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.
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.
- 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)
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.