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Flames All-Time Countdown Chapter CXI: 52-51

Recent defenseman Toni Lydman and almost-original Flame center Curt Bennett tip the scales at number 52 and 51, respectively.

52. Toni Lydman

Lydman, a 6’1", 202 lb. defenseman from Lahti, Finland, was born on September 25th, 1977. After scoring five times with two assists for Reipas Lahti in 1995-96, he was selected in the fourth round of the 1996 NHL Entry Draft by Calgary with the 89th overall selection.

For the next four seasons, Lydman played in the top division in Finland, first with Tappara Tampere (97 games, five goals, 12 assists, 113 penalty minutes), then with HIFK Helsinki (88 games, eight goals, 25 assists, 72 penalty minutes). During the 2000 offseason, he decided to make the jump to North America, and joined the Flames for the following campaign.

2000-01 would see Lydman appear in 62 contests for the Flames. He scored three times on 80 shots with a team ninth 16 assists. He ranked third on the blue line (minimum half of team games played) with 20:36 average time on ice, and registered a minus-7 rating with 30 penalty minutes. He didn’t score his first NHL goal until March, making his first two point game on April 2nd with a goal and an assist in a 4-4 tie with the Dallas Stars. Calgary closed shop that season at 27-36-15-4, missing out on the promised land.

In 2001-02, Lydman stepped up his offensive game a notch, earning a career high 28 points with six goals on 126 shots, a team fifth 22 helpers, a minus-8 rating and 52 penalty minutes. He played in a team third-best 79 games, ranking second on the blue line playing first line minutes, averaging 21:10 per contest. On December 9th, he had his first multi-goal contest, scoring twice on four shots in a 6-3 setback to the Phoenix Coyotes. The Flames posted a 32-35-12-3 record to again fall just short of the postseason.

Lydman played in 81 games, skating for 25:47 per game to lead all non-goalies on the club. He scored six goals on 143 shots with a team-fifth 20 assists, a minus-7 rating, and 28 penalty minutes. On Halloween, he lit the lamp and added a helper as the Flames cruised over the Buffalo Sabres, 3-0. Calgary went 29-36-13-4, continuing their string of bad finishes.

2003-04 would be Lydman’s last season in red and white. He played 21:13 per contest over 67 appearances, scoring four times on 93 shots with a team-eighth 16 assists, a team-ninth plus-6 rating, and 30 penalty minutes. On November 18th, he tabbed an assist to help Calgary tie the Toronto Maple Leafs at two through 60 minutes of regulation. He scored the game winner just over a minute into overtime, the first of his career. Calgary earned a 42-30-7-3 record, then cruised through the playoffs before dropping the Stanley Cup Final to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games. Lydman appeared in six games, and tabbed a single assist for his first postseason point.

During the 2004-05 work stoppage, Lydman joined HIFK Helsinki for an eight game spell, and scored a goal with two assists. When play resumed, the Flame traded him to the Buffalo Sabres for a third round pick (John Armstrong). After five seasons in Buffalo (371 games, 14 goals, 91 assists, 311 PiM), he played another three with the Anaheim Ducks (187 games, three goals, 41 assists, 100 PiM). His career was unexpectedly cut short after a hit by the Detroit Red WingsJustin Abdelkader in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs (below). He currently covers Finnish Hockey as a TV analyst.

All-Time Statline: 289 games, 19 goals, 74 assists, minus-16 rating, 140 penalty minutes, 19.86 point shares.

51. Curt Bennett

Curt Bennett was a 6’3", 195 lb. center from Regina, Saskatchewan. A center by trade, he was born on March 27th, 1948, and currently practices real estate in Maui, Hawaii.

Bennett grew up in Rhode Island, and played collegiate hockey with Brown University, getting drafted after his second season by the expansion St. Louis Blues in the second round of the 1968 NHL Amateur Draft, with the 16th overall selection.

Bennett left Brown after the 1969-70 season, and spent his first two professional campaigns between St. Louis (35 games, five goals, five assists, 30 PiM), the CHL’s Kansas City Blues (63 games, 19 goals, 23 assists, 63 PiM), and the WHL’s Denver Spurs (32 games, 13 goals, 19 assists, 52 PiM). He joined the New York Rangers via trade prior to the 1972-73 season, and played 16 games with the club, totaling one assist and 11 penalty minutes.

On November 28th, 1972, the Rangers traded Bennett to the still shiny-and-new Atlanta Flames for Ron Harris. Although he only totaled 52 games with the club, he ranked sixth on the team in scoring, with 35 points. He scored 18 times on 135 shots with 17 assists, earned a minus-13 rating, and racked up a nearly-virginal nine penalty minutes. The Flames finished with the seventh-best record in the NHL’s West Division, with a 25-38-15 record, to date their second worst showing (by points percentage).

1973-74 would mark Bennett’s first full season in red and white. He played in 71 contests, ranking fifth on the club with 41 points on 17 goals with 24 helpers. He took 136 shots on goal, and earned a team third-best plus-3 rating with 34 penalty minutes. The Flames made the postseason in only their second year in existence, at 30-34-14, but lost in four straight to the Philadelphia Flyers. Bennett earned one assist in the series, surprisingly leading the club with 34 penalty minutes.

In 1974-75, Bennett led the team and the NHL with 80 appearances, breaking the 30-goal barrier for the first time. He scored 31 times on 210 shots with 33 assists for a team second-best 64 points. He also earned a plus-10 rating and 40 penalty minutes for the not-quite-playoff-bound 34-31-15 Flames.

For the second year in a row, Bennett played 80 games in 1975-76, and scored a team leading and career high 34 goals on 221 shots. He pitched in 31 assists, ranking second on the club with 65 total points