTS TO MACINNIS,’ Chicago Tribune, 07/05/1994) His numbers were incredible, as he finished with 213 goals and 609 assists in 803 games. To this day, he remains the greatest Flames defenceman of all time.
The Flames had one of the best late-round draft picks of all time when they selected Theo Fleury in the eighth-round of the 1987 NHL Entry Draft. Despite putting up big numbers with the Moose Jaw Warriors in the WHL, many doubted he would be able to make it in the NHL due to his 5-foot-6 stature.
Fleury put any doubts of his size to rest very quickly when he got his shot with the Flames during the Cup-winning 1988-89 season. He provided a big boost to that team with 34 points in 36 regular-season games that season, and added another 11 in 22 playoff games.
That was only the beginning of what was an incredible Flames career for Fleury. He soon established himself as one of the league’s best offensive threats and also one of the league’s biggest pests. His best season came during 1990-91, when he put up a career-high in goals with 51 as well as points with 104. That was the first of two times he hit 100 points in his career, both as a Flame.
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By the time it was all said and done, Fleury played 11 seasons with the Flames, and was outstanding in all of them. He ended up being traded near the 1998-99 trade deadline due to the fact the team was not in a playoff spot and weren’t able to agree on a contract extension. In total, he ended up playing 791 regular-season games with the Flames, scoring 364 goals and 466 assists.
Fleury ended up having stints with the Colorado Avalanche, New York Rangers, and Chicago Blackhawks before his career finished up. He had some good seasons with those teams, but was never the same dominating player he was with the Flames. This was due in large part to his troublesome off-ice activities, which is a big part of why he is not yet in the Hall of Fame. Regardless, he is one of the best Flames of all time.
The Flames struck lightning in a bottle during the 2003-04 season when they traded a second-round pick to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Finnish goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff. At the time of the trade, he was not a well-known name. The former fifth-rounder had only played in 52 career NHL games to that point. It didn’t take him long to become a household name — he immediately became the starting goaltender with the Flames, and kept that position for nearly a decade.
Despite not winning a Stanley Cup like former Flame netminder Mike Vernon, Kiprusoff is not only the team’s best goalie of all time, but one of its best players. During his first season with the team, he played in 38 regular-season games, putting up a staggering 1.70 goals-against average (GAA) and a .933 save percentage (SV%) along with a 24-10-4 record.
He continued the same level of play through the entire playoffs, as he helped lead the charge on an unexpected run to the Stanley Cup Final. As mentioned previously, they fell one game short to the Lightning, and much like Iginla, that was the closest Kiprusoff ever came to winning a Stanley Cup.
The next season came the NHL lockout, and there were still questions on Kiprusoff. Was he a true number one goalie or did he go on a hot run? Those questions were soon put to rest, as he took home both the William Jennings and the Vezina Trophy. It was then that he established himself as one of the league’s best goaltenders. He was the backbone for the Flames, playing in 70 or more games in every season from 2005-06 to 2011-12.
During the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Kiprusoff struggled for the Flames, something that neither he nor his team was used to seeing. By the time the season was finished, he had a 3.44 GAA and a .882 SV%, numbers far below his usual standards. That turned out to be his final season, as he announced his retirement the following September.
As of now, Kiprusoff has not yet been inducted into the Hall of Fame. There are certainly arguments to be made both ways, but the odds don’t appear to be in his favour. He was never able to win a Stanley Cup and also didn’t have a particularly long career, appearing in just 624 regular-season games. However, no one can argue that he was dominant over the course of his career and is one of the best Flames of all time.
Flames Have Top Notch Alumni
As this list shows, the Flames have an incredible alumni list. Many of their former players were superstars and had outstanding careers. Currently, players like Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk lead the way, and could eventually find their way on to this type of list if they are able to continue their high level of play for the upcoming years. Although this list may be argued, the one thing we can all agree on is that the four players listed above had outstanding runs with the Flames.
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