6. Mike Vernon
Vernon was born on February 24th, 1963 in Calgary, Alberta. A 5’9", 170 lb. goaltender, he was drafted by the Flames after one season in juniors, in the third round of the 1981 NHL Entry Draft, 56th overall. In three total seasons of junior hockey, he went 84-49-5, with a 3.57 goal against average for his hometown Calgary Wranglers. Near the end of the 1982-83 season, he made his NHL debut with the Flames, allowing 11 goals over five periods and going 0-2-0.
In 1983-84, Vernon played most of the season in the CHL with the Colorado Flames, going 30-13-2 with a 3.35 goals against average. In his lone appearance for the Flames at the NHL level, he allowed four goals on six shots in 11 minutes, averaging a historic 21.82 GAA. Perhaps resulting from this, he spent the entire 1984-85 season with the Moncton Golden Flames, getting experience at the AHL level and going 10-20-4, 3.92.
1985-86 would see Vernon split his season between three levels of pro hockey, with the IHL Salt Lake Golden Eagles (6-4-0, 3.39), the Golden Flames (3-1-2, 3.37), and Calgary. For the Flames, he posted a 9-3-3 record and earned his first shutout on February 26th as the Flames defeated the Vancouver Canucks, 4-0. Vernon at one point went two months without losing as Reggie Lemelin’s backup through the second half of the season. In 18 games, he allowed 3.39 goals per 60 minutes on the ice, stopping 87.5% of shots faced. The Flames posted a 40-31-9 record, then won three postseason series before losing the Stanley Cup Final to the Montreal Canadiens in five games. Vernon got most of the starts for the Flames in net, going 12-9 with an impressive 2.93 GAA.
Vernon joined the Flames for good in 1986-87, and wouldn’t make another minor league appearance for the rest of his career. He was Calgary’s undisputed number one right from the jump, and played in an NHL-fifth 54 games. He ranked third in the league in wins, going 30-21-1 with one shutout, an .877 save percentage, and a 3.61 GAA. He was also fifth in the league with 8.7 goalie point shares. The Flames finished with a 46-31-3 record and second place in the Smythe Division. The Winnipeg Jets eliminated them in six contests in the opening round of the playoffs. Vernon went 2-3, allowing 16 goals on 136 shots.
In 1987-88, Vernon earned his way to his first all-star game, with a career high and NHL-second 39 wins. He went 39-16-7, with a 3.53 GAA and an .877 save percentage in an NHL-second 64 games. From November 11th through December 22nd, he went 13-0-1. He earned his only shutout of the year on November 30th, stopping all 20 shots in a 4-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. On December 19th, he turned aside 30-of-31 shots in a 4-1 decision over the Los Angeles Kings. He made 35 saves on January 27th in a 5-1 win over the Hartford Whalers. The Flames went 48-23-9, earning the Smythe Division title. They defeated the Kings in five games before losing to the Edmonton Oilers in four straight. Vernon went 4-4, with an unenviable .838 save percentage.
1988-89 would see Vernon lead the NHL in wins, going 37-6-5 with a league second 2.65 goals against average and an NHL-fourth .897 save percentage. He played in his second all-star game, and ranked 10th in the league with 8.5 goaltender point shares. He came in second place in the voting for the Veniza Trophy. In January and February, he posted a 14-0-1 record, stopping 328-of-364 shots. On November 12th, he turned aside 36 shots in a 2-1 win against the Boston Bruins. He stopped 41-of-42 shots on January 14th, in a 1-1 tie with the Minnesota North Stars. Calgary lost just six times en route to their first Stanley Cup title. Vernon collected a 16-5 record, with a 2.26 GAA and a .905 save percentage. Vernon had three shutouts in his first 191 professional games, and equalled that on the run to the title.
