Despite making just three playoffs appearances, the 2010’s were eventful in Calgary. As we count down the top ten stories from the decade that was, three massive trades, made by three different general managers, make the list. Mix in a firing or two along with a couple banner seasons and just like that you’ve got yourself a countdown.
10. Improved drafting
What was once considered a weak point for the Flames under prior GM’s became a strength once Brad Treliving took over in 2014. You can throw his first draft out the window, as he’d been on the job for a matter of weeks. From 2015 on, though, Calgary has done a strong job of turning picks into NHL players.
The players above have all seen significant NHL time since being drafted, which is impressive. It gets even more impressive when you factor in prospects like Matthew Phillips (6th round, 2016), Jakob Pelletier (1st round, 2019), and Dustin Wolf (7th round, 2019) have yet to play. And don’t forget 2016 third rounder Adam Fox. He’s not with the Flames anymore, but Fox is having a great rookie season with the New York Rangers.
9. The Carolina trade
On day two of the 2018 NHL Draft, June 23rd to be exact, the Flames swung a deal with the Carolina Hurricanes to acquire Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin in exchange for Micheal Ferland, Dougie Hamilton, and the aforementioned Fox. The deal looked like a homerun for Calgary almost immediately, but I believe the long-term impact has only just started to be felt.
With 78 points in 81 games, Lindholm had a bonkers first season with the Flames, which is great. Year two has been more significant for me, even though his point totals likely won’t finish as high. Calgary has moved Lindholm to centre, which gives them the potential of having a true number one centre, capable of playing in all situations and in any matchup. No offence intended to Sean Monahan, but this is something the Flames have not had in a long, long time.
Both Lindholm and Hanifin are signed to team-friendly deals, too. At $4.85 and $4.95 million cap hits, respectively, until the end of the 2023-24 season, both players provide outstanding value over a long period of time.
8. 2018-19 season
On the one hand, Calgary’s 2018-19 campaign will be remembered for one of the most dominant regular seasons in team history. The Flames finished with 50 wins and 107 points, the second highest totals in team history in both categories. Only the 1988-89 Cup winners were better, at 54 and 117 respectively.
Unfortunately, so much of what Calgary accomplished over 82 regular season contests was wiped away in five playoff games with the Colorado Avalanche. After winning game one 4-1, the Flames were blown away the next four straight by Nathan MacKinnon and the Avs. It was an eye-opening April and one the team won’t be able to avenge until the spring of 2020.
7. Miikka Kiprusoff retires
This would probably end up higher on the list if the greatest goaltender in team history didn’t retire in such a quiet fashion. Of course, knowing how Kiprusoff went about his business in his ten years with the Flames, his unassuming exit wasn’t really a surprise. What Kiprusoff accomplished in Calgary screams a whole lot louder.
Kiprusoff finished his career as the Flames’ all-time leader in wins (305), shutouts (41), save percentage (0.913), and goals against average (2.46), marks that he still holds almost seven years later. Sure, Kiprusoff’s level of play wasn’t as high in the 2010’s as it was the prior decade, but his retirement left a giant void in net; a void Calgary is still trying to fill.
6. The rise of Mark Giordano
The 2010’s started with Giordano not that far removed from leaving the Flames to play a season in Russia. They ended with the captain becoming the first player in team history to win a Norris Trophy, capping off an incredible rise for Calgary’s most important player of the decade.
Along the way, Giordano became Jarome Iginla’s successor as team captain and went from being a good top four defenceman into one of the league’s elite blueliners. Most incredibly, Giordano’s best seasons have all come over the age of 30, which is one of the biggest NHL outliers in years.
5. 2014-15 season
Johnny Gaudreau was a rookie. Giordano tore his biceps in February and the team still made the playoffs, and even won a round. Derek Engelland fought two Canucks at the same time. Jonas Hiller and Kari Rammo were the goalies. Jiri Hudler wore no shoes on stage accepting the Lady Byng. Yep, from a single season perspective, the 2014-15 Flames are going to be hard to forget.
You couldn’t put Calgary away that year and, despite being the bane of the analytically-inclined, they qualified for the playoffs. Matt Stajan delivered one of the most iconic goals in franchise history with his third period series clincher in round one, game six against Vancouver. Sure, they got pumped by Anaheim in round two, but the 2014-15 season was one of the team’s most memorable in a long time.
