Flames Draft History: The Rise of Trader Cliff (1980-85)

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Atlanta Flames relocated to Calgary prior to the 1980-81 season, transporting Cliff Fletcher’s experiment from the American South to southern Alberta. The first few years of drafting after the move up north proved crucial to the Flames long-term success; several picks ended up huge parts of Calgary’s run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1986 and their Cup win in 1989 (or were traded to acquire key pieces).

Of course, many of them were also unceremoniously discarded or traded for magic beans following Cliff Fletcher leaving the organization, but we’ll get to that later.

Folks, here is perhaps the best period of drafting (and trading) in organizational history.

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1980: Denis Cyr (13th Overall)

  • This was Calgary’s original first round selection.
  • Cyr didn’t exactly blow the doors off, playing here and there for Calgary before being traded to Chicago for Carey Wilson. Wilson was flipped to the Hartford Whalers (with Lane MacDonald and Neil Sheehy) in exchange for Shane Churla and Dana Murzyn. Churla was sent to the Minnesota Northstars (with Perry Berezan) during the 1988-89 season in exchange for Brian MacLellan and a draft pick that ended up being Robert Reichel. MacLellan eventually was sent to Detroit for Marc Habscheid, who left as a free agent. Reichel played for awhile, then was traded to the Islanders for Marty McInnis, Tyrone Garner and a late-round pick that didn’t pan out. McInnis (and Eric Lacroix and Jamie Allison) were traded to Chicago for Jeff Shantz and Steve Dubinsky. Shantz (and Dean McAmmond and Derek Morris) was traded to Colorado for Stephane Yelle and Chris Drury. Drury (and Steve Begin) was sent to Buffalo in exchange for Rhett Warrener and Steven Reinprecht. Reinprecht (and Phil Sauve) went to Phoenix for Mike LeClerc and Brian Boucher. Back to Dana Murzyn, he was traded to Vancouver eons ago for Kevan Guy and Ronnie Stern.
  • Garner, Dubinsky, Yelle, LeClerc, Boucher, Guy and Stern all either retired as Flames or left as free agents.
  • To put a long transaction string short: Calgary’s first-ever first rounder wasn’t that good, but was turned into key pieces of Stanley Cup Final appearances in 1986, 1989 and 2004. Not bad, eh?
  • The Stat Line: 14 goals, 15 assists, 29 points
  • Flames Games By Pick: 66
  • Flames Games Related To Pick: 2821

1981: Al MacInnis (15th Overall)

  • This was Calgary’s own pick.
  • MacInnis turned out okay. He ended up as Calgary’s franchise leader in many categories by the time he finally left town. He also won a Stanley Cup (in two trips to the Final) and was the MVP in 1989. He was traded (along with a fourth rounder) to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Phil Housley and a pick used to select John Tripp, who never played in the bigs. Housley (and Dan Keczmer) was traded to the Devils for Tommy Albelin, Cale Hulse and Jocelyn Lemieux. Hulse was sent to Nashville for Sergei Krivokrasov, who ended up claimed by the Minnesota Wild in their expansion draft. Albelin and Lemieux left via free agency.
  • The Stat Line: 213 goals, 609 assists, 822 points
  • Flames Games By Pick: 803
  • Flames Games Related To Pick: 1541

1983: Dan Quinn (13th Overall)

  • This was Buffalo’s pick originally. The Sabres traded up (to 10th overall) in a deal that gave Calgary this pick, along with goalie Don Edwards.
  • Quinn’s one of the forgotten gems of Calgary’s drafting history. He was nearly a point-per-game, and then was traded to Pittsburgh for Mike Bullard (who was also pretty damn good). Bullard was packaged with Craig Coxe and Tim Corkery to the Blues for Doug Gilmour, Mark Hunter, Steve Bozek and Mike Dark. Gilmour was part of the mega-deal to the Toronto Maple Leafs that generated Calgary the “return” of Alex Godynyuk, Jeff Reese, Gary Leeman, Michel Petit and Craig Berube. Berube was sent to Washington for a pick that didn’t pan out. Godynyuk
    was claimed by Florida in the expansion draft. Reese was sent to
    Hartford for Dan Keczmer. Leeman was sent to Montreal for Brian
    Skrudland (who was also claimed by Florida). Petit left as a free agent.
    Keczmer (and Phil Housley) were sent to New Jersey for Tommy Albelin,
    Jocelyn Lemieux and Cale Hulse. Albein and Lemieux left via free agency,
    while Hulse was traded to Nashville for Sergei Krivokrasov (who was
    claimed by the Minnesota Wild in the expansion draft).
  • Bozek (and Paul Reinhart) went to Vancouver for a draft pick that didn’t pan out. Hunter was sent to Hartford for Carey Wilson, who retired after a few seasons. Dark never played in the NHL and left the organization as a free agent.
  • Quinn was a contributor when he was in Calgary, and then became a trading chip that Cliff Fletcher used to get a succession of strong players… and then sputtered away when Fletcher left the organization.
  • The Stat Line: 72 goals, 119 assists, 191 points
  • Flames Games By Pick: 222
  • Flames Games Related To Pick: 2222

1984: Gary Roberts (12th Overall)

  • This was Calgary’s pick.
  • Roberts was quite good. He was a key piece in the 1989 Cup win, then still managed to be a productive NHLer despite being hampered by a series of injuries. He retired for a year due to his injuries, then returned and was soon traded to Carolina (along with Trevor Kidd) for Andrew Cassels and Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Cassels eventually left as a free agent, while Giguere was traded to Anaheim for a draft pick. That draft pick was then sent to Washington for minor-leaguer Miika Elomo and a draft pick they used to Levente Szuper. Both of those guys left the organization with little fanfare.
  • The Stats Line: 257 goals, 248 assists, 505 points
  • Flames Games By Pick: 585
  • Flames Games Related To Pick: 758

1985: Chris Biotti (17th Overall)

  • This was Calgary’s pick.
  • Biotti wasn’t very good. He never played in the NHL. The Flames weren’t able to flip him as an asset for anything. They were bound to have a bad pick eventually, but this was a big whiff. But they got Joe Nieuwendyk in the second round, 10 picks later, so I guess it balanced out.
  • The Stat Line: 0 points
  • Flames Games By Pick: 0
  • Flames Games Related To Pick: 0

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Flames Draft History

  • Bananaberg

    Great Article, trip down memory lane, I remember being sooooo excited (and thinking how much smarter I was than everyone else for knowing what this guy would bring) when Mike Leclerc came to town.

  • Bananaberg

    As I recall, Biotti was the first of a couple of unfortunate first round selections by the Flames.

    This guy blew out one or both knees quite severely and his time in the minors was essentially trying to get back to what he was before the injuries.

    A year later, the Flames picked George Pelawa, who was a Mr. Allsport in Minnesota. Tragically, he was killed in a car accident not long after the draft.