Vernon went 23-14-9 in 1989-90 with a 3.13 goals against average. He earned his third all-star invitation, stopping 87% of shots faced. His point share dropped to 5.1 as backstop partner Rick Wamsley played in 36 contests to 47 for Vernon. He made 30 saves on February 15th in a 4-1 win over the Blackhawks. The Flames went 42-23-15 on the season, earning 99 points and another Division Title. The Kings eliminated them in six games to open the postseason. Vernon went 2-3, stopping 131-of-150 shots in the series loss.
In 1990-91, Vernon made the all-star game for the fourth straight season. He went 31-19-3, with 6.8 point shares, a 3.31 GAA, and an .878 sv%. On January 5th, he turned aside 32 Red Wings shots in a 7-0 whitewash over Detroit. Calgary earned 100 points, but finished second in the Smythe at 46-26-8. They dropped the first round in seven games to the Oilers. Vernon played 427-of-429 minutes in the series, earning a 2.95 GAA.
1991-92 would see Vernon earn his first losing season (minimum three decisions), going 24-30-9 in 64 appearances. He missed the all-star game for the first time in five seasons, ranking 10th in the league with 9.1 point shares. On November 9th, he turned aside 38-of-39 shots in a 6-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. He made 30 saves, allowing a single goal in a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on March 19th. The team’s level of success paralleled that of Vernon, going 31-37-12.
Vernon posted a 29-26-9 record for the Flames in 1992-93, saving 88.7% of shots faced and allowing a 3.26 goal against average. He played in his fifth all-star contest, and ranked eighth in the league with 1601 total saves. On December 14th, he made 33 shots and blanked the Red Wings 3-0. The very next night, he stopped all 39 Rangers’ shots in another 3-0 victory, over New York. Calgary returned to the playoffs by going 43-30-11, placing second in the Smythe Division. His career high 9.9 point share ranked him 10th in the NHL. Vernon allowed 15 goals in 150 minutes through the playoffs, going 1-1 with an .815 save percentage as the Kings eliminated the Flames in six.
In 1993-94, Vernon appeared in 48 games, posting a 26-17-5 record. He earned 6.2 point shares, an .892 save percentage, and allowed 2.81 goals per 60 minutes. He stopped each of Philadelphia’s 23 shots on December 4th in a 6-0 win over the Flyers. On April 11th, he made 27 saves in a 3-0 victory against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. The Flames went 42-29-13, placing the team in first place in the new Pacific Division. That didn’t help them in the first round, as the Canucks were triumphant in seven. Vernon did his best, playing every minute of the series and turning aside 197-of-220 shots (an .895 sv%).
During the 1994 offseason, the Flames traded Vernon to the Red Wings for Steve Chiasson. Vernon played three seasons in Detroit (53-24-14, .898, 2.40), winning the 1996 Jennings Trophy and the 1997 Smythe Trophy. He later also played with the Sharks (52-49-19, .904, 2.39) and the Florida Panthers (18-13-2, .919, 2.47). During the 2000 offseason he was claimed by the Minnesota Wild in the Expansion Draft, and was immediately flipped to the Flames for an eighth round pick (Jake Riddle) and the rights to Dan Cavanaugh.
2000-01 would see the 37-year old Vernon split number one duties with Fred Brathwaite. In 41 contests, he went 12-23-5, with an .883 save percentage and a 3.23 goals against average with 4.1 point shares. On November 8th, he earned a 1-0 shutout by stopping all 22 shots in a win over the Minnesota Wild. He had a 34-save shutout in a 3-0 win against the Colorado Avalanche on December 19th. In total, the Flames finished the season at 27-36-15-4, totally missing the postseason.
2001-02 would be Vernon’s last professional season. He appeared 18 times, racking up a 2-9-1 record with a 2.76 GAA and an .899 save percentage, with 1.9 point shares. On December 10th, he pitched the last shutout of his career, earning a 2-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings by stopping 28 shots. Calgary missed the playoffs by way of a 32-35-12-3 record. The Flames retired his #30 jersey on February 6th, 2007.
All-Time Statline: 526 games, 262-187-57, 13,725 shots faced, 12,123 saves made, 3.26 goals against average, .883 save percentage, 13 shutouts, 70.50 point shares.