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.
#5 on our list is Joe Nieuwendyk.
Way, way back in 1985, the Flames’ first round pick was Chris Biotti, who signed and played three so-so seasons in the minors. Luckily, their second round selection, Nieuwendyk, was much more productive. A star with Colgate University, he went pro after his junior year and made a big impression in his rookie debut season of 1987-88.
Nieuwendyk was a scary productive goal-scorer. His first two seasons saw him score 51 goals. In each of them. And then he scored, in order, 45 goals, 45 goals, 22 goals, 38 goals, 36 goals and 21 goals. When 20+ goal seasons are considered a disappointment, you know you have a good player on your hands.
Big, smart and savvy, Nieuwendyk used his size and mobility to create space and score goals. His linemates frequently saw an uptick in their numbers because Joe seemed to have a gravity that drew defenders towards him (and opened up space for his teammates).
As with a lot of ’80s and early ’90s star Flames, Nieuwendyk’s time with the club came to an end due to economic factors. Nieuwendyk wanted a new deal and the Flames were unable to come to terms on a new pact. Thus, Nieuwendyk was shipped to Texas for workhorse winger Corey Millen and junior hockey star Jarome Iginla. The trade turned out alright for everybody.
Nieuwendyk wasn’t flashy. He didn’t have sweet dangles or score highlight reel goals. But man, he was just an exceptionally good hockey player. He played a lot, he played really well, and he scored a ton of goals. It’s a shame he had to leave due to business reasons, but at least he got a couple more Cups out of it (and the Flames got a decent player out of the trade, too).
He’s #5 on our all-time countdown.
Arrival: Selected in the second round, 27th overall, in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft (June 15, 1985)
Departure: Traded to Dallas for Corey Millen and Jarome Iginla (December 19, 1995)
Awards: 1989 Stanley Cup winner; 1987-88 Calder Trophy winner; 1994-95 King Clancy Memorial Trophy winner
Top 40 Calgary Flames: HM Martin Gelinas | HM Al Coates | HM Bob Johnson | HM Darryl Sutter | HM Cliff Fletcher | #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 | #12 Kent Nilsson | #11 Hakan Loob | #10 Lanny McDonald | #9 Johnny Gaudreau | #8 Gary Roberts | #7 Gary Suter | #6 Miikka Kiprusoff