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ATLANTA FLAMES MVRP


yave1964
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  1. 1. Choose up to 3 of Your Favorite Retired Players

    • RIGHT WING ERIC VAIL
    • CENTER TOM LYSIAK
    • LEFT WING GUY CHOUINARD
    • DEFENSE: KEN HOUSTON
    • DEFENSE: RANDY MANERY
      0
    • GOALIE DAN BOUCHARD


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ATLANTA FLAMES

Wow what a poorly named team. The Atlanta Flames were named after the burning of Atlanta by General Sherman on the way to the sea. So the Hockey Gods deemed it appropriate to remind the fine folks of Georgia of their greatest failure, the burning of the city they were moving in to.

The Flames were opened for business with the start of the 1972-73 season, young Cliff Fletcher who went on to a long successful career as a General manager in the league was put in charge and icon Bernie ‘Boom Boom’ Geoffrion was named the first coach.

The draft that followed began with the goalies, Phil Myre was plucked from Montreal and Dan Bouchard who was toiling behind Cheevers and Gilbert in Boston was the second pick. A solid goaltending tandem began.

As far as position players in the expansion draft, the flames began with Kerry Ketter, a plodding d-man who played 41 games without scoring a goal that first season before disappearing into the minor leagues forever. The expansion draft however did bring in players like Billy McMillan Pat Quinn, Lew Morrison, Randy Manery and Larry Romanchych among others who went on to have successful careers. Jacques Richard a crafty little center who never became the star he was predicted to be but still went on to have a very nice ten year career punctuated by a 51 goal season late in his career with the Nordiques was their first ever draft pick. Bill Plager of the notorious Plager brothers also was taken in the expansion draft to add grit.

The Flames in short followed the example of the St. Louis Blues draft from a few years previous, get solid goaltending and veteran d-men and hope that the occasional trips into the other team’s zones would produce enough goals to win games. The first season they missed the playoffs, then made the playoffs six of the following seven seasons, an expansion record which has been tied but not broken to this day.

Bouchard and Myre were both capable starting goaltenders who were both uncomfortable sharing the workload, both felt they were deserving to be starters which caused a bit of friction over the years but the head to head battle made every start critical for both of them, both played to win and also start the next game, a bad game sent you back to the bench. They anchored the team.

The following year the draft yielded Tom Lysiak a big old Alberta farm boy who went on to a very nice thirteen year career. The next season they added Eric Vail and Guy Chouinard who were two of the best Flame players through their history. Ken Houston who was spectacular at times came along to anchor the maturing defense, Bob Macmillan came in a trade to provide scoring punch to team up with the developing sniper Vail, willi Plett and bill Flett were solid forwards and confused announcers everywhere.

This team did everything right, they followed a proven pattern, they generally drafted well, Fletcher made smart trades and in a chaotic age with the WHA raiding organizations and talent thin they managed to hang in year after year as a playoff team, but there were two problems. First; attendance which was surprisingly high early on began to slip as the economy turned for the worse and the newness wore off. Second and really the reason for the attendance slipping, in six years of making the playoffs the Flames won exactly two games. The Flames one a game in1977 against the Kings and a game against the Rangers in their last playoff appearance which gave them a combined record in the playoffs of 2-15. Ouch. The fans were used to a mediocre to good team that was bounced in the first round without a fight year after year after year. Eventually apathy set in as the NBA Hawks captivated the city as well as college football and the Flames were forced to relocate to Calgary where the next decade produced one of the NHLs greatest all time rivalries with the Flames against the great Edmonton Oiler teams. Many of the Atlanta Flames went on to nice careers in Calgary.

One nice playoff run, winning a couple of rounds with style would have captured the fan base; it would have sparked the imagination and given the team something to build around. Instead they were doomed by mediocrity and quick exits, and instead of a 1980s decade of excellence which would have solidified Hockey forever in one of the United States larger cities it died. The Thrashers were added in a future expansion and were even more inept and ended up in Winnipeg, the chance of Atlanta ever getting another shot are about the same chance of me being set up on a blind date with Angelina Jolie.

