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Sports fans love to reminisce over the days that it all went wrong: the wasted draft pick, the tragic trade or the defecting hero. These may not be, by definition, the worst roster moves ever made, but they were the ones that affected us on a personal level. These are the events that caused -- and still cause -- us to sit on our bar stools and lament the cruel twists of life.
After pulling up stakes from a sleepy southern U.S. metropolis in 1980 and landing in a sleepy Canadian cow town at the base of the Rockies, the Flames enjoyed a magnificent first decade in their new home, culminating with a Stanley Cup in 1989. But the Flames haven’t won a playoff series since. The deal that sent cult hero Theo Fleury to Denver is the one that Flames fans will take to the grave, but history, (not to mention CNNSI.com Hockey Producer Jon A. Dolezar ) also looks unfavorably on the 10-player deal in January of 1992, and trades that sent Gary Roberts, Brett Hull, Joe Mullen and Joe Nieuwendyk out of town.
| February 28,
| Flames trade RW Theo Fleury and LW Chris Dingman to Colorado for RW Rene Corbet, D Wade Belak, RW Robyn Regehr and C Jarrett Stoll
Everyone saw it coming.
But it was an ending that no one wanted.
The formal announcement came in a tersely worded press release. "Calgary Flames executive vice president and general manager Al Coates announced today the acquisition of left winger Rene Corbet, defenseman Wade Belak, a conditional draft choice and a prospect off of Colorado’s reserve list from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Theoren Fleury and Chris Dingman."
Fleury's love of the game is infectious.
And with that, the Flames’ all-time leading scorer was off to Denver as a rent-a-player for a Stanley Cup run.
No pomp. No circumstance. Just a brief press release that made Fleury seem but a minor part to Calgary’s deal for three players and a draft pick.
Fleury and the Avs would ultimately fade in the conference finals and Fleury would take his act to Broadway as a free agent. Dingman became a solid member of Colorado’s checking line, chipping in with 13 points and 247 penalty minutes in 110 games with the Avs before being dealt to Carolina.
Corbet played only 68 games in Calgary before being moved on to Pittsburgh in a subsequent trade on March 14, 2000. Regehr still has the potential to emerge into a top-pair defenseman. Still only 21, Regehr has 16 points and 116 penalty minutes in 128 games with the Flames. Stoll is probably a year or two away from contributing on the NHL level, though 165 points in three seasons with the Kootenay Ice in the WHL has him projected as a likely top-six forward.
|| Flames Teammates Recognize Move
As Just Part Of The Game Of Hockey
Calgary Sun -- March 1, 1999
By Randy Sportak
There were no tirades about losing the team's best player.
Nobody was throwing sticks or venting their spleen.
For the Calgary Flames players, news that Theoren Fleury had been traded was nothing more than the business side of sport showing itself.
"We're losing a great friend and a great player, but we had to get something for him before the trade deadline," said Jeff Shantz. "We couldn't let Theo go without getting something in return."
"It's a business," added Valeri Bure. "It was not a surprise to anybody because it's been speculated since the beginning of the season."
With the departure of Fleury, there are no more ties to the Stanley Cup season a decade ago.
Mark Miller's Verdict
Calgary Sun -- March 1, 1999
By Mark Miller
The initial reaction was that this was worse than the Doug Gilmour trade.
But the key was to give it time.
A chance to reflect on the merits of the Theo Fleury for Rene Corbet and Wade Belak blockbuster.
A chance to get away and develop a measured response that reflects deeper consideration than simple knee-jerk, visceral reaction.
Then it comes to you.
Gary Leeman wasn't that bad.
The Calgary Flames have failed miserably from the start in their handling of the Theo Fleury contract negotiations/trade.
So it is with no surprise that, at the end, an entire city of hockey fans is clamoring for swinging ropes at the Saddledome.
We hung our hopes on GM Al Coates to deliver an adequate return for Fleury, to capitalize on the last remaining significant asset of this franchise.
But in securing Rene Corbet, a third-line forward, while exchanging minor-leaguer Chris Dingman for Wade Belak, the Flames have simply given Fleury away.
|| Joey Lindstrom, Calgary, Alberta:
The day Theo Fleury was traded from Calgary to Colorado was a black day indeed. But what really broke our hearts was Fleury's reaction. At the press conference in Calgary, he was on the verge of tears at having to leave. At the next press conference in Denver, only a few short hours later, the tears were gone, the gap-toothed smile was back, and he proceeded to TRASH the team that gave him a shot at NHL glory when nobody else would even look at a 5-foot-6 player -- a team that he could have showed some loyalty to and re-signed with. Instead, he chased the almighty (American) dollar.
