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Flames Top-10 individual seasons: Number 2

by George Johnson / Calgary Flames

Joe Nieuwendyk’s silky-soft set of mitts. Miikka Kiprusoff’s utter aplomb in the face of a tempest. Theo Fleury’s in-your-face indomitability.

From Kent Nilsson to Johnny Gaudreau, Lanny McDonald to Sean Monahan, Al MacInnis to T.J. Brodie, Joe Mullen to Jarome Iginla, over the course of over three and a half decades in this town, there have been no end of stellar turns in aid of the Flaming C cause.

So wrestling selection a Top-10 individual seasons is a chore. Many factors come into play.

Historical ramification. Sheer volume. Significance to the organization.

You’re spoiled for choice, naturally.

Some are non-negotiable.

Others calls are hellish.

The very fine Calder Trophy-calibre campaigns of Gary Suter and Sergei Makarov are absent, for instance. A sprinkling of stellar 50-goal and/or 100-point performances, as well.

More regrettable yet is the omission of the prolific yet edgy 53-goal (second highest seasonal total in franchise history), 207-PIM 1991-92 turn put in by truculent left winger Gary Roberts. A season as dynamic as this could’ve slipped in anywhere in the bottom half of the Top 10 without a word of complaint, and on many such lists would’ve.

But, well, competition being what it is …

Here, then, over the next 10 days, is one list of the 10 Calgary Flames’ seasons to most savour, that best stand the test of time, presented in descending order:

No. 2: Al MacInnis, D, 1990-91.

78 GP, 28 goals, 75 assists, 103 points. First All-Star Team selection, second in balloting for the Norris Trophy.

San Francisco’s venerable 144-year-old Bohemian Club, a legendary haven for writers, artists and musicians, the Yacht Club de Monaco and Annabel’s, an institution of London’s posh Mayfair district, are regularly mentioned as ranking among the world’s most exclusive clubs.

Well, Al MacInnis -- he of the wrecking-ball shot that would’ve toppled the fabled walls of Jericho -- has access to a club that surpasses even those in terms of chic restriction.

One of only five memberships. Total.

The NHL’s 100-point Defencemen Club.

“Did I realize what I was doing that year?’’ repeats the 1989 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, back in town this day as VP of Hockey Operations for the St. Louis Blues. “Not really. I mean, I look at it now, and go ‘Wow. A hundred points.’

“Seems crazy.

“But back then, you just get so wrapped up in your day-to-day, game-to-game, week-to-week routine, getting ready for the next game, that it all goes by in a kind of blur.

“As a player, you’re not thinking about personal milestones. At least I didn’t. I know it sounds a bit goofy, but I’d always compare a season to a round of golf: Doesn’t matter what you shot out there, you always felt you left something on the course.

“If you shot 77, you felt ‘Damn, without those two three-putts I could’ve shot 74.’

“I took that away from every season.”

Certainly didn’t leave much out on the course over that 1990-91 round.

A hundred points-plus from the position has, in fact, happened 15 times in league history. But the list of men to accomplish the feat is select, and legendary -- Bobby Orr (six times), Paul Coffey (five), MacInnis, Brian Leetch and Denis Potvin (once apiece).

No coincidence that each has been ushered into the Hockey Hall of Hall of Fame.

Stop and think for a moment of the greats who never did:

Nick Lidstrom, Larry Robinson, Ray Bourque, Scott Niedermayer, Phil Housley, etc., etc.

So among the standout seasons to be found in Calgary Flames’ lore, ‘90-91 one remains unique.

The 103 points (26G, 75A) MacInnis collected in 78 starts placed him second on the team, a slender point behind leader Theo Fleury and ninth among all scorers that season.'

It’s also a dozen more than anyone on the Flames’ blueline, before or since, has ever amassed, the closest being 91 from power play point sidekick Gary Suter three years prior.

Given the significance, surely the record-breaker must remember the details of historic Point No. 100?

An apologetic shrug.

“No. Sorry.

“Haven’t a clue who it came against, goal or assist or who the goalie was.

“It was just one of those magical seasons. What more can I say? Everything went right.

“If I remember correctly, I finished runner-up to (Ray) Bourque that year’’ -- and eighth in Hart Trophy/MVP voting -- for the Norris. And I thought: ‘If I’m not going to get it now, after this …’ But that’s okay. I was comfortable with it, just continue to play.

“But after I didn’t win it that year I figured maybe it wasn’t going to be in the cards for me.”

(He’d have to wait eight more years and change into a Blues’ jersey to finally).

“But you look at the team we had, the players I played with … well, let’s just say we had a lot of offensive weapons. And the powerplay’s a big part of it, obviously. You’ve got Joe Nieuwendyk, Doug Gilmour, Gary Suter, Gary Roberts, Theoren Fleury out there with you …

“Holy smokes. Go up and down the lineup. Those were good times, good years, good teams.’’

Only now, in retrospect, upon reflection, can the greatest defenceman in club history appreciate the significance.

“I look back on that 100-point year now,’’ marvels MacInnis, “and … ‘Holy —-!’ Look at the league last season, just the way the game has evolved, and the leading scorer in the league had a point a game.

“So it’s very a different game today.

“I admit that.

“But I’m not going to say I didn’t savour that year. And I won’t try and tell you I’m not thrilled to be in the company you just mentioned.’’

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