Building an all-time Calgary Flames team with one player from each letter of the alphabet

The Calgary Flames franchise has had some incredible players play for them over the years since coming to Calgary in 1980. They boast a strong group and mix of talent throughout their years. From Al MacInnis to Jarome Iginla to Mark Giordano the Flames have had some great players throughout each era.

This got me thinking, what would the Flames all time roster look like? This has of course been done many times however, so we thought we’d introduce an interesting variant. What if you had to construct an all time Flames roster using only one player from each letter of the alphabet? In other words, create the best possible team featuring 26 players, but only one for each letter of the alphabet.

Let’s lay out the rules

  1. The roster will be constructed of 24 players as there are no options for U and X (14 forwards, seven defencemen, three goalies).
  2. The 14 forward spots can be filled by forwards of any position (RW, LW, C) with the only rule being there must be at least four centres on the roster.
  3. The seven defencemen can have any handedness with no limits on RD or LD.
  4. Each letter must be represented once and only once (based on last names)
  5. The players will be selected based on their accomplishments with the Flames and not their overall careers.
  6. This is for Calgary Flames players only, no Atlanta Flames players.

A

The pick: Rasmus Andersson

Honorable Mentions: Tony Amonte, Adrian Aucoin

We don’t have many great options to start us off. Adrian Aucoin, who spent two seasons with the Flames, was in consideration. He put up 69 points in 157 games on defence.

The more exciting option is newcomer Andersson. He’s had a solid start to his Flames career so far although his point totals are a bit behind Aucoin notching 41 points in 160 games. He has already started playing top-four minutes for the team though and no offence to Aucoin, but he also clearly possesses more skill already in his young career. Andersson is the pick here.

B

The pick: Mikael Backlund

Honorable Mentions: T.J. Brodie, Jay Bouwmeester

We are only on our second letter and we’ve already got some interesting debates. Brodie and Backlund seem to be the favourites for the spot. Bouwmeester had some solid years for the team however he was only with them for four years, so he was eliminated.

Brodie was a staple on the Flames’ defence playing in 634 games with the team and racking up 266 points. He was a key piece for the Flames on defence for the better part of a decade.

Backlund has also been a mainstay on the Flames over the past decade. He has played in parts of 12 seasons so far for the team getting into 690 games and scoring 365 points. He’s been a key piece for the Flames establishing himself as one of the better two-way centres in the league. He also scored one of the bigger Flames goals in recent memory in the 2014-15 playoffs.

Brodie had some great years for the Flames but given the competition at defence on the roster and Backlund’s consistency over his career so far, he gets the nod.

C

The pick: Craig Conroy

Honorable Mentions: Mike Cammalleri

Craig Conroy is the clear pick here due to his accomplishments with the team and the fact there aren’t many other options. Sure, Cammalleri had some solid years in Calgary during two different spells notching 178 points in 216 games, but Conroy was the better player and accomplished much more with the team.

Conroy played nine total seasons in Calgary amassing 307 points in 508 games. He established himself as the Flames #1 centre when he first joined the team forming a strong duo with Jarome Iginla. He was even named the Flames captain for 2 seasons before Iginla took over. He was also named a finalist for the Selke in his first full season with the Flames in 2001-02.

He was an integral part of the 2003-04 cinderella team that made the Stanley Cup Final, and finished second on the team in points during the playoffs that year. He will provide the all-time team with depth down the middle.

D

The pick: Shean Donovan

There were extremely slim pickings here. Donovan leads the group in games played and points, so he gets the spot. He played in 175 games with the Flames tallying 65 points. The next closest would be Chris Dahlquist who had 22 points in 151 games played. Yikes. Moving on.

E

The pick: Kari Eloranta

Honorable Mention: Derek Engelland

Similar to “D”, the options were pretty limited here. It pretty much came down to Eloranta or Engelland, and that’s it. Eloranta was signed by the Flames in 1981 and played parts of five seasons with the team throughout the 80s before leaving for Europe. Engelland played for the Flames for three seasons in a depth role, although he did step up in and played well in 2014-15 when Giordano went down with an injury.

