Who will be the next Calgary Flames player to have their number retired?

Photo credit:Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
4 months ago
On Saturday night, the Calgary Flames honoured the great Miikka Kiprusoff when they formally retired his number and raised a banner commemorating him to the rafters of the Scotiabank Saddledome.
It was a tremendous event.
But as the dust settles following the festivities, we can’t help but wonder: who’s next?
Before we get into the primary contenders, a handful of honourable mentions in four long-term Flames that just miss the cut in terms of being truly elite: Hakan Loob (#12), Kent Nilsson (#14), Theo Fleury (#14) and Robyn Regehr (#28). We’re allowed to disagree about a player’s worthiness for the franchise’s top honours; all four of these guys were great Flames, but fall just short of the combination of longevity or excellence needed to have their numbers honoured.
(A lot of fans don’t seem to love the Forever A Flame program, and we don’t disagree, but it would be nice if the new building had some way to honour these “near-elite” players, like how the Vancouver Canucks have their Ring of Honour.)
To us, there are two that jump out: Mark Giordano (#5) and Mikael Backlund (#11).

Mark Giordano

The second longest-serving captain in franchise history, behind only Jarome Iginla, and the only Norris Trophy winner in franchise history, Giordano has a fabulous career arc.
After going undrafted in both the OHL and NHL drafts, Giordano was originally signed prior to the 2004-05 lockout to a three-way contract – with different salaries at the NHL, AHL and ECHL levels – as minor league depth. He ended up working step-wise through every rung of the ladder on his way to NHL stardom.
He became a strong AHLer. He got a few NHL call-ups and looked strong in depth roles. He earned a regular NHL role on the Flames’ blueline. He bet on himself, spurning a two-way contract offer from the Flames and spending a year in the Russian Superleague (the precursor to the KHL) before returning to the club the following season (with the one-way contract he desired) and continuing his progression.
Traditionally, players see their game tail off a bit – or even just stop improving – after they turn 30. Add in the potential pressure of Giordano inheriting the captaincy from a departing Iginla just in time for a rebuild, and you would understand if Giordano’s game had taken a step back. But his game somehow found another level in his 30s, and he became known both as one of the game’s most respected leaders and one of its top defencemen.
By the time Giordano was claimed by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 expansion draft – he was left exposed so that the team could keep Chris Tanev, Rasmus Andersson and Noah Hanifin – Giordano was second in franchise history in games played, and had won the Norris Trophy, NHL Foundation Player Award, Mark Messier Leadership Award and Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award while representing the club.
Since his departure, nobody has worn #5.

Mikael Backlund

If you’ve read this site at all since we started in 2009, you’re probably aware that we think Mikael Backlund is quite good at hockey.
A first-round draft choice of the Flames way, way back in 2007, Backlund worked his way up the ladder in a similar manner as Giordano, though he made it to the NHL pretty early in his pro career and then had to carve out a niche for himself as a tough-minutes centre on the third and fourth lines.
While Giordano emerged as a “traditional” star, running the power play and generating goals and points, Backlund’s more of a modern analytical darling. Sure, he’s put up about a point every two games pretty consistently throughout his entire NHL career. But his true value to the Flames has been in the goals and points the other team didn’t score while he was on the ice. Over the past decade, when the other team’s stars have been on the ice, so has Backlund.
Backlund is currently the team’s captain, second all-time in games played, and a fixture in the community, recently being honoured by the NHL with the King Clancy Memorial Award for his humanitarian work. He’s under contract for two more seasons, and he’ll likely continue to bolster his resume before his career is done.
If you want to criticize Giordano or Backlund’s candidacies for the team’s lack of playoff success during their tenures – neither has gone on a long playoff run – that’s a fair criticism. But if you’re able to look past that, these two players are probably the most deserving and likely individuals to have their numbers retired in the foreseeable future.
Who do you think will be the next Flame to have their number retired? Let us know in the comments!
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