There have been many talented hockey players to suit up for the Calgary Flames franchise since it was established in Atlanta in 1972. By my count, it’s well over 500 in franchise history. Considering that several Hall of Fame players have had great years in Calgary (and Atlanta), let me lay down something that may be a controversial statement.
Kent Nilsson is the most talented player to ever wear a Flames jersey.
The Magic Man is the latest member of FlamesNation’s All-Time Flames Team.
A fourth round pick of the old Atlanta Flames way back in 1976, Kent Nilsson came to North America from Sweden and joined the WHA’s Winnipeg Jets for a couple seasons. When the WHA was swallowed up by the NHL following the 1978-79 season, Nilsson’s rights were reclaimed by the Flames as the Jets joined the NHL.
And thank goodness for that, because he was <expletive> good. He put up 40 goals and 93 points in Atlanta, then topped that with a 85-assist, 131 point season that still a Flames record. In fact, for context, he was third in league scoring (behind Wayne Gretzky and Marcel Dionne), was in on nearly 40% of Calgary’s goals, and his record points total is TWENTY-ONE POINTS more than anybody else in franchise history has ever gotten. There were years during the Young Guns era when entire lines couldn’t get 131 points.
Nilsson spent six seasons in Calgary, and scored more than a point-per-game in every single one of them. Near the end of his tenure, the wear and tear of his bat-out-of-hell offensive style started to catch up with him. Rather than wait until the bloom was off the rose, Flames GM “Trader” Cliff Fletcher flipped him to Minnesota for a pair of draft picks. One became perfectly serviceable NHLer Stephane Matteau. The other was Joe Nieuwendyk.
- Single-season record-holder for most points by a Flames player (131; 1980-81)
- Single-season record-holder for most assists by a Flames player (82; 1980-81)
- 6th in All-Time Flames Points (562)
- 5th in All-Time Flames Goals (229)
- 7th in All-Time Flames Assists (333)
- Tied for franchise record for most hat-tricks by a Flame (13)
Kent Nilsson was a super-skilled Swede with a sweet mustache and some of the sickest hands in hockey. He hasn’t been a Flame for 30 years, and he still holds a bunch of records that not even Jarome Iginla could touch. In addition to being super awesome at the ice hockey, Nilsson began a chain of trades that turned him into Joe Nieuwendyk, then Nieuwendyk into Jarome Iginla, then Iginla into what’s presently Kenny Agostino and Morgan Klimchuk.
So not only was he a supremely talented hockey player, Kent Nilsson is also the gift that keeps on giving.
It’s almost enough to make up for him playing 23 games for the dastardly Edmonton Oilers. Almost.