Theo, maybe one day you'll look at your Stanley Cup ring -- the one you won as a rookie with the Flames -- and realize what a mistake you've made. Yeah, there's some great memories ... but you've managed to alienate every single person to whom those memories mean anything. Thanks.
Jae Dunphy, Hamilton, Ontario:
Year after year after year of either missing the playoffs or losing in the first round hadn't managed to get me down on my Flames ... until they traded Theo Fleury. Sparkplugs who can pot 50 goals just don't come around very often ...
| January 2,
| Flames trade F Doug Gilmour, D Jamie Macoun,
F Ric Nattress, LW Kent Manderville and
G Rick Wamsley to Toronto for RW Gary Leeman,
D Alexander Godynyuk, G Jeff Reese, D Michel Petit and LW Craig Berube
Cliff Fletcher was still settling into his new office in Toronto, the seat barely warm after being with the Leafs for only a few months.
When he realized his team needed a strong leader to run the office, he looked no further than his former team and the man who was his protégé in Calgary, Doug Risebrough. The initial whispers of a possible deal had started on a much smaller scale the previous season when Fletcher was still with the Flames.
Like he has been at almost every stop, Gilmour was a fan favorite in Calgary. Mike Powell/Allsport
But when Fletcher and Risebrough were burning up the telephone lines between Toronto and Calgary, players just kept getting added and added and added, until the trade swelled into a 10-player deal, the largest in NHL history.
The loss of Gilmour just before he hit his prime is still a very sore subject with many Flames fans.
Gilmour had an impressive 238 points in his first two full seasons with the Leafs, who went to the conference finals twice.
Leeman, on the other hand, managed only 59 points in his remaining 122 games in the NHL. His best days were clearly behind him when the swap was made, as his point total dropped off from a career-high 95 in the 1989-90 season to 29 the following year in an injury-plagued campaign.
Perhaps Risebrough justified it by telling himself that he was getting a younger player, but the Flames already had 100-point man Theo Fleury on the right wing, and Gilmour’s departure left a gaping hole on the first line and power play units.
|| Leafs Get Gilmour In Huge 10-Player Deal
Toronto Star -- January 3, 1992
By Jim Proudfoot
It was Cliff Fletcher who carefully groomed Doug Risebrough for an executive post in the National Hockey League and then moved him into the Calgary Flames' front office.
Yesterday, midway through Risebrough's initial season as general manager of the Flames, Fletcher, brought in to put the Toronto Maple Leafs' house in order, hoodwinked his former protege in about as lopsided a trade as you're apt to see.
This was the Silver Fox at his most cunning, while Risebrough, once his right-hand man, moved dramatically in launching a makeover of the rapidly declining club Fletcher left behind when he resigned last spring.
Both men were forced to act, pretty much. Stanley Cup champions less than three years ago, the Flames have been stagnating in the middle of the NHL pack. And only the unspeakable San Jose Sharks have been keeping the Leafs out of last place. Fletcher's reconstruction program is firmly in place, but his team's performance in recent weeks had become an embarrassment he just couldn't tolerate.
The swap he engineered as a result, the biggest in the history of the league, borders on the incredible.
From Calgary, he obtained four serviceable NHL players who will be of immediate use to coach Tom Watt -- plus the first junior the Flames claimed in the 1989 draft.
To Calgary, he sent nary an athlete who could be considered important in the Leafs' scheme of things - either now or in the foreseeable future.
There is only one possible salvation for Risebrough's reputation. Gary Leeman would have to relocate the deft scoring touch he mislaid the year before last. If that were to happen, the Flames might then be able to justify having relinquished an athlete of Doug Gilmour's caliber, together with defense regulars Jamie Macoun and Ric Nattress, reliable Rick Wamsley as a backup goalie and young Kent Manderville, now with the Canadian Olympic squad.
