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The 5 best Calgary Flames captains in franchise history

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Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
8 months ago
Throughout the history of the Calgary Flames franchise, dating back to the Atlanta days, many talented players have served as the club’s captain. But only a handful have truly excelled in the role, leading the team to success while enjoying it themselves.
Here’s our list of the five best captains in Flames franchise history, based on longevity, team success, and individual excellence.

5. Jim Peplinski

Peplinski served as co-captain between 1984 and 1989. (We’re not penalizing him for not being the team’s sole captain, as that’s a completely viable model.) The Flames had oodles of team success during this period, winning two Presidents’ Trophies, making two Stanley Cup Final runs, and winning it all in 1989.
Where Peplinski gets slightly dinged is the individual success. He was a great intangibles guy, didn’t mind fighting from time to time, and was a superb two-way forward who got Selke Trophy consideration for a few seasons, but he never had his true breakout season that made people go “Wow, Jim Peplinski is great!”
He was merely very, very good, which puts him here.

4. Joe Nieuwendyk

Nieuwendyk is almost the opposite of Peplinski, when you think about it.
The Flames were in their ’90s decline during Nieuwendyk’s captaincy (1991-95), and they missed the playoffs once and never made it out of the first round during his tenure. Not great.
But man, Nieuwendyk was great during that run. He won the King Clancy for his humanitarian work, but he also had a couple of 30+ goal seasons and was definitively the club’s best player during his captaincy.

3. Mark Giordano

Giordano had the unenviable task of inheriting the captaincy from Jarome Iginla. But he did a fantastic job. During his run (2013-21), the Flames were a semi-regular playoff team and won a round in 2015 – their overall playoff record was mixed. But Giordano was one of the best blueliners in the NHL during his captaincy, getting Norris Trophy votes in the first six seasons he was captain, culminating with a win in 2018-19. He also won the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2019-20.
Giordano was exactly the guy the Flames needed to have the captaincy post-Iginla, and his strong play really elevated the group when they needed him to.

2. Lanny McDonald

McDonald was co-captain between 1983 and 1989, and he’s probably prominent in the photos of most of the franchise’s best on-ice moments. He was co-captain for two Cup runs and two Presidents’ Trophy wins, and he was the team’s emotional leader during their 1989 Cup win.
McDonald won the King Clancy once and had a 30-goal season during his captaincy. His productivity declined during his tenure as captain, but he still was able to score key goals and battle hard during this run. Between his superb individual play, even in decline, and the excellent team results, he’s the runner-up.

1. Jarome Iginla

So here’s the logic behind Iginla ahead of McDonald: individual excellence. Yes, McDonald helped lead the Flames to two Cup Final appearances (and their only win). But Iginla was arguably the NHL’s best player during big chunks of his captaincy. There were periods where Iginla all but dragged the Flames to glory, including the 2004 Cup Final run.
Iginla was just a shade more important to the Flames’ success during his captaincy than McDonald was, so he gets top spot.
What do you think of the list? Who do you think the best Flames captain ever was? Let us know in the comments!

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