Despite not fighting two Canucks at once, Eloranta gets the nod as he had more games played, 255 vs. 226, and more points 108 vs. 39, than Engelland.

F

The pick: Theoren Fleury

Honorable Mentions: Michael Frolik

The easiest pick so far. Fleury is one of the greatest Flames of all time, perhaps behind only Iginla. He played 791 games with the Flames over 11 seasons racking up 830 points. He sits second on the franchise’s all time list for points and goals, as well as third for assists and fifth for games played. He was the Flames captain for two years.

He was part of the teams only championship roster to date in 1988-89 playing in all 22 games in the playoffs. He also finished top five in Hart Trophy voting twice while in Calgary. He is without a doubt one of the most iconic Flames players of all time.

He also scored perhaps the most famous Flames goal in history in overtime of Game 6 against the Oilers in 1991.

G

The pick: Mark Giordano

Honorable Mentions: Doug Gilmour, Johnny Gaudreau.

This was one of the toughest picks to make. All three of Giordano, Gilmour, and Gaudreau have strong cases. Gilmour was a key part of the 1989 championship roster. Overall, he played 266 games with the Flames over four seasons putting up an impressive 295 points.

Gaudreau is one of the most skilled Flames players of all time already in his young career. He currently sits with 445 points in 464 games played with the team which places him tied for 10th in Flames history at just 27 years old.

Despite his lack of playoff success compared to Gilmour, Giordano was my pick because he sits second in games played for the franchise behind only Iginla, and third for points by a defenseman. He’s also the second longest serving captain in franchise history behind only Iginla. He won the Norris trophy in 2018-19 and the Messier leadership award in 2019-20.

Giordano has also done a ton of work in the Calgary community winning the NHL foundation Player Award, as well as the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award. Giordano is a Flames legend and the only thing he is missing is a Cup.

H

The pick: Tim Hunter

Honorable Mentions: Phil Housley, Kristian Huselius

There were some solid picks for “H”. Housley had some great years with the team putting up an impressive 238 points in 328 games on defence. Meanwhile, Huselius is one of the more underrated players in Flames history; he stands with 182 points in 216 games played with the team.

In the end though, Hunter’s total games played with the team as well as being a part of the 1989 cup team is why I picked him. He also served as part-time captain that year, showing his leadership abilities.

Hunter suited up for 545 games over 11 seasons with the Flames adding 108 points. He was considered one of the elite enforcers in the league during the 80s and 90s when enforcers were a big part of the game. He currently holds the Flames record for most career penalty minutes (2,405), most penalty minutes in a season (375) and most penalty minutes in a playoff year (108).

I

The pick: Jarome Iginla

The easiest pick I’ll have. Iginla is without question the greatest Calgary Flame of all time. When you think of the Calgary Flames you think of Iginla. The numbers speak for themselves. He sits first in Flames history for points (1095), goals (525), PPG (161), and games played (1,219), as well as second in assists (570). He also served as the team’s captain for nine seasons. He was the face of the franchise and unquestioned leader of the Flames for nearly his entire time in Calgary.

He won the Messier Leadership award in 2008-09, the Lester B. Pearson in 2001-02, the Rocket Richard twice in 2001-02 and 2003-04, and the Art Ross in 2001-02. He also should’ve won the Hart in 2001-02 but we won’t get into that right now. He was rightly a first ballot hall of famer in 2020.

Simply put, Iginla is the greatest player to ever play for the Flames and the only thing missing from his resume is a Stanley Cup which, like the Hart, he should’ve won (it was in). He will also serve as the captain for this roster.

J

The pick: Olli Jokinen

The options were slim here. The only two notable players under “J” were Olli Jokinen and Mark Jankowski. Jankowski was a fringe fourth line centre during his time in Calgary so the nod will go to Jokinen.

Jokinen was much maligned during his time in Calgary, but he put up some okay numbers as the Flames #1 centre. He had 165 points in 236 games with the team during two different stretches. That’s enough to beat out Jankowski and earn the spot.

