Whenever the conversation of most talented Calgary Flames team of all-time gets brought up, two squads usually come to mind.
The 1989 Stanley Cup champion Flames were loaded top to bottom, featuring no less than five Hockey Hall of Fame inductees in Lanny McDonald, Al MacInnis, Doug Gilmour, Joe Mullen, and Joe Nieuwendyk.
As for the 2004 team that made it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, they were led by a group of misfits that gelled at the perfect time of the season.
Names like Jarome Iginla, Miikka Kiprusoff, and Martin Gelinas are still burned in Calgary’s subconscious after their magical playoffs 15 years ago.
While the current Flames roster doesn’t boast quite the same Hall of Fame pedigree as the 1989 team (at least not yet), the argument can be made that this playoff-bound roster is the most talented squad this city has seen in three decades.
Even more so than the ’04 Flames that almost won it all.
2018-19 Flames: Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, Mark Jankowski, Derek Ryan
Although he’s been off his game for the last few weeks, Sean Monahan can easily claim the spot as Calgary’s most talented centre in decades.
Scoring 31 goals and 76 points in 75 games, Monahan has set new career-highs in points each of the last two seasons.
Combine that with an underrated Mikael Backlund reaching the 20-goal mark for the third time in his career, Mark Jankowski scoring almost half of his 11 goals shorthanded, and Derek Ryan chipping in 33 points in a bottom-six role.
2003-04 Flames: Craig Conroy, Steven Reinprecht, Matthew Lombardi, Stephane Yelle
Although Calgary’s centre depth in 2004 featured a number of names that Flames fans still look back on fondly today, they didn’t provide much in the way of offence.
Craig Conroy finished second in team scoring with 47 points in 63 games, however he was the only centre to crack 30 points on the year.
Matthew Lombardi finished fourth in goals with 16 but ended his season with 29 points, while Reinprecht and Yelle combined for just 11 goals in 97 combined games.
Edge: 2018-19 Flames
2018-19 Flames: Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk, Michael Frolik, Sam Bennett, James Neal, Austin Czarnik, Garnet Hathaway, Andrew Mangiapane
The trio of Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, and Matthew Tkachuk have been the driving force behind Calgary’s lethal attack this season, all sitting top-three in team scoring.
Gaudreau has been the Flames top weapon after establishing career-highs in both goals (35) and points (93), while Lindholm and Tkachuk have both broken 75 points.
There is a significant drop off after the first three on the wing, however Frolik and Bennett have both cleared 25 points on the season.
2003-04 Flames: Jarome Iginla, Martin Gelinas, Sean Donovan, Marcus Nilson, Dean McAmmond, Oleg Saprykin, Chris Clark, Chuck Kobasew, Ville Nieminen
Iginla was undoubtedly the face of the Flames, proving it with 41 goals and 73 points to blow away all Calgary players by 26 points.
Like the current roster, the winger depth dropped off with Sean Donovan’s 42 points and Gelinas’ 35 points following their captain’s mark.
A name Flames fans sometimes forget from that era was Dean McAmmond, who scored 17 goals and 30 points before a back injury ended his season before Calgary’s playoff run.
Edge: 2018-19 Flames
2018-19 Flames: Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Noah Hanifin, Travis Hamonic, Rasmus Andersson, Michael Stone, Oliver Kylington, Oscar Fantenberg, Dalton Prout
Captain Mark Giordano’s renaissance season has put the 35-year-old veteran in the middle of the Norris Trophy conversation, leading all Flames blueliners with 16 goals and 72 points.
T.J. Brodie and Noah Hanifin have both been steady contributors cracking the 30-point plateau, while Travis Hamonic has had a bounce-back year with a new career-best of seven goals.
Giving Flames fans hope for the future as well, rookies Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington have both shown flashes of success on the third pairing.
2003-04 Flames: Robyn Regehr, Andrew Ference, Jordan Leopold, Rhett Warrener, Toni Lydman, Mike Commodore, Steve Montador, Denis Gauthier
Calgary’s defence 15 years ago didn’t feature an elite name like Giordano, as they formed a blueline by committee en-route to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Offence was sparse from the ’04 squad as Jordan Leopold and Toni Lydman were the only Flames defenders to reach 20 points.
Fan-favourite Robyn Regehr saved his best for the playoffs however, scoring nine points in 26 games to finish second in scoring by Calgary defencemen.
Edge: 2018-19 Flames
2018-19 Flames: David Rittich, Mike Smith
One of the more unlikely goalie tandems this season, David Rittich and Mike Smith have carried the load between the pipes almost equally for Calgary.
Rittich started off as one of the hottest goalies in the NHL, but has since cooled down to hold a 26-8-5 record, a 2.62 goals against average, and a .911 save percentage.
While Rittich is the likely favourite to start games in the post-season, Smith has rebounded somewhat from an awful first half to post a 21-15-2 record, a 2.75 goals against, and an .899 save percentage.
2003-04 Flames: Miikka Kiprusoff, Roman Turek, Jamie McLennan
If there’s one category the ’04 Flames have over the current roster, it’s goaltending.
Acquired in November that year, Kiprusoff turned into one of the NHL’s premier talents with a 24-10-4 record, a gaudy 1.69 goals against, and a .933 save percentage.
Jamie McLennan and Roman Turek served as serviceable backups to Kiprusoff, with the former eventually being traded to the New York Rangers at the trade deadline.
Edge: 2003-04 Flames