4. The Dion Phaneuf trade
January 31st, 2010 will always be one of my most memorable days covering this team. The night before, the Flames snapped a season-sinking losing streak at nine with a 6-1 win over the Oilers. The following morning, general manager Darryl Sutter dropped the hammer on what was an absolute blockbuster at the time.
Star defenceman Phaneuf had been traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a deal that saw Calgary bring back four NHLers: Stajan, Jamal Mayers, Niklas Hagman, and Ian White. It looked like an iffy trade at the time, but it ended up being truly bad in retrospect. At the time, Phaneuf was 24 and still basking in the glow of Calder Trophy and then Norris Trophy consideration in his first two years. For only one player to remain from the deal a few years later is…not good.
I put the Phaneuf trade so high on this list because of what it signified at the time. After reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2004, the expectations surrounding the Flames were sky high each of the next number of seasons. With Iginla and Kiprusoff in their prime, and this young stud Phaneuf on the back, Calgary was expected to challenge for banners and conference titles. It didn’t go that way, unfortunately, and the Phaneuf trade marked the start of a changing narrative.
3. Darryl Sutter steps down
Less than a year after trading Phaneuf, Sutter was out as Flames’ general manager on December 28th, 2010. Whether he resigned or was pushed out the door, it was clear Calgary needed to go in a different direction. What was once “In Darryl We Trust” turned into a many fans clamouring for change, and for good reason.
Sutter did a lot of good things for the organization in the front half of his tenure, and that can never be forgotten. The backside was a nightmare, however, rife with cap mismanagement and bad trades. Forget the Phaneuf deal. Does anyone remember trading Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust for Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik? Only to sign Jokinen back a few months later, watch Higgins move on, and be saddled with Kotalik’s boat anchor of a contract? Anyhoo, I digress.
Sutter’s departure late in 2010 was the catalyst for some interesting transition years around these parts. There was the unique Jay Feaster-John Weisbrod era followed by Brian Burke’s stretch as interim general manager, which followed. Of course, the instability all ended with the hiring of Treliving in April 2014.
2. The Bill Peters saga
Still fresh in our minds, a four day stretch in late November of 2019 is going to be hard to forget anytime soon. After racist comments made by Peters in 2010 were brought to light during a November 25th game in Pittsburgh, the Flames found themselves smack-dab in the middle of an unprecedented conversation about the league, the coaching profession, and the sport as a whole.
Peters’s comments were reprehensible and they put Calgary in a difficult situation. Because they were made on a different team, and in a different league, almost a decade prior, there were legal ramifications involved that don’t exist with a regular “termination for cause” case. As a result, the process dragged on far longer than anyone expected.
Peters officially resigned, as opposed to being fired, on November 29th, but in the end, I believe the right outcome was achieved. Under the most unexpected of circumstances, Geoff Ward took over as interim head coach while the larger conversation about coaching continues.
1. The Jarome Iginla trade
March 27th, 2013 is a day many Flames fans will look back on with a pit in their stomach. Perhaps the greatest player in team history (he gets my vote) was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the late hours of the evening. It capped off a bizarre stretch of about five or six hours, starting when Iginla was scratched for that night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche.
Iginla was getting traded to Boston for sure as the game went along…until he wasn’t. Feaster dropped the bombshell that Iginla had been traded to the Penguins for a 2013 first round pick (Morgan Klimchuk), and a pair of prospect forwards: Kenny Agostino and Ben Hanowski. Yeah…let’s not talk about what the team got in return anymore.
I know we’re more than six years removed, but think about what the Iginla trade meant at the time. He was THE face of the franchise, more so than anyone has been since, and as much as anyone had ever been prior. Iginla was a hero for thousands of Calgarians and was the iconic figure of a 2004 Stanley Cup run that ushered in a new era of Flames fans.
Furthermore, it cemented a hard reality: Calgary’s competitive window had slammed shut. Days later Jay Bouwmeester was traded for an equally awful return. A month or so after that, Kiprusoff played his final game with the Flames. The vestiges of 2004 were all gone: Robyn Regehr (traded in the summer of 2011), Kiprusoff, and Iginla had all officially moved on.
It was a trade some fans wanted to see and many others didn’t, but I think it’s fair to say moving Iginla hurt everyone. Jarome’s first game back (now with Boston) helped start the healing process. His jersey retirement in March, 2019 (also this decade) finally brought Flames fans closure.