K

The pick: Miikka Kiprusoff

Like the Iginla pick, this was a no brainer. Kiprusoff is the Flames’ best goaltender of all time. Besides Iginla, Kiprusoff was the Flames’ most important player during his time with the team. He leads the franchise in all time wins (305), shutouts (41) and games played by a goalie (576). He also set the modern NHL record for lowest GAA in a playoff during the Flames cup run in 2003-04 in which he was instrumental.

During his time in Calgary he won the Vezina and William M. Jennings both in 2005-06. He posted seasons with over 40 wins three times in Calgary and played over 70 games in seven of his nine seasons with the team.

Kiprusoff is not only the Flames’ best goalie of all time but also one of their best players of all time, period. He earns his rightful spot as the starter for the all-time team.

L

The pick: Hakan Loob

Honorable Mentions: Daymond Langkow

Both Loob and Langkow left their mark on the franchise and deserve consideration for this spot.

Langkow put up 288 points in 392 games with the Flames over six seasons and was a core piece in the Flames top-six during his time on the team. He formed a solid duo with Iginla in Calgary and put up a career high 77 points in 2006-07.

Loob had the better career though. He put up a very impressive 429 points in 450 games with the Flames and was a key part of the 1989 team with 17 points in 22 games during the playoffs. He was also the first, and still the only, Swedish player to score 50 goals in a season. Given his resume including a Stanley Cup, Loob is the pick.

M

The pick: Al MacInnis

Honorable Mentions: Lanny McDonald, Sean Monahan, Joe Mullen, Sergi Makarov, Jamie Macoun

“M” is definitely the most stacked list of any letter and presents the toughest decision. MacInnis and McDonald are both Flames legends while Monahan, Mullen, Makarov, and Macoun all have had very impressive careers in their own right. In the end though, it comes down to MacInnis or McDonald. Both players are considered among the greatest Flames of all time, and both have their numbers in the Saddledome rafters.

As hard as it is to cut McDonald who captained the only cup winning team in franchise history and is a Flames icon, MacInnis had the more impressive stretch with the Flames. MacInnis’ numbers in Calgary are absurd. Over 803 games he put up 822 points which places him third all time in franchise history behind only Fleury and Iginla. His 609 assists are the most in franchise history.

MacInnis won the Conn Smythe in 1989 which shows just how crucial he was to the franchise’s only Stanley Cup. He was also a Norris trophy finalist four times in his 13 seasons in Calgary and is in the HHOF. MacInnis is the best Flames defenceman of all time and will be the teams #1 defenceman.

N

The pick: Joe Nieuwendyk

Honorable Mentions: Kent Nilsson

After M, “N” is probably the hardest choice, albeit with fewer options. Both Nieuwendyk and Nilsson had great careers with the Flames. Nilsson put up a huge 562 points in just 452 games for the team. Nieuwendyk on the other hand had 616 points in 577 games with Calgary and helped them win the cup in 1989. This was a close call as both players put up big numbers with the Flames.

Given he has the better numbers and was an important part of the cup winning team, I have to give this spot to Nieuwendyk. Drafted in the second round by the Flames in 1985 he played nine seasons for the team, winning the Calder trophy in 1987-88. Nieuwendyk also served as the teams captain for four years in the early 90’s. He was inducted into the HHOF in 2011.

Nieuwendyk is probably the best centre in Flames history and will get the #1 centre spot on the roster.

O

The pick: Joel Otto

There was only one name under consideration here as the pickings were slim. Joel Otto is the only choice.

Otto sits sixth in franchise history for games played with 730. He put up 424 points during that time and was part of the 1989 cup winning team (are you noticing a trend here?). Otto didn’t put up huge numbers but was a very solid defensive forward throughout his career. He received Selke votes seven times during his time with the Flames finishing as a finalist twice. As dependable as they come, Otto is the easy choice here.

