The Franchise Best Series comes to you to dive into the all-time best single season for every organization. This, of course, includes post-season results. Join us for a look back at some of the most memorable moments in each franchise’s history. Here is the Calgary Flames best season.
Calgary Flames 1988-89
Previous Year and Off-Season
The Calgary Flames won the Presidents Trophy in the 1987-88 season and had extremely high playoff expectations. The Flames felt so strongly, they sent up and coming winger, Brett Hull and Steve Bozek to the St. Louis Blues for Rob Ramage and Rick Wamsley at the trade deadline in hopes of putting them over the top. Unfortunately for the Flames, their playoffs ended in an all to familiar fashion. They were swept in the second round by Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers. Adding salt to their wounds, the Oilers would win their fourth Stanley Cup in five years.
The Flames did not do much in the off-season, although, free agency was not what it is today. Probably the biggest change was made by their provincial rivals. In the summer of 1988, the Edmonton Oilers traded Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings.
Almost as important, however, was a trade the Flames made on September 5th, 1988. The Flames acquired Doug Gilmour from the Blues in a seven-player trade. Gilmour would prove to be the missing piece of the Flames puzzle.
Coming off a Presidents Trophy campaign the previous year, the 1988-89 Calgary Flames were expected to continue their strong play. They did not disappoint. The Flames had an incredibly deep roster that included NHL Hall of Fame players such as Joe Mullen, Al MacInnis, Joe Nieuwendyk, Gilmour and Lanny McDonald. The team also had tons of depth with players like Gary Roberts, Joel Otto, Hakan Loob, Gary Suter and rookie Theoren Fleury. In goal, Mike Vernon has a spectacular season, posting a 37-6-5 record with a 2.65 goal against average.
The Flames dominated the regular season, posting a franchise-best 54 wins. The team was virtually unbeatable at home, posting a 34-4-4 record on home ice. The Flames cruised to a 117 point season and their second consecutive Presidents Trophy. In the Smyth division their closest rivals, the Los Angelis Kings finished 16 points behind. Only the Montreal Canadiens, who finished with 115 points, were in the Flames class in 1988-89.
During the season, Lanny McDonald achieved two career milestones, despite missing a large part of the season due to injury. He scored his 1000th point and 500th goal. Joe Mullen led the Flames in scoring with 51 goals and 110 points. The newly acquired Gilmour was third with 21 goals and 85 points. Joe Nieuwendyk netted 51 goals on the year as well. The Flames had eight players score 20 or more goals. Entering the playoffs, the Flames looked like a true force.
Smythe Division Semi-Final
The Flames met the Vancouver Canucks in the opening round of the playoffs. On paper, it looked like the Flames would brush aside Vancouver. The Canucks finished a distant fourth in the Smythe division, 43 points behind the Flames. Perhaps the Flames were overconfident, but this would be the Flames most difficult series.
The Canucks would shock the Flames in the opener, winning 4-3 in overtime. The Flames roared back winning the next two games by a combined 9-2 score. The Canucks bounced back in game four to even the series. Calgary won game five 4-0 and looked to close out the pesky Canucks. The Canucks had other plans and forced a game seven with a 6-3 Game six win. Game seven needed overtime. The Flames would win on a Joel Otto goal to take the game and series 4-3.
Smythe Division Final
In the Smythe division final, the Flames would run into a familiar face, Wayne Gretzky. The Gretzky led Kings eliminated the defending champion Oilers to face the Flames. The Flames were, again, heavy favourites. Still, there had to be some concern among the Flames faithful. They have seen their Stanley Cup dreams dashed by Gretzky on several occasions.
This series was no contest, the Flames vanquished the Kings and their tormentor Gretzky in four straight games. Game one may have been the catalyst for the sweep. The Flames needed a Gary Roberts tying goal with under two minutes to send the game into overtime. In the extra period, Doug Gilmour scored the winner to propel the Flames on their sweep. In the next three games, the Flames outscored the Kings 18-8.
Campbell Conference Final
In the Campbell Conference Final, the Flames faced the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks were a surprise matchup for the Flames. Chicago finished the regular season with 66 points. This again made the Flames heavy favourites. Like the Smythe division final, the Flames made quick work of their opposition, winning the series in five games. While the Blackhawks played the Flames pretty tight, Calgary has too much firepower for the Hawks to handle. Calgary outscored Chicago 18-8 in the series. Out of the five games, Chicago could only muster two or more goals in two games. The Flames advanced to the Final for the second time in their history.
Stanley Cup Final
The Stanley Cup Finals pitted the two best team in the league against each other. The Presidents trophy winning Flames and the Montreal Canadiens. It was also a rematch of the 1986 finals, which the Habs won in five games. In 1989, the Flames would get their revenge.
In a closely contested series, no game was decided by more than two goals. The Habs took an early 2-1 series lead after winning game three in a double overtime thriller. The Flames, however, had other plans and would win the next three straight to claim their first and only Stanley Cup. In game six, at the Montreal Forum, Doug Gilmour would score the cup clinching goal with a power-play goal in the third period, to make the game 3-1. Gilmour would seal the win with a second goal of the period to make it 4-2. A retiring Lanny McDonald also score in the game to help him win his first career Stanley Cup. The Flames became the only visiting team to win the Stanley Cup in the Forum.
The Flames were finally able to step out of the Oilers shadow and claim their first Stanley Cup. Defencemen Al MacInnis was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP. MacInnis led all skaters in playoff scoring with 31 points. Joe Mullen finished third in playoff scoring with 16 goals and 24 points, while Gilmour finished tied for fifth with 11 goals and 22 points. It was Gilmour who proved to be the missing piece for Calgary. Especially in the playoffs, where he scored several important goals.
Mike Vernon had a fantastic playoff as well. He out duelled Patrick Roy in the final and posted a 16-5 record with a 2.26 goals against average and three shutouts. The Flames seemed poised to start their own dynasty. Unfortunately, this turned out to be an aberration. The Flames failed to win a playoff series for 15 years. The team failed to make the playoffs between 1996-2002. Since 1989, the Flames have only progressed past the first round of the playoffs twice. In the 28 seasons (not counting the 2005 lockout) the Flames have missed the playoffs on 15 occasions.
The Flames have never been able to recapture the success they found in 1988-89. Still, the 1988-89 Flames were one of the more dominant teams to ever hoist the Stanley Cup.