Anyway, here are the all-time best Atlanta Flames

RIGHT WING ERIC VAIL

Vail won the Calder as the league’s best rookie in 1974-75 when he began his career with a career high of 39 goals. The sucker could just plain shoot the puck. He had two other thirty plus goal seasons with Atlanta and a couple of others where he scored 28, he is the Atlanta all-time leader in goals scored with 174 in 469 games, he is second on the team for his career with 383 points.

The problem with Vail was twofold, his nightlife, he had a reputation as a party animal while playing, and the fact that he was a ‘coaster’ a guy who did not take his defensive responsibility serious. Coach after coach were well aware of his thirty goal a year production but felt he was a slacker and could easily have dialed it up to forty with a little effort and grit, but he was happy being who he was. Finally during th second year in Calgary after fight after fight with coach Al MacNeil General Manager Cliff Fletcher sadly gave up on his pupil saying that the flames and Vail were no longer compatible and he dealt Vail to Detroit where his career quickly derailed, his lack of enthusiasm helped poison an already bad team and after a couple of years in the minors he soon retired at the age of 30, a career wasted. But man, when this guy wanted could this guy shoot.

CENTER TOM LYSIAK

The all-time point’s leader for the Flames, he scored 435 points in an Atlanta uniform over 445 games, for his career he scored 843 points in 919 games. A solid, near point a game center that made three consecutive all-star games with Atlanta, he finished up his career with the Black Hawks where he performed equally as well. The gritty Lysiak who had a well-deserved reputation as a rugged but clean player had one bad incident during his career, in 1983 he blatantly tripped the referee with his stick, earning him a twenty game suspension. Really though, a near star player who deserves to be remembered.

LEFT WING GUY CHOUINARD

The little winger was the youngest player ever drafted in the NHL at the age of 17 when the NHL decided to take the WHA on head to head as the WHA was poaching under age players left and right. The Quebec native played bits of seasons in the NHL over his first couple of years before breaking on the scene in 1977 playing all 80 games, and scoring 17 goals and 50 points. He followed that up in Atlanta with 28 goals, then in 1978-79 becoming the only Atlanta Flame to score 50 and followed that with 31. He followed the team to Calgary and gave three solid seasons before being dealt to the Blues.

He developed quite a reputation in junior hockey as a coach and developer of talent, mostly with the Quebec Ramparts. He is in the QMJHL hockey hall of fame; he is the league’s all-time leader in wins and championships. A true class act, Chouinard is one of the good guys in the game.

DEFENSE: KEN HOUSTON

Houston was a rugged tough scoring blue liner who had 20 plus goals a year for four consecutive years for the Flames in Atlanta. A hard shot and over 100 PIMS twice, Houston was a Shea Weber type until his career got derailed and ended early.

In 1980-81 the first season that the Flames played in Calgary Houston led the Flames along with Chouinard as they won their first ever playoff series by sweeping Chicago, then they knocked off the Flyers in seven games in a classic slugfest, before falling in six to the North Stars in the conference finals. Houston in 16 games had 7 goals and 8 assists from the blue line to go with 30 penalty minutes. He had one of the all-time great playoff runs of any blue liner. He had a couple of more Weber like seasons before injuries derailed him and he retired at the age of 31.

DEFENSE: RANDY MANERY

With apologies to Pat Quinn. Manery played five seasons with the Flames after being taken in the expansion draft, the lanky blond blue liner was okay on the point; he could run a power play and was responsible in his own end. He had a ten year career and also played for Detroit and the Kings. He led all flames blue liners with 372 games with 30 goals and 172 points. He was the first Flame to appear in an all-star game.

