Choosing the top five moments of the calendar year 2015 was significantly easier than it was 365 days later. That’s because 2015 included a Calgary Flames playoff appearance and some of the craziest moments related to the team in recent memory.
That doesn’t mean 2016 didn’t give us some fun moments, though. Much like we did a year ago, let’s countdown the top five Flames moments over the last 12 months.
5. Pounding Anaheim
Over the last number of years, the Anaheim Ducks have risen the ranks to become Calgary’s number one rival, at least in the opinion of this humble writer (2015 playoffs, the lovely Honda Center streak, etc). That’s why Dec. 4, 2016 was such a fun moment for so many Flames fans.
In the second period of a game tied at one, Calgary exploded for five goals in 6:04 to take a 6-1 lead into the third period; they’d eventually win by an 8-3 score. Now, the Ducks did a nice job avenging that loss earlier this week, but knowing how much of a thorn that team has been in the side of the Flames, that win was one of the best moments.
4. Hiller’s high mark
You’d think a game where the Flames surrendered a 4-1 lead to a division rival would be avoided in a countdown like this, but Feb. 11’s showdown with San Jose was a rather unique evening. What made that night even more stunning was the heroic performance of Jonas Hiller, because what the former Flames goalie did was pretty remarkable.
This was the night Calgary lost goaltender Karri Ramo for the remainder of the season after he suffered a catastrophic knee injury with three minutes remaining in the third period. To make matters worse, Ramo’s injury occurred right as the Flames were about to face a two-minute, two-man disadvantage. That’s where Hiller’s heroics began.
Hiller stopped all five third period shots he faced and three more in overtime as Calgary survived a furious Sharks push and eventually got the game to a shootout. What happened in that shootout? Well, Hiller stopped three of four shots and Jiri Hudler scored the winner as Calgary somehow prevailed 6-5. Yes, the next night Hiller and the Flames were shelled 4-1 by Arizona and their season never got back on track, but details aren’t important today.
3. Johnny signs
The summer of 2016 was an uneasy one for many Calgary Flames fans. Pending contract extensions for high profile free agents Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan still weren’t signed as August began, leaving many to wonder what was going on. Then, on Aug. 19, Monahan put pen to paper on a seven-year, $44.625 million extension, putting the spotlight firmly on Gaudreau.
Gaudreau’s negotiation turned ugly in a hurry and Calgary’s most important forward was still unsigned as the World Cup of Hockey started. Then Gaudreau missed training camp and the preseason. The realization had set in for many: Gaudreau was going to miss meaningful hockey in 2016-17. And then he signed.
I was having a nice little cat nap when Gaudreau scooped every hockey insider in the business by announcing on his own Twitter he had re-signed with the Flames. In the end, his six-year, $40.5 million deal worked as a nice compromise for both sides and did one thing above all else: allowed Flames fans to breathe easy and look forward to the coming season.
2. Goodbye Rexall
The Flames have beat up on the Edmonton Oilers in recent years, especially at the now-defunct Rexall Place. That was definitely the case on April 2nd of 2016 as Calgary made their final visit to Rexall without paying their respects. Mikael Backlund scored a shorthanded goal in the first period to start off a three-point game and Calgary hammered the Oilers 5-0 in a one-sided affair that didn’t pay tribute to the Battle of Alberta by any stretch of the imagination.
1. Bennett’s big night
Our number one moment came early in 2016 thanks to Sam Bennett. The Jan. 13 showdown between Calgary and Florida didn’t have a whole lot of intrigue heading into it, but by the time that night was done, all we could talk about was the former team’s 2014 first round pick. Bennett had the night of his career to date and it got going early on.
The first of Bennett’s four goals came less than a minute into the first period against Florida and the onslaught continued in the opening frame. Bennett scored three of his four goals that night in the first 17:01 but saved the best for last. Bennett’s fourth goal of the night came with 25 seconds remaining, but it might have been the nicest of the bunch.
Bennett still has a long way to go to become the franchise centre the Flames envisioned him to be when they took him fourth overall in June of 2014. That said, no one questions his offensive ability, and it sure was on display in our number one moment of 2016.