It takes more than offensive statistics to measure the impact of a great defenseman, including leadership, toughness, and durability; attributes that are difficult to quantify, yet are intrinsic to winning teams. The Calgary Flames have had many great defensemen over the last 40 seasons, from swift skaters to bone-crushing body checkers, Norris Trophy winners and Stanley Cup champions. When it comes to the numbers, here is a look at the five most productive Flames defensemen in terms of games played, goals scored, assists and total points.
At the time, nothing was more terrifying to a goaltender than an Al MacInnis slap shot, using his trusty wooden Sherwood more like a piece of heavy artillery than a hockey stick. You would be hard-pressed to find another player who could shoot the puck through the boards, which he was known to do, but he also had one of the most accurate shots and used it effectively. MacInnis had many accomplishments and accolades in his career to go with his sharp-shooting reputation.
Drafted 15th overall by the Flames in the first round of the 1981 NHL Entry Draft, MacInnis played 13 seasons with the Flames, finishing his career as the franchise leader in points by a defenseman (822), goals by a defenseman (213), assists by a defenseman (609) and the third-most games played by a Flames blueliner (803).
Possibly his biggest hockey accomplishment came in 1988-89 when he hoisted the Stanley Cup with the Flames. He recorded 31 points in 22 games (7 goals, 24 assists) during the playoffs that year, becoming the first defenseman in the league to lead the playoffs in scoring and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
MacInnis was traded to the St. Louis Blues in 1994 in exchange for defenseman Phil Housley and two draft picks. (Coincidentally, Housley played 328 games for the Flames scoring 50 goals, 188 assists, and finished 7th all-time in franchise scoring among defensemen with 238 points.) At age 35, MacInnis won the James Norris Trophy (1998-99), awarded to the top defenseman in the NHL while he was a member of the Blues. However, the next defenseman on this list won the Norris with the Flames.
Mark Giordano is the only Flames defenseman to win the Norris (2018) and he, like MacInnis, won it at age 35. His career-high 78 points in 2018-19 was the second highest total for a defenseman that season. He also notched four shorthanded goals, which is the most by any defenseman in two decades. Despite never being drafted, ‘Gio’ has forged a legacy in the NHL and with the Flames, due in large part to his dependable work ethic and solid leadership abilities.
He became the 19th captain of the Flames in 2013-14, following in the footsteps of former Flames’ legend, Jarome Iginla, and he’s held the title ever since. Not only has Giordano been influential on the ice but he has made a positive impact in the Calgary community as well. When you include his career numbers, his legacy is secured as one of the Flames’ best.
Giordano is the franchise leader in games played (873) after surpassing his former teammate Robyn Regehr (826) late last season. He ranks 3rd in total points (471), 2nd in goals (133) and 3rd in assists (213) in franchise history. As the captain for the past seven seasons, Giordano has set a high standard and helped define the Flames’ identity.
Gary Suter may have been underrated in his day and is often overlooked when discussing top NHL defensemen, yet he is considered one of the best American-born players to play the position. He represented his country on numerous occasions, most notably Team USA when they won the 1996 World Cup of Hockey as well as a silver medal at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
He was originally drafted by the Flames out of the University of Wisconsin in the ninth round of the 1984 NHL Entry Draft and played 80 games in his first NHL season with Calgary in 1985-86. Suter recorded 18 goals and 50 assists in his rookie season and was awarded the Calder Trophy, as NHL Rookie of the Year. He is the only Flames player to have earned that distinction and was just the sixth defenseman in league history to win the award at the time.
Suter played with the Flames from 1985-86 to 1993-94, winning the franchise’s only Stanley Cup in in 1989. He left Calgary ranked 2nd overall in franchise points (564), 3rd in goals (128), 2nd in assists (436) and 4th in games played (617) by a Flames defenseman. He played nine more seasons in the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks before his final season in 2002-03.
Paul Reinhart is the throw-back name on this list. He was drafted by the Atlanta Flames 12th overall in the first round of the 1979 NHL Entry Draft and started his NHL career in 1979-80 with Atlanta. He remained with the organization when the franchise relocated to Calgary and played the next eight seasons (1980-88) with the Flames.
As a solid two-way defenseman with considerable offensive upside, Reinhart was used all over the ice throughout an NHL career that spanned 689 games. He was traded to the Vancouver Canucks just 14 games into the 1987-88 season, thereby missing out on the Flames’ memorable Stanley Cup run a season later. He became the second defenseman in NHL history to record 13-plus points (5 goals, 14 points) in his team’s first six games in 1989-90 with the Canucks (only one player, Morgan Reilly, has done it since).
Reinhart finished his Flames career 4th in points (398), 4th in goals (100), 4th in assists and 7th in games played (438) by a Calgary d-man.
TJ Brodie may be an unassuming name on this list but he has been productive.
Brodie was a fourth-round pick (114th overall) by Calgary in 2008 and the 29-year-old has spent his entire 10-year NHL career with the Flames. He has a reputation as a versatile and swift-skating blueliner who can impact a game at both ends of the ice. He has been criticized for certain defensive shortcomings (like too many turnovers), yet he is often utilized in difficult defensive situations and is usually matched up against the opposition’s top line, while also playing both on the power play and penalty kill. His play hasn’t always been perfect, but it has been productive.
Brodie ranks 5th overall on the Flames’ franchise list in games played (605), 5th in assists (214) and 5th in points (259). He also has 45 career goals, good for 8th all-time among Calgary defensemen.
Whether or not Brodie is a member of the Flames moving forward is a source of speculation this season. His contract expires after 2019-20, when he will become an unrestricted free agent (UFA). If Brodie decides to test the market he will leave Calgary as one of the most productive defensemen ever to wear the flaming ‘C’.
Contract Questions Looming
The Flames may be facing a ‘changing of the guard’ on the blue line as soon as next season, with contract questions surrounding five of seven of the team’s active defensemen. Brodie (UFA), Travis Hamonic (UFA) and Michael Stone (UFA) need new contracts this offseason, while Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington are in the final year of their entry-level deals and will be restricted free agents (RFA) at the end of this season.