GOALIE DAN BOUCHARD

If everything had broken right for Bouchard he would have been a hall of famer. Instead today he is largely forgotten, a good goalie on a mediocre team that no longer exists.

Bouchard started out as property of the Bruins and was stuck behind Cheevers and Gil gilbert, your basic brick wall in the way. At first when the Flames snapped him up in the expansion draft it looked like a blessing but shortly after Cheevers took his stitched up mask and went to Cleveland in the new league. If Bouchard had a chance in Boston he might have won a cup or two, he was that good. A hot headed Quebec man, Patrick Roy says Bouchard was his idol. Ken Dryden praised Bouchard in his book the game for having the perfect build for a goalie.

Bouchard split time in net with Phil Myre. The two of them reportedly did not like each other much, and Bouchard would ***** openly whenever he was not in net. Myre, a good goalie in his own right finally after five seasons was dealt away to the Blues. Bouchard lead all goaltenders in wins in 1978-79 with 32.

For his career with Atlanta Bouchard appeared in 384 games with a record of 164-134-64, included in there were 20 shutouts, all of these are club records. Keep in mind he did this with an expansion team. After leaving the Flames he went to Quebec where he had a couple of nice playoff runs, before finishing his career in Winnipeg for one year. His final career record was 655 games, 286-232-113 with 27 shutouts. Hockeyreference.com has his similarities scores listed and the three most similar goalies in history are Tom Barrasso, Chico Resch and Mike Richter. In my mind, this largely forgotten goalie may be the most underrated goalie of all time.

Other Flames worth mentioning include Ray Comeau and Curt Bennett a couple of expansion picks who provided offense for five years, Billy Kea who provided toughness and was a talented blue liner, Bill Clement who came over from the Flyers and provided leadership for five years, Bob Macmillan who scored 90 goals in his three seasons in Atlanta. Jimmy Craig got a taste of the NHL here after the Olympic heroics. Kent Nillson who put up some monster numbers in the WHA and then in Calgary got his first taste of the NHL in Atlanta. Garry Unger would set the all-time record for consecutive games played while with Atlanta.

Overall, Atlanta’s loss was Calgary’s gain This was a well ran organization with a plan who always seemed to fall short in the playoffs and thanks to that the battle of Alberta became the hottest rivalry in hockey during the eighties.

Edited by hf101
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I put this in here to try to spark the team MVRP section, I have been enjoying what everyone is writing so far. I have the Rockies and my all time favorite defunct franchise, the Kansas City Scouts done as well if anyone would like to see them posted. I am working on the New York Americans as well if nobody has claimed them.....

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@yave1964 More stellar work from you Yave, a well thought out run down on the Flames. Personally, when I think Atlanta Flames, the first thought that comes to mind is Tom Lysiak. He was kinda the heart and soul of the team as I remember, followed closely by Chouinard (really, one of the underrated snipers of his era) and then Vail. Great work, brought back a lot of memories!

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@yave1964 Good stuff man, really didn't know much of anything about the Flames so good to hear about a bunch of players that were unknown to me. Reading this I would say that Vail needs to very much be considered. I don't care who you are if you have, an at least close to, point per game career you obviously did something right and have some skill.

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Nice writeup yave. I don't even remember Manery at all. But Lysiak,Chouinard Vail Bouchard and Houston all came back to life with your words. Well done.

Manery does not invoke a lot of memories for me either, Pat Quinn was with the Flames for five seasons as a steady stay at home d-man and I really wanted to pick him because of his contribution after his playing days but Manery had better numbers.....

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  • 9 years later...

ATLANTA FLAMES
HOCKEY HALL OF FAME
INDUCTEES

 

01. 1972: Bernie Geoffrion
02. 2004: Cliff Fletcher
03. 2016: Pat Quinn

 

ATLANTA FLAMES
U.S. HOCKEY HALL OF FAME
INDUCTEES


01. 1989: Robert Paradise
02. 2003: Jim Craig

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