FN’s All-Time Greatest Flames Team: Joe Nieuwendyk

The tenth player on FlamesNation’s All-Time Flames Team is no big surprise.

A Hockey Hall of Fame inductee and probably the best centerman in Calgary Flames history, Joe Nieuwendyk had a name that was hard to spell and relatively easy to pronounce. He also had a playing style that was easy to love but difficult to emulate – just ask Joe Colborne.

CAREER STATISTICS

For a lot of people that grew up in Calgary in the early 1990s, Joe Nieuwendyk was their favourite player on the Calgary Flames. Sure, there was the under-sized Theoren Fleury and the scrappy Gary Roberts, but their linemate was just such a fun player to watch. Drafted out of Cornell University in 1985 – using a second round pick the team acquired for Kent Nilsson – Nieuwendyk won the Calder Trophy in 1987-88 and was one of the best players on a Flames team that won the Presidents’ Trophy.

He won the Stanley Cup in 1989 with the Flames. He scored 50 goals in each of his first two seasons, then 40 goals in his next two seasons. He was finesse personified. He made everything look easy and seemed like he was just having a great time on the ice. He was a good shot, a good passer, and seemed to think the game and visualize his choices on a higher level than most players could.

Nieuwendyk was traded in 1995 for Jarome Iginla (and Corey Millen). Even in his departure, Nieuwendyk kept contributing to the success of the team. And I guess Iginla turned out okay, too.

GREATEST MOMENT(S)

FLAMES MILESTONES

  • 10th in All-Time Flames Games Played (577)
  • 4th in All-Time Flames Points (616)
  • 3rd in All-Time Flames Goals (314)
  • 8th in All-Time Flames Assists (302)
  • Served as team captain from 1991-92 until his departure in 1995.
  • First (and only) player in franchise history to score five goals in a single game (January 11, 1989 vs. Winnipeg)

LEGACY

Joe Nieuwendyk was just a great player to watch. He was good at everything and didn’t have any holes in his game. He wasn’t a gigantic guy, but he held his own in the rough-and-tumble NHL of the late 1980s. And he was equally likely (and adept) at passing and shooting, which gave his opponents fits.

A case could be made for Joey Mullen, perhaps, but I think Joe Nieuwendyk was the best center in Calgary Flames history. He’s precisely what the Flames went mad looking for when they kept talking about “finding a center to play with Jarome Iginla.” Unfortunately for them, they only made one Joe Nieuwendyk.

  • piscera.infada

    17 seasons of 40 points or more. Quite a pro. Roberts 14 seasons of 40 or with the brand of hockey he played is also astonishing. Wow. Great memories.

  • Joe Flames

    Joe Nieuwendyk was awesome. Shooting % off the charts (I recall reading that stat in the midst of his rookie season was around 25% while I rode on a school bus in 1987 and wondering what the average was. Not that high).

    The end of his time in Calgary over a contract debate was a drag. But getting Iggy in return was pretty awesome.

    Joey Mullen was a career right winger (played RW to Gilmours centre with Colin Patterson on the LW), who I recall NEVER playing centre. Joey Mullen should be on this list. If there’s any room with Hunter and Pepper on the bench.

    Joey was also a killer roller hockey player.

    The second best Centre was one that many fans came to hate: Kent Nillson. Well, maybe top 5.

  • Joe Flames

    Hall of fame lacrosse talent too. Joe was an amazing athlete. What a crying shame they broke up that team after only one cup.

    BTW the next time a Vancouver fan starts talking trash about the flames, point them to their list of all time Canucks. While we haven’t finished reviewing our hall of fame players, they have already trotted out superstars like Alex Burrows.
    Alex Burrows!
    Seriously??

  • Joe Flames

    Hall of fame lacrosse talent too. Joe was an amazing athlete. What a crying shame they broke up that team after only one cup.

    BTW the next time a Vancouver fan starts talking trash about the flames, point them to their list of all time Canucks. While we haven’t finished reviewing our hall of fame players, they have already trotted out superstars like Alex Burrows.
    Alex Burrows!
    Seriously??

  • Joe Flames

    At least Joe never tied the organizations hands with trade hostage situations..

    For that Joe you leave iggy in the dust of this fans list of top Flames .. all time great and class act every damn step of the way which is more than I clean say for some captains

    • supra steve

      If I remember correctly, there was some tension in Joe’s later days in Calgary. He is still among the very best to ever wear the colors (as is Iggy), but he was not traded to Dallas because the Flames thought they were getting a franchise player in return. He was traded because he wanted more money and refused to play.

      Kinda sounds like a “trade hostage situation” to me.

      • supra steve

        Your memory is a foggy..those were the days when the Canadian franchises had to trade away (or sell, like Peter Puck in Edmonton) their star players because of escalating salaries in the NHL, a 65 cent Canadian dollar and they couldn’t afford to pay them all.

        Not a “trade hostage” situation at all.

        • supra steve

          From Wikipedia:

          “Nieuwendyk entered the 1995–96 season unhappy with his contract status. Unable to come to terms with the Flames, he had gone to arbitration, and was awarded a contract worth C$1.85 million, but insisted on renegotiating the deal into long-term contract extension.[24] He refused an offer of a three-year, $6 million contract from the Flames, and as the dispute dragged on, chose not to join the team when the season began.[25] He remained a hold out until December 19, 1995, when the Flames finally traded him to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Jarome Iginla and Corey Millen”

          Yes, the Canadian dollar was a big factor. But I still see it as more of a “trade hostage situation” than the Iggy situation. Iggy was traded before walking as a UFA, and did a bit of a dirty flipflop on his team of preference demand at the last minute. Joe refused to report on a valid contract because he wanted more money.

          My memory is getting more and more foggy, but more on what I had for supper last night than on Flame dealings from 20+ years ago.

  • Joe Flames

    The most complete center the Flames ever had. Gilmour would be number two. The most talented would be the enigma known as Kent Nilsson the Magic Man. There is a lot of Joe in young Mr Monahan; here’s hoping there is never the contract issue like we saw with Joe.

    If Monahan is Joe and Bennett is Gilmour we are well on the way to being solid down the middle. Johnny is somewhere between a Joey/Loob/Theo type. So a few more pieces that need to be developed. Can a Ferland or Poirier develop into a Roberts? If so things continue to get rosey.