P

The pick: Dion Phaneuf

Honorable Mentions: Jim Peplinski

We had two interesting options here. Peplinksi and Phaneuf were both good players for the Flames, although Phaneuf has the more impressive point totals with 228 points in 378 games with the team. Peplinksi had a longer tenure playing his entire 711 game career with the team and netting 424 points. Stop me if you’ve heard this before but Peplinski was also part of the 1989 cup team.

Although Phaneuf’s time in Calgary was much shorter and he obviously didn’t have the same playoff success, he had some very impressive years in Calgary. Peplinski was more of a depth player and not much more. Phaneuf is the pick for these reasons.

Q

The pick: Dan Quinn

Pretty easy pick with this one as the only other option was Alan Quine and his six career points. Quinn played seasons seasons with the Flames after being drafted in the first round in 1983. He actually had some really solid numbers too with 191 points in 222 games.

R

The pick: Gary Roberts

Honorable Mentions: Robyn Regehr, Paul Reinhart, Robert Reichel

This was a really tough one, all had impressive runs with the Flames.

Roberts, Reinhart and Reichel put up some big numbers with the team. Roberts had 505 points in 585 games, Reinhart had 445 points in 517 games, and Reichel had 354 points in 425 games. Regehr, on the other hand, was a physical force and mainstay on the Flames defence for a decade suiting up for the third most games in Flames history. Roberts, however, was the only one of the four who was part of the cup winning team in 1989. He also has the second most goals in a season in Flames history with 53 in 1991-92.

I debated for awhile between Roberts and Regehr, but in the end, Roberts’ impressive numbers and his role on the 1989 team swayed me to pick him. This was neck and neck though and could go either way depending on the person picking. Regehr’s position definitely played a role in the decision.

S

The Pick: Gary Suter

Honorable Mentions: Matt Stajan, Cory Stillman, Cory Sarich

This one was an easy choice. There were some decent options, but Suter is a pretty clear level above the rest. Stajan, Stillman, and Sarich had their moments and served the team well, but they don’t have the numbers or accomplishments anywhere close to Suter’s.

Suter tallied 564 points in 617 games with Calgary. Those totals put him fifth on the Flames all-time list, and second among defenceman. He was also apart of the 1989 team although he only got into five playoff games that year due to injury.

He is no doubt one of the top three Flames defenceman of all time along with MacInnis and Giordano and is the obvious pick here.

T

The pick: Matthew Tkachuk

Honorable Mentions: Alex Tanguay

This was an interesting one. Tanguay and Tkachuk have very similar numbers with the Flames. Tanguay put up 284 points in 342 games during two different stints with the team. Tkachuk currently sits at 235 points in 293 games.

Tanguay was a very good player in his prime especially in the 2006-07 season when he put up 81 points in 81 games. However, I have to give this spot to Tkachuk. He is already the face of the team and one of its key leaders in only his fifth season. He’s gotten under the skin of just about every team in the league and is the very rare mix of pest and super talented player.

Tkachuk will only continue to get better and is a shoe-in to be the Flames’ next captain at this point. Tkachuk gets the nod and will be the youngest player on the team.

V

The pick: Mike Vernon

Vernon is the obvious choice here. Not only is he one of the Flames’ best goalies of all time, there isn’t anyone else even worth consideration under “V”. Vernon sits second in all time wins (262) and games played (527) with the Flames and third in shutouts (13).

For Vernon though, it’s his playoff accomplishments that make him a true Flames legend. He sits first for playoff wins (43) and games played (81) almost doubling up the next best in Kiprusoff. Of course, he was the Flames starting goaltender during the 1988-89 season backstopping the team to their Cup win. He also finished as the Vezina runner up that year.

Vernon will provide the team with a rock-solid one-two punch with Kiprusoff.

W

The pick: Rick Wamsley

Honorable Mention: Dennis Wideman, Carey Wilson

Carey Wilson should be the pick here as he had the best career with the Flames of the options available, but I needed a third goalie. There weren’t any other options that made sense to replace with one so this was the letter I chose to fill the spot. Wamsley played 111 games with the team getting 53 wins. Third goalie type numbers. Also, we don’t want the refs to hate our all-time team so no Dennis Wideman.

