As we race head-long into the quieter parts of the summer months, we’re kicking off a look-back at prior Calgary Flames seasons here at FlamesNation. That look back begins with 2000-01, the first campaign of the current century.
The NHL was a different place back in the fall of 2000. The league added a pair of teams to its ranks (the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets), swelling it to an unheard-of 30 teams amidst some hand-wringing over the size of the league and quality of play league-wide. The Flames? They hadn’t won a playoff round since the 1989 Stanley Cup Final, and hadn’t made a playoff appearance since 1996.
That streak of futility would, unfortunately, continue.
*-Because the NHL didn’t have detailed stats breakdowns back then, we used all-game numbers rather than the proper even-strength numbers to approximate PDO and calculate shooting and save percentages.
It was the first season under newly-minted general manager Craig Button, and expectations were high. The club brought in highly-regarded junior coach Don Hay to right the ship after four seasons outside of the playoffs.
The result? Well, the 2000-01 Flames were a streaky bunch, and not in a good way. The team tended to alternate wins and losses, and when they strung together results, they weren’t good results. They had a pair of three-game winning streaks, tied for their best runs of the year. They had eight-game winless strings on three separate occasions – going 0-5-2-1, 0-3-2-3 and 0-6-2-0 in those runs. In the middle of the third winless skid, Button finally threw in the towel, axing Don Hay on March 14 and replacing him with assistant coach Greg Gilbert. Adding to the instability of the team was a leadership change mid-season, as captain Steve Smith retired and was replaced by alternate captain Dave Lowry. The team went 23-29-13-4 under Hay and put together a 4-7-2-0 record under Gilbert – enough to earn the interim coach a job for the next season.
The Flames were a top-heavy group with one good NHL line – Marc Savard between Jarome Iginla and Valeri Bure – a decent young defensive group featuring names like Derek Morris, Robyn Regehr and Toni Lydman, but they were sunk by a combination of their team’s inexperience and some iffy goaltending from the tandem of Fred Brathwaite and Mike Vernon (spoiler: mostly from Vernon).
Craig Button wasn’t terribly busy in his first season as a general manager. It seems like he spent his first full season evaluating the team he inherited and making minor tinkers. And then he made a ton of trades at the 2001 Draft.
- September 26, 2000: traded Andrei Nazarov and a second round pick to Anaheim for the rights to college player Jordan Leopold.
- March 6, 2001: traded Bill Lindsay to San Jose for an eighth round pick.
- March 13, 2001: traded Cory Stillman to St. Louis for Craig Conroy and a seventh round pick.
- June 23, 2001: traded Chris St. Croix to the NY Rangers for Burke Henry.
- June 23, 2001: traded Valeri Bure and Jason Wiemer to Florida for Rob Niedermayer and a second round pick.
- June 23, 2001: traded Fred Brathwaite, Daniel Tkaczuk, Sergei Varlamov and a ninth round pick to St. Louis for Roman Turek and a fourth round pick.
- June 24, 2001: traded down in the first round (moving from 11 to 14) with Phoenix, gaining back a second round pick in the process.
- June 24, 2001: traded down in the fifth round with Detroit, gaining back a seventh round pick.
- June 24, 2001: swapped a seventh round pick to the NY Rangers in exchange for a seventh round pick in the next year’s draft.
- June 24, 2001: traded a fourth round pick to Philadelphia in exchange for Dean McAmmond.
- June 24, 2001: traded the rights to college player Paul Manning to Columbus in exchange for a fifth round pick.
In retrospect, acquiring Turek, Conroy, McAmmond and Leopold were huge steps towards building the 2004 team. The rest of them seem like calculated gambles; cashing out on a college kid to get a future pick, trading down to get a second rounder, and swapping for a future seventh round pick.
The Flames weren’t terribly active in the free agent market in the summer of 2000, bringing in Dave Lowry, Dallas Eakins, Martin Brochu and Niklas Andersson. They also added Dwayne Hay in the pre-season waiver draft in another move that gave them some depth options, but not much in terms of big guns. Only Lowry amounted to anything for the team long-term.
The 2001 Draft class featured a pair of players that ended up being decent NHLers and then a bunch of swings and misses.
The scariest thing about the 2001 class in particular? Outside of Kobasew, Moss and, to a lesser extent Taratukhin and Maki, none of these guys even made much noise at any level of North American pro hockey. When you accumulate that many players and so few of them amount to anything, it’s a bit startling.
RETHINKING THE 2000-01 FLAMES
If there was one thing that sunk the 2000-01 Flames, it was how uneven their goaltending was. Fred Brathwaite was quietly one of the NHL’s best goaltenders at even-strength (with a .929 save percentage). Mike Vernon? He was one of its worst at .895. And Don Hay seemed intent on rotating through his goaltenders rather than riding the hot hand. And the season ended in a rather predictable manner – Button flipped his best goalie for a more established option in Roman Turek in an effort to shore up goaltending for the long-term.
The Flames also suffered from not having a ton of guys get a ton of shots. Jarome Iginla and Valeri Bure were the two players who amassed 200 shots or more in 2000-01. They needed more scoring depth and when you have just two guys getting most of the shots on goal, it makes it really easy on the opposition.
Quietly forgotten about the 00-01 Flames? Their centre depth. They had Marc Savard (53% face-off percentage), Clarke Wilm (51.9%) and Jeff Shantz (53.5%) taking most of their face-offs. Their five most frequent face-off takers all won more than half of their draws. They didn’t do a heck of a lot with that advantage, but it likely helped them out from time to time.