As we sit around anxiously awaiting the onset of the 2016-17 hockey season, thoughts will naturally drift towards the 2017-18 season and the debut of the new Las Vegas NHL expansion franchise. Much like Vegas will next summer, the Calgary Flames franchise went through the expansion draft process way, way back in 1972 (when they were setting up shop in Atlanta).
So let’s set the Wayback Machine for the summer of 1972 and see just how drab the expansion-drafted Atlanta Flames ended up being.
The existing teams could protect two goalies and fifteen skaters.
First-year pros were exempt. The existing teams could lose only a
maximum of three players, including a maximum of one goaltender. The Seals, Canadiens, Flyers and Blues could exempt themselves from losing a goaltender because they had each lost a goalie in the 1970 Expansion Draft; however, the Canadiens and Blues chose to expose a goalie.
THE FIRST FLAMES
The Flames claimed 2 goaltenders, 6 blueliners and 13 forwards.
|G Dan Bouchard||Boston||Starting goalie for AHL’s Boston Braves|
|G Phil Myre||Montreal||Backup goalie for Montreal (played 9 games)|
|D Kerry Ketter||Montreal||10 points with AHL’s Nova Scotia Voyageurs (6th among D)|
|D Ron Harris||Detroit||11 points with Detroit (5th among D)|
|D Randy Manery||Detroit||41 points with CHL’s Fort Worth Wings (1st among D)|
|D Bill Plager||St. Louis||12 points with St. Louis (4th among D)|
|D Pat Quinn||Vancouver||5 points with Vancouver (8th among D)|
|D Larry Hale||Philadelphia||44 points with AHL’s Richmond Robins (1st among D)|
|F Norm Gratton||NY Rangers||74 points with CHL’s Omaha Knights (2nd on team)|
|F Larry Romanchych||Chicago||44 points with CHL’s Dallas Black Hawks (8th on team)|
|F Bill MacMillan||Toronto||17 points with Toronto (11th on team)|
|F Keith McCreary||Pittsburgh||8 points with Pittsburgh (19th on team)|
|F Ernie Hicke||California||23 points with California (12th on team)|
|F Lew Morrison||Philadelphia||Split season between Philadelphia and AHL’s Richmond Robins|
|F Lucien Grenier||Los Angeles||7 points with Los Angeles (15th on team)|
|F Morris Stefaniw||NY Rangers||31 points with AHL’s Providence Reds (10th on team)|
|F John Stewart||Pittsburgh||Split season between Pittsburgh and AHL’s Hershey Bears|
|F Bob Leiter||Pittsburgh||31 points with Pittsburgh (8th on team)|
|F Bill Heindl||Minnesota||47 points with AHL’s Cleveland Barons (6th on team)|
|F Frank Hughes||Toronto||62 points with WHL’s Phoenix Roadrunners (4th on team)|
|F Rod Zaine||Buffalo||Split season between Buffalo and AHL’s Cincinnati Swords|
As you can see, Cliff Fletcher did a decent job based on the fairly restrictive rules he had to work with, grabbing a series of third and fourth line forwards, depth defensemen, back-up goalies and minor-leaguers. He began tinkering immediately, as you’d expect him to do (if you know much about his reputation as an executive):
- Heindl was traded to the Rangers right after the draft for Bill Hoagboam.
- During the season, Fletcher sent Hoagboam to Detroit for Leon Rochefort, Harris went to the Rangers for Curt Bennett, Hicke was sent with future considerations (eventually MacMillan) to the Islanders for Arnie Brown, Gratton was flipped to Buffalo for Butch Deadmarsh.
Overall, the Flames held onto much of their expansion draftees until their drafting and free agent acquisitions progressed enough to where they weren’t really needed anymore. They drafted, for the most part, a bunch of replacement-level NHLers. Once they accumulated enough players with more upside than that (predominantly through the draft but not exclusively through that channel), Fletcher cut bait and largely went with kids.
Fletcher subsequently was only able to convert his 21 free initial assets into future assets via eight trades, which is probably a commentary on the poor quality of the players he was allowed to select in that expansion draft. But Fletcher’s wheeling and dealing with his free assets did eventually allow him to acquire Jamie Hislop and somebody named Lanny McDonald, so I’d say he did as good as you could expect him to with a bunch of depth players, minor-leaguers and spare parts.