Y

The pick: Stephan Yelle

As expected, there were barely any options for “Y”. It was between Yelle and Trent Yawney. Yelle had more games played, 339 vs. 247 and more points, 96 vs. 65 so he is the pick. Not much else to explain here. Yelle was also a key two-way and faceoff man for the Flames in the 2004 run, which doesn’t hurt his case.

Z

The pick: Zarley Zalapski

Once again there were really no other options here. Zalapski gets in as he had the most games played with 178 and most points with 76 of anyone available. Also, he has the best name of any player in Flames history, in my opinion.

Building The Lineup

Forwards

Gary RobertsJoe NieuwendykJarome Iginla (C)
Hakan LoobCraig ConroyTheoren Fleury
Matthew TkachukJoel OttoTim Hunter
Olli JokinenMikael BacklundDan Quinn
Shean DonovanStephan Yelle

I tried to keep players in their natural positions as much as possible but had to move some players around to fill out the lineup. Loob shifts from RW to LW to stay in the top-six.

In the bottom-six, Jokinen and Quinn are both natural centres but I preferred to move them onto the wing to keep them in the lineup as Donovan and Yelle are both inferior players.

The first line was easy to make; just slot in the best options at LW, C, and RW and you’ve got a deadly line. Roberts and Iginla were both elite power forwards with skill to match. Nieuwendyk was an elite playmaker who could rack up goals as well, plus he could throw his weight around too. All three players are top 70 all time in goals; they would score at will against any opponent.

The second line features less physicality and more pure speed and skill on the wings. Both Fleury and Loob were supremely talented players who lacked size but made up for it in skill. Having them flying up and down the wing would be a nightmare for opposing defenders. Add in the steady and dependable Conroy at centre and the Flames have a very balanced and talented second line.

The third line is your shutdown defensive line. Otto and Hunter were both very solid defensive players who could grind out the other team on a nightly basis. Tkachuk plays a similar style of game but with a ton of skill as well which makes him a perfect addition to this line. This line would be a massive headache to play against. All three guys are experts at pissing off opposing teams. Just imagine this line in the battle of Alberta.

The fourth lines brings a good mix of everything. Quinn and Jokinen were decent offensive players while Backlund is a perfect fit in a defensive fourth line centre role for the team.

Defense

Gary SuterAl Macinnis (A)
Mark Giordano (A)Dion Phaneuf
Kari ElorantaRasmus Andersson
Zarley Zalapski

On defence it was straightforward. The only defenceman switching sides form his normal position is Phaneuf in order to keep him in the top four.

The first defence pairing was an easy one to make. Suter is a LD and Macinnis is a RD. Both were part of the 1989 team and sit first and second in points by defenceman in Flames history. They can both rack up the points while playing solid defence and will form an elite duo on the top pair.

The second pairing brings a solid mix of offence and defence. Phaneuf was great offensively during his time with the Flames and will have the always dependable and stable Giordano by his side to hold down the fort. Giordano can also contribute offensively too which presents an exciting pairing.

The third pair features a couple well rounded defenceman. Neither would put up big points, but you can count on them to do their job and keep mistakes to a minimum. Can’t ask for much more out of a third pairing.

Goalies

Miikka Kiprusoff
Mike Vernon
Rick Wamsley

In net, Kiprusoff gets the nod for the starting role given his superior numbers. Vernon provides the team with all the talent and experience you could want in a backup goalie. Finally, a Flames team has dependable goaltending again and all it took was bringing Kiprusoff back.

Have Your Say

This was a very tough team to make considering the limitations, but I think the team is solid from top to bottom. There were some tough decisions along the way but the optimal player was chosen in each case.

I will never forgive myself for creating an all-time Flames team with Olli Jokinen and not Lanny McDonald, but rules are rules.


Let us know your thoughts on the team, and any changes you would make!

Photo credits: CP PHOTO/Larry MacDougal

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