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Flames Top-10 individual seasons: Number 4

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. 4: Lanny McDonald, RW, 1982-83.

80 GP, 66 goals, NHL 2nd All Star Team, Bill Masterton Trophy.

Any time you could give Wayne Gretzky a run for his money, you were on to something special.

“There was one game left before we headed to the All Star Game (at Uniondale, NY),’’ recalls Lanny McDonald, thoughts drifting happily back to 1982-83 and his first full season as a Calgary Flame. “Gretzky and I were both tied at 42 (goals).

“The Oilers played the day before us and Gretzky, of course, got two. So the boys are giving me a hard time, saying ‘C’mon, Lanny. You’ve got to at least head to the All Star Game tied with this guy.’'

“Needless to add, the pressure was on.

“We’re playing Pittsburgh. I get two in the first two periods. And they must’ve fed me 12 great passes in the third, trying to set me up. It got so bad, I felt like I was letting them down.

“I’m missing the net, shooting wide, the goalie’s making great saves. Looks like it’s not going to happen.

“Finally, with three or four minutes left in the game, I end up scoring the hat trick and going to the All Star Game one goal in front of Gretzky.

“And, let me tell you, I’m thinking: ‘Me? Ahead of Wayne Gretzky? OK, this is pretty freakin’ cool.’”

The Great One would eventually pull away in the season’s closing stages, finishing at 71 snipes, five more than McDonald, who eclipsed his career high by a massive 19.

No matter.

Think of it … 66 goals. A franchise standard that has stood the passing of the years. Thirteen better than anyone else has ever done in the colours (Gary Roberts, 53, in ’91-92). Only Gretzky, Mike Bossy and Phil Esposito had, at the time, ever been more productive in a single campaign.

“That year,’’ recalls McDonald, “was so much fun. Honestly, I can’t describe it. One of those times when you felt, every single time you went on the ice, you were going to score.

“And our power play … every time the ref’s hand went up you could feel the bench charge.

“The crazy thing was, I think I had 16 goals in 16 games, and then went 14 or 16 without one. Do I ever think how many I could’ve had, if hadn’t hit that wall?

“Well, the answer is: No. Sixty-six seems pretty good to me.”

Starting the season alongside centre Guy Chouinard and left winger Eddy Beers, McDonald began his goal-scoring assault. When Beers went down injured, Doug Risebrough shifted from centre to the wing, and No. 9 didn’t miss a beat.

With that release, snapping shots off like a wet towel being in a stiff breeze, his duel with Gretzky became the talk of the league.

“People,’’ says McDonald wistfully, “don’t realize what a phenomenal passer Guy Chouinard was.”

The touchstone markers - Nos. 50 and 60 - both arrived at the expense of the Buffalo Sabres.

“They were, I’m guessing, about a month and a half apart (Feb. 16th and March 18th, actually),’’ reflects McDonald.

“When I scored the 60th, we were headed for Toronto to play the the next night.

“I know, I know, people think it’d have been sweeter doing it in Toronto. Actually, I thought it would be cooler heading there already having the 60.

“I remember busting down the wing and scoring the goal, and I remember the goalie (Bob Sauve), turning, as I was skating behind the net, looking at me and saying: ‘You

*&&*^(((*&&*)! You just had to score BOTH of them against me, didn’t you?!’ And I started to laugh. I’m like: ‘Gee, sorry.’

“Imagine apologizing for scoring a goal?”

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