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.
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.
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.