Gilmour's dissatisfaction in Calgary was a complicating factor, of course. He wanted a salary Risebrough was unwilling to pay - and which Fletcher will now grant, you may be certain. But the Flames must have had all sorts of offers for Gilmour, a 28-year-old center who ranks among the NHL's 10 best. And hockey history, in judging this transaction, won't recall that Gilmour had been clamoring for a transfer.
|| Steve Saunders, Calgary, Alberta:
The Flames have not won a playoff series since winning the Cup in 89. That's 12 years! You can point to a number of factors, but the single biggest contributor to that slump was when GM Doug Risebrough traded Doug Gilmour, Ric Nattress, Rick Wamsley, Jamie Macoun, and Kent Manderville to Toronto for 5 bags of pucks. Gilmour was bitter because he had seen the salary arbitrator yukking it up with Flames management and demanded a trade. I can still remember the game Leeman got his first goal as a Flame -- two months after he arrived. The fans gave him a standing ovation. Now, that's pathetic. The Flames were never the same.
John Wade, Gifu, Japan:
I am originally from Calgary and I am still a Flames fan even though it makes me pull my hair out at times. I think there are few teams that have contrasted themselves as much as the Flames have. The 80's saw the Flames as a powerful force with arguably only the Oilers being better. Then, the Doug Gilmour trade was made. This came shortly after the Flames won the Stanley Cup and then failed to pass the first round the following season. Doug Riesbrough decided to shake things up and acquire a forward from Toronto who had only once scored 50 goals and after that had faded into mediocrity ever since. Doug Gilmour lead the Leafs to the conference finals. The Flames have since sunk and have missed the playoffs consistently with no star playmaking center. Clearly, the Flames are still, to this day affected by this trade.
Until they can get another playmaking center and make the playoffs, I only hope I have enough hair left to last my tugs while I wait to have a reason to stop tugging.
| August 25,
| Flames trade LW Gary Roberts and G Trevor Kidd to Carolina for RW Andrew Cassels and G Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Gary Roberts wasn’t as popular as Theo Fleury, but he was darn close. Despite suffering from chronic back injuries, Roberts’ trade to Carolina broke up the Fleury-Roberts partnership which had flourished for almost 10 seasons. You can’t fault the Flames for dealing Roberts, really. He had played only 43 games in the previous three seasons, missing the entire 1996-97 season while contemplating his future. There was talk of retirement, but when he decided to give his career another try, the Flames opted to see what they could get for him.
Many people thought Roberts' career was over.
The answer was a young goalie who has never amounted to much and a veteran center who spent two years in Calgary before moving on to Vancouver as a free agent.
Roberts enjoyed a miraculous career resurgence after the Flames passed him on to the Hurricanes with 197 points in his four seasons since. After signing with Toronto on July 4, 2000, Roberts played a full season for only the second time in his career and the first time in 10 years.
| March 7,
| Flames trade RW Brett Hull and F Steve Bozek to St. Louis for G Rick Wamsley and D Rob Ramage
Calgary was gearing up for a run at the Cup. St. Louis was building for the future. In the short term, both teams got what it wanted. But in the long run, the Blues really ripped off the Flames on this one.
Hull was in the midst of an impressive rookie season with Calgary when the deal was struck, but the Flames’ offense had plenty of other gunners and needed to tighten things up in back end of the rink.
Calgary won its Cup, but could have used a few of Hull's 600-some goals in later years.
Hull exploded for 84 points in his first full season in St. Louis, but then really became one of the elite players in the league with a five-year stretch where he posted 551 points, including leading the league in goals for three consecutive years.
Ramage helped sturdy up the blue line for Calgary with seven points in the final 12 regular-season games. But the Flames faded out in a second-round sweep to their Alberta archrivals. Ramage did play one more season in Calgary and won a Cup before moving on to the Leafs in a deal for Kent Manderville on June 16, 1989.
Wamsley played a respectable net for the Flames, but when you remember who he was traded for, he would’ve needed to be Terry Sawchuk, Jacques Plante and Tony Esposito all in one to even out the deal. Wamsley went 53-30-15 for Calgary before being thrown into the Gilmour deal with Toronto on January 2, 1992.
|| Rob Ramage And Brett Hull
Key Men In Four-Player Swap
Toronto Star -- March 8, 1988
By Paul Hunter
One of the National Hockey League's best teams just got even better.
