Way, way back in 2004, the Calgary Flames very nearly won the Stanley Cup. One of the reasons they didn’t, perhaps the biggest one, is that they ran out of human beings who knew how to play their system – without an American Hockey League farm team, they used ECHL product Brennan Evans in the conference final because there was nobody else.
Two weeks after the Cup Final loss, then-general manager Darryl Sutter reached a deal with the Carolina Hurricanes to place a few players (and assistant coach Scott Allen) with the Lowell Lock Monsters of the AHL for the 2004-05 season.
The Flames already had a few players under contract to place in the minors – Brent Krahn, Chuck Kobasew, Mike Commodore, Lynn Loyns and Craig MacDonald spent most of the 2004-05 campaign in Lowell – but Sutter went out to sign seven more players to fill holes in the system.
On July 6, 2004, Sutter signed seven players: Dustin Johner, Justin Taylor, Mark Giordano, Patrik Nilson, Richie Regehr, Carsen Germyn and Davin Heintz. With Giordano being claimed last month by the Seattle Kraken in expansion, the final member of the Lowell seven has finally left the organization. (He’s the only one still around playing pro hockey of any kind at any level.)
Here’s a quick look back at the illustrious Lowell seven:
Right wing Johner, then 20, was a 2001 sixth round pick of the Florida Panthers who went unsigned. The Flames signed him coming off his overage season with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds. Johner split the 2004-05 season between Lowell and the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers. He was traded the following season to Florida as part of a package (with the late Steve Montador) that landed the Flames Kristian Huselius. He headed to Europe in 2007 and put together a 12 year European career that saw him make stops in Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Germany and England. He retired after the 2018-19 season.
Taylor, then 21, was an undrafted centre who split his junior career between the WHL (Medicine Hat and Red Deer) and the AJHL (Sherwood Park and Camrose). He played three seasons in the Flames farm system, with his North American peak being a 16 goal, 35 point 2005-06 season for Omaha. But he bounced around the minors after leaving the Flames organization – he played for nine teams over three seasons – and then he, too, headed to Europe. He retired following the 2015-16 season.
Germyn, then 22, was another forward who was a WHL product. He had spent five seasons split between Kelowna and Red Deer. He went pro in 2003-04 with the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals. He ended up finding a niche with the Flames as a rough-and-tumble depth forward in their system, playing six seasons on the farm and playing four NHL games in that span. He played five seasons in Europe before retiring in 2015.
Heintz, then 21, was a winger signed for his size coming off five seasons in the WHL with Saskatoon and Swift Current. But he didn’t end up getting a roster spot in the AHL and he spent most of his time in senior men’s hockey in Saskatchewan. He retired in 2018 having never played a high-level pro game.
Winger Nilson, then 23, was Marcus’ little brother and had spent a season in the Central Hockey League. He spent all of 2004-05 in the ECHL and then he returned to Europe. He played four more seasons and then retired in 2009.
Defenseman Regehr, then 21, was Robyn’s little brother and was going pro after playing in the WHL with Kelowna and Portland. He turned out to be a great AHLer and earned 20 NHL appearances during his second and third seasons under contract, but he had concussion issues and ended up not being retained beyond that. He ended up going to Europe and carving out a really nice career for himself in Germany, Sweden and Austria before retiring in 2018.
Defenseman Giordano, then 20, was signed out of the OHL and had signed up for university classes at York before the Flames cajoled him into putting those plans on the back-burner. As far as we know, they’re still on the back-burner. Aside from a year-long trip to Russia to play for Dynamo Moscow in the old Superleague, Giordano played in the Flames organization for 17 years before being claimed in expansion by the Kraken.
Giordano was easily the best player of the seven they signed in July 2004. But Germyn and Regehr were both very useful minor leaguers – and players that could be used in the NHL in a pinch – and Johner at least turned into a tradable asset. Considering the Flames received all seven of these players for absolutely nothing – aside from their scouts’ time and effort – the fact that they got so many NHL games out of them is pretty remarkable.