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.
Coming in at #18 is Joel Otto.
A product of Bemijdi State University in Minnesota, Otto was a rock-solid two-way center who spent most of his career battling Mark Messier in some way or another. He was signed as a college free agent after going undrafted. He split the 1984-85 season between the Flames and the Moncton Golden Flames, then spent the next decade as the team’s most trusted tough minutes center.
Otto wasn’t known for eye-popping offensive totals – his career high was 25 goals and 59 points as a rookie – and he never finished higher than sixth on the team in points, usually ranking ninth or 10th. But his style was to use his smarts and big frame to steer players away from the front of the net. Sometimes they needed some convincing, and he was fine with physically engaging to keep the net-front clear, too.
In 10 full seasons, he appeared on PHWA awards ballots in eight of them. He was a Calder contender as a rookie (finishing eighth), and he received Selke votes on seven occasions, finishing third in voting twice. He developed a reputation as a damn good two-way center and one of the better face-off men in the NHL. He left as a free agent in the summer of 1995.
Otto was pretty significant for the Flames. In addition to his role as Messier’s prime nemesis during many Battles of Alberta, he’s all over the franchise leaderboard: sixth in games played, 11th in goals, 11th in points and fourth in penalty minutes. He’s basically a beefier, Minnesotan version of Jim Peplinski with slightly better offensive numbers and more Selke votes – he was just as important to the team’s success as Peplinski was.
Otto is #18 on our list.
Arrival: Signed as a free agent (September 11, 1984)
Departure: Signed with Philadelphia as a free agent (July 31, 1995)
Awards: 1989 Stanley Cup winner