The Calgary Flames, second overall going into last night's play, traded rookie right winger Brett Hull and veteran forward Steve Bozek to the St. Louis Blues yesterday for goaltender Rick Wamsley and all-star defenseman Rob Ramage.
In essence, the Flames, who lead the league in scoring with 315 goals, have given up some of that offensive punch to tighten a defense that ranks 13th in the NHL.
"We're a better hockey club than we were 24 hours ago," said a delighted Flames general manager Cliff Fletcher. "We feel this puts us on an even keel with any other serious contenders for the Stanley Cup.
"We've strengthened ourselves in two areas where we were most vulnerable. With Ramage we feel we're not far from having the best defense in the league, and in Wamsley we get a seasoned front-line NHL goaltender."
| June 16,
| Flames trade RW Joe Mullen to Pittsburgh
for D Nicolas Perreault
If Theo Fleury was the flint and Joe Nieuwendyk the wick, then Joe Mullen was certainly the spark on the Flames’ first and only championship team.
Mullen was Calgary’s top offensive threat during its run to the Cup, finishing with 51 goals and 59 assists in the regular season and 16 goals and eight assists in 21 postseason games. Mullen finished the regular season plus-51 and was the toast of the town in Calgary.
Mullen always left it all on the ice.
Two short years later, despite another 36-goal season, Mullen’s age apparently became an issue to the Flames’ front office.
Dealt to the Penguins for young prospect Perreault, Mullen’s offensive prowess dipped slightly, but he remained a key cog in helping the Penguins to two Stanley Cups.
Perreault played four non-descript seasons at Michigan State before moving on to the AHL with Calgary’s top minor-league affiliate, Saint John’s. After scoring only five points with Saint John’s in 36 games in the 1994-95 season, Perreault moved on to the Toledo Storm of the ECHL before burning out in the 1998-99 season.
| December 19,
| Flames trade RW Joe Nieuwendyk to Dallas
for C Corey Millen and RW Jarome Iginla
Calgary’s hands were tied on this one. Joe Nieuwendyk wasn’t happy about his contract situation, and the Flames weren’t close to offering him what he was asking for.
The Stars were happy to step up to the plate and trade talented young prospect Iginla and veteran center Millen to the Flames for Nieuwendyk.
Nieuwendyk would go on to win a Conn Smythe in Dallas. Glenn Cratty/Allsport
Dallas ponied up $11 million over five years for a player who would help bring a Stanley Cup home to Reunion Arena.
Nieuwendyk banged home 35 or more goals six times in his eight full seasons in Calgary. He totaled 11 game-winning goals during the Flames’ Stanley Cup-winning season of 1989, becoming a fan favorite for his clutch play and offensive marksmanship.
|| Nieuwendyk Relieved To Be Seeing Stars
Toronto Sun -- December 21, 1995
By Tim Wharnsby
The adjective "disgruntled" in front of Joe Nieuwendyk's name was replaced by "jolly" early yesterday.
The Calgary Flames ended months of trade rumors by shipping the holdout center to the Dallas Stars in exchange for premier prospect Jarome Iginla and center Corey Millen.
"I'm glad and relieved it's finally over," said Nieuwendyk, who promptly signed a five-year, $ 11-million US deal with the Stars. "All the talk and rumors over the past four months have taken their toll. I'm obviously happy that Dallas has made a commitment to me for the long term."
Because of a storm in Ithaca, N.Y., Nieuwendyk was unable to join his new teammates yesterday. He likely will not be in the Stars' lineup against the Islanders tonight.
Nieuwendyk, 29, has been working out with his former college team, Cornell.
"It's not the same as playing NHL games," he said.
The Flames tried to pry power forward Todd Harvey away from the Stars. They settled for right winger Iginla, a member of the two-time Memorial Cup champion Kamloops Blazers who will play for Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship next week.
"I was surprised," Iginla said from Saint John, N.B., last night where Canada played the Czech Republic in an exhibition game. "I haven't even played a game in the NHL and here I'm being traded for a player like Joe Nieuwendyk no less."
With Kamloops this year, the 6-foot-1, 193-pound Iginla has collected 31 goals and 68 points in 31 games. While the Flames could use him right away, he is junior-aged and not under contract and thus will return to Kamloops after the world junior.
The Leafs also made an earlier offer for Nieuwendyk.
"I was flabbergasted about the deal," Leafs assistant GM Bill Watters said. "Our offer was far better."
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