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Who Are the Three Best Calgary Flames Players in NHL History?

In the history of the Calgary Flames, three players stand out as the best. Who are they?

In 1972, the Atlanta Flames were founded. The founding of the team was the result of the NHL striking back against the newly-formed (and obviously threatening) World Hockey Association (WHA).

As it happened, when the NHL saw that the WHA was making headway with hockey fans, it quickly granted a franchise to the New York Islanders as a way to keep the WHA’s New York Raiders out of a brand new Nassau Veterans Memorial Stadium. Then, the NHL decided it needed a second team to balance the seasons’ schedule, and the Flames were born. The team was named the “Flames” to remember the fires caused by General William Tecumseh Sherman’s historical March to the Sea during the US Civil War more than 100 years before.

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However, NHL hockey was a hard sell in the deep south of the United States and the team relocated to Calgary in 1980. Then owners decided the Flames name worked in Alberta because it fitted the wealthy, oil-producing province. The name stuck.

Over the forty seasons of the Calgary Flames existence, the team has had a number of great players. In this post, I want to name the three players I believe are the best Flames players during the history of the team.

The Best Calgary Flames Player of All-Time: Jarome Iginla

Jarome Iginla, who ironically grew up in the Edmonton area, is easily the best player in Flames’ history. He’s the team’s leader in goals (525 of his career goals were scored with the Flames), points (1,095), games played (1,219), and game-winning goals (83). His career totals are 625 goals and 675 assists (1300 points) in 1,554 NHL games.

When Iginla came to the Flames, really no one knew much about him. Drafted by the Dallas Stars, he moved to the Stars for Joe Nieuwendyk. But, from that humble start, he grew to become the heart and soul of the team. He’s the only player to skate more than 1000 games with the Flames (1,219).

Iginla was the very definition of a power forward and scored 30 or more goals 11 seasons in a row with the Flames: he scored 50 goals twice and between 40 and 50 goals twice more. Iginla won two Rocket Richard Trophies as the NHL’s top goal scorer while with the Flames and was voted a six-time All-Star (three times he was a First Team NHL All-Star selection).

Iginla was a tough but respected player and a class-act both on and off the ice. He represented the Flames organization well and is the only player to skate in more than 1,000 Flames games.

The Second-Best Calgary Flames Player of All-Time: Al MacInnis

As easy as it was to choose Iginla as the best Flames player in history, it was much tougher to choose a number two. In fact, my choice was a toss-up between Al MacInnis and Theo Fleury. (I admit, I just liked MacInnis better – so my choice might be biased.)

MacInnis was one of the greatest defensemen of his time and was elected as a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. He spent his first 12 NHL seasons (he played 22 seasons in total) with the Flames and was voted to the NHL First All-Star Team twice and was a second-team selection three times.

MacInnis is the Flames all-time assist leader with 609, ranks third in Flames’ points (822), and third in games played (803). What might be most interesting for today’s younger hockey fans is that MacInnis averaged more than a point-a-game for many seasons as a defenseman. Sure, the game was different in those days, but that kind of scoring average is impressive nevertheless.

Perhaps most long-time Flames fans remember was MacInnis Conn Smythe Trophy-winning play during the 1989 Stanley Cup playoffs (the Flames won). MacInnis scored 31 points (with 24 assists), which averaged more than an assist each game in the 22 postseason games he played.

MacInnis could score so well because he had honed great skills. He won the hardest-shot contest seven times during the NHL’s skills competition (twice with the Flames). During his tenure with the team, MacInnis helped lead them to the playoffs several seasons and played in a whopping 95 playoff games. Only Jim Peplinski, who suited up for 99 playoff games with the Flames, played more. As well, MacInnis was prolific and scored 102 playoff points, 30 more playoff points than Paul Reinhart – who’s second.

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The Third-Best Calgary Flames Player of All-Time: Theo Fleury

Theo Fleury was not a large man (he was 5-foot-6), but he had a large career with the Flames. His tenacity and hard-nosed play made him a fan favorite. He was a  tiny scoring machine racking up more than 100 points two times in a great Flames career in which he helped the team win a Stanley Cup in his first year with the team.

In his tenure with the Flames, Fleury produced 364 goals and 830 points in 791 games. He ranks second in franchise history in goals, points, and fourth in games played (791), third in assists. Interestingly, he’s the all-time Flames leader with 28 short-handed goals. In the playoffs, he scored an impressive 62 points in 59 games.

Fleury played more than ten seasons with the Flames and scored 30 or more goals in seven seasons (40 goals three times). His career-high was 51 goals in 1990-91. He played in the NHL All-Star Game six times and was a Second-Team NHL All-Star in 1994-95. Although he also played with the Colorado Avalanche, the New York Rangers (where he had three good seasons), and the Chicago Blackhawks, he simply looked out of place if he wasn’t wearing a Flames jersey.

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