The measure of a great NHL defenseman is more than just his statistics. While the numbers count, truly great blueliners are defined by much more including leadership, toughness, and longevity. The Calgary Flames have had many memorable defensemen over their 41 years in Cowtown, from lightning fast skaters to bone-crushing body checkers to Norris Trophy winners and Stanley Cup champions.
Here is a look at the five most productive Flames defensemen in terms of games played, goals scored, assists and total points.
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, yet he also had one of the league’s most accurate shots. MacInnis had many accomplishments and accolades in his career to go with his sharp-shooter reputation.
Drafted 15th overall by the Flames in the first round of the 1981 NHL Entry Draft, MacInnis played in 13 seasons in Calgary, cementing himself 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 (seven goals, 24 assists) during the playoffs that year, becoming the first defenseman in the league to lead the playoffs in scoring, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player (MVP)) in the playoffs.
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 finishing seventh 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. In 2007 he was voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and in 2017 was selected as one of the “100 Greatest NHL Players in History”.
Mark Giordano is as yet the only defenseman wearing a Flames sweater to win the Norris (2019) and he, like MacInnis, won it at age 35. His career-high 74 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.
Among defensemen in franchise history, Giordano is first in games played (943), third in total points (506), second in goals (142) and third in assists (364). As the captain for the past eight 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 with 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 just one of three Flames to have won the trophy (the other two are Joe Nieuwendyk (1988) and Sergei Makarov (1990) and at the time was just the sixth defenseman in league history to have won the award.
Suter played with the Flames during nine seasons, most notably playing on the franchise’s only Stanley Cup winning team in 1989. He left Calgary on March 10th, 1994 in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks ranking among Flames’ defensemen 2nd overall in franchise points (564), 3rd in goals (128), 2nd in assists (436) and 4th in games played (617). He would play nine more seasons in the NHL retiring after the 2001-02 season.
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
Reinhart finished his Flames career 4th in points (398), 4th in goals (100), 4th in assists and 7th in games played (438) among Calgary d-men.
TJ Brodie may be an unassuming name on this list but he has been productive.
Brodie was a fourth-round pick (114th overall) of the Calgary Flames in 2008. He spent his first 10 seasons in the NHL with the Flames before signing as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs in October 2020. With Calgary he had a reputation as a versatile and speedy blueliner who could impact a game at both ends of the ice.
He was often criticized in the Stampede City for certain defensive shortcomings (notably too many turnovers), yet he was often used in difficult defensive situations matching up against opposing teams’ top lines, while also playing both on the power play and penalty kill. While his play in Calgary wasn’t always perfect, he goes down in franchise history as one of the most productive defensemen to don the red and white.
Brodie ranks fourth overall on the Flames’ franchise defense roster in games played (634), fifth in assists (218) and fifth in points (266). He also had 48 goals with the Flames, good for eighth all-time among Calgary defensemen.
Paul covers the Calgary Flames along with the OHL’s Ottawa 67s. A freelance writer and blogger, he is also a passionate old timers’ hockey player. Of his work with The Hockey Writers, Paul says, “I love to tell stories about the game of hockey and the personalities – both past and present, who have made it the greatest game on the planet!” Follow him on Twitter at @pquinney