This coming May is the 40th anniversary of the Atlanta Flames moving to Calgary. To commemorate this occasion, we’re counting down the Top 40 Calgary Flames in history.
#12 on our countdown is Kent Nilsson.
In the history of the Flames franchise, there may not be a more offensively talented player than Nilsson. Originally drafted by Atlanta in the NHL, he played for the WHA’s Winnipeg Jets and the Flames cemented his rights when the WHA merged into the NHL in 1979. It turned out to be a very smart decision.
In the history of the Flames, Nilsson has two of the top five offensive seasons. He set the club single season record in 1980-81 with 131 points and 82 assists – he was third in the NHL in points that season behind Wayne Gretzky and Marcel Dionne. He also subsequently had seasons of 104 and 99 points. In Calgary history, here are only 22 seasons of 90+ points: only Nilsson, Joe Nieuwendyk, Al MacInnis, Theo Fleury and Jarome Iginla have more than one.
That said, Nilsson’s nickname of “the Magic Man” was both complimentary and sarcastic. Dazzling with the puck and in the offensive zone, Nilsson often forgot that there are three zones on a hockey rink. The joking magical moniker referred to his tendency to disappear in the defensive zone at times. In his final season in Calgary, Nilsson had 99 points; he was also minus-4, and somehow he’s a career minus-31 wearing a Flaming C despite scoring well over 400 points.
Nilsson wasn’t perfect, but when he was engaged he was absolutely dazzling. He never had a season with the Flames where he was below a point per game and he received consideration for both the Hart and the Lady Byng during his tenure. He was a terrifically talented, frustratingly flawed hockey player.
He’s #12 on our list.
Arrival: Selected by Atlanta in the fourth round, 64th overall, in 1976 NHL Entry Draft (1976); rights reclaimed by Atlanta from Winnipeg in 1979 NHL Expansion Draft (June 9, 1979); relocated to Calgary with franchise (May 21, 1980)
Departure: Traded with 1986 third round pick to Minnesota for 1985 second round pick (Joe Nieuwendyk) and 1986 second round pick (Stephane Matteau) (June 15, 1985)
Top 40 Calgary Flames: HM Martin Gelinas | #40 Brad Marsh | #39 Matt Stajan | #38 Jiri Hudler | #37 Dion Phaneuf | #36 Guy Chouinard | #35 Phil Housley | #34 Matthew Tkachuk | #33 Cory Stillman | #32 Curtis Glencross | #31 Jamie Macoun | #30 Carey Wilson | #29 Reggie Lemelin | #28 TJ Brodie | #27 Alex Tanguay | #26 Daymond Langkow | #25 Sergei Makarov | #24 Craig Conroy | #23 Robert Reichel | #22 Paul Reinhart | #21 Doug Gilmour | #20 Mikael Backlund | #19 Jim Peplinski | #18 Joel Otto | #17 Tim Hunter | #16 Joe Mullen | #15 Sean Monahan | #14 Robyn Regehr | #13 Mike Vernon