FlamesNation’s All-Time Greatest Flames Team

For the past month we’ve been profiling the best and brightest of the history of the Calgary Flames franchise. Now? It’s time to see how the All-Time Greatest Flames Team fits together.

OFF-ICE PERSONNEL

General Manager: Cliff Fletcher

Head Coach: Bob Johnson

Assistant Coaches: Darryl Sutter, Terry Crisp and Dave King

Trainer: Jim “Bearcat” Murray

Mascot: Harvey the Hound

The general manager’s spot was a no-brainer: “Trader Cliff” grew the Flames from an expansion club in Georgia into one of the powerhouse teams of the 1980s. If we had to pick an assistant GM, I’d probably go with Al Coates, who I always felt was an underrated manager.

On the bench, it was tough, but we went with “Badger” Bob Johnson. The decision-maker for me was the concept of who elevated their talent more. Sutter got a below-average team to the finals once and Dave King made his team continually good (despite budget pressures dragging the talent-level down). Now, Crisp won a Stanley Cup while Johnson got a slightly worse team to the Cup Final – and had to get through Gretzky’s Oilers in the process.

FORWARDS

Kent NilssonJoe NieuwendykJarome Iginla (captain)

Theoren FleuryDoug GilmourJoey Mullen

Hakan LoobJoel OttoGary Roberts

Lanny McDonald (alternate captain) – Craig ConroyTim Hunter

Robert Reichel / Jim Peplinski

DEFENSEMEN

Al MacInnis (alternate captain) – Gary Suter

Mark GiordanoPaul Reinhart

Robyn RegehrJamie Macoun

Dion Phaneuf

GOALTENDERS

Miikka Kiprusoff

Mike Vernon

THE BREAKDOWN

Our main aim here was to put together a coherent 23-man roster, not to necessarily grab the 12 best forwards or 7 best defenders. I’m a big fan of the top nine, and we’re entirely aware that we have created a first line that was more or less traded for each other during the course of their careers. The second line has speed on the wings and pure mean-ness up the middle, while the third line is a nice combination of size and talent. Admittedly, McDonald doesn’t fit great on the fourth line, but that’s more a function of having him around for the power-play than anything else. As for the extras: Reichel slots in for a top nine injury, while Peplinski jumps in on the fourth line.

On the blueline, things are a bit simpler: two pairs of good puck-movers, and a good shut-down pairing in Macoun and Regehr. Phaneuf can slot in wherever without making a big fuss, but he’s just not quite well-rounded enough to oust any of the six “regular” defenders. Kiprusoff and Vernon are no-brainers as goalies, especially given Vernon began and ended his career as a back-up for the Calgary Flames.

As for players who almost made it (but not quite): Guy Chouinard is eighth in all-time scoring and isn’t on the team. Eric Vail, Willi Plett and Tom Lysiak also didn’t make it. A lot of that could be a bit of age-group bias – the majority of us grew up watching the ’80s and ’90s-era Flames, so few of us saw those guys play. But honestly, I think the main factor was that the longer-term Flames were around long enough to really establish roles for themselves – Chouinard and Lysiak couldn’t bump Nieuwendyk, Gilmour or Otto up the middle, and the wings were pretty stacked, so where do you put them?

It’s probably too early for T.J. Brodie to be on this team, but he’s really closed the gap between him and the lower-end all-time greats. And finally, it was between Phaneuf and Phil Housley for me in terms of the seventh defender. In terms of his performance as a Flame, Dion edges out Housley ever-so-slightly.

  • Captain Ron

    Great job with this series. I really enjoyed the player profiles, and it helped fill the commentary gap during the off-season.

    I only hope that a few more of the current roster can make this list in the near future.

  • RexLibris

    Always interesting to look back on the history of a franchise’s greatest players.

    (Unless that franchise is the Minnesota Wild)

    It forces one to look at what player was the best at a given position/role over the course of several decades.

  • Burnward

    Completely off of this topic; just read on the Flames site that Gilles is out with a suspected concussion. Ferland played with Johnny and Monny, Frolik with Bouma and Backs and Raymond with Bennett and Hudler. Did anyone see the scrimmages and is willing to share?

  • KACaribou

    This would be a great team of course, but the obvious flaw to me is picking Iggy over Lanny as Captain. I just can’t see that actually happening if this were a real team where everyone was in their prime.

    Iggy would get an A, and I think in a very short time Gio has proven he also deserves one.

    A few comments otherwise:

    • I would love to see how many goals Niewy and Iggy would have with The Magic Man setting them up. Wow.

    • Gio/Paul Reinhart, would have loved to see this pairing. Nicely done.

    • Kipper likely the better goalie, but I think come playoff time Badger would have a hard time getting Vernie out of the net.

    • Grit on every line, but I could see Lanny moving into Theo’s place on occasion to take care of the rough stuff. Theo/Killer/Mullen a very very small line.

    • Don’t agree with all your picks but it was fun bringing back the greats into people’s memory.

    • I also take note that with everyone talking about retiring #14 on the Flames, that #14 Nilsson is on the top line ahead of #14 Fleury. Might be time to retire 14 in honour of both great Flames!

  • al rain

    If you’re talking about the best Flames at their position the choice of Phaneuf is shakey at best, some would say grossly misguided.

    If you’re building an actual BEST TEAM then Neon Dion has no place on it. Full stop.

  • Burnward

    Roberts-Nieuwy-Fleury
    Mullen-Conroy-Iginla
    Reichel-Nilsson-Loob
    Peplinski-Otto-Lanny

    Yelle (Flame Away but this team needs more grit), Chouinard

    MacInnis/Suter
    Gio/Reinhart
    Regehr/Macoun

    McCrimmon

    Kipper
    Vernon

    PTO’s to Dion, JBO, Gilmour and Housley

      • KACaribou

        Of course not, just that Gilmour was hardly a Calgary Flame having played only 266gms for us. He’s a Leaf/Blue.

        Number of games must count or Brett Hull would be on the list. I don’t know exactly where the line should land, but it’s certainly more than Hull’s 57 games. I’d argue it is more than Gilmours 266.

        Maybe 300 is my minimum, not sure. Almost everyone on the “team” played over 400gms with a few being between 300 and 400. Gimour isn’t even top 50 in GP.

        • KACaribou

          Fair point, but I think of Killer as a Flame and he contributed greatly to our Stanley Cup win.

          He became a star with the Blues, but got into some trouble involving accusations by his 13 year old babysitter and had to be shipped out of St. Louis. The Grand Jury dismissed the allegations, and Calgary was the beneficiary.

          I think his prime years were as a Flame, though he did have some big seasons in Toronto I think that also became the winding-down part of his career. Of course Toronto is often a player’s black-hole.

          Talent-wise 88/89 may not have been the Flames best team, but chemistry has so much to do with a champion. That’s what advanced stats can never formulate.

  • KACaribou

    McCrimmon only played 233 games… I thought it was more, so he’s out. Housley maybe takes his place, but boy would we have soft “D”

    You know who has the same number of games as Gilmour? – Brodie. That’s how little Dougie was a Flame.

    • KACaribou

      I think it is easy to forget that what we wanted and expected from a D-man was so different from what we want and expect in 2015. Giant, clutching and grabbing, power-hitting D who could fight were very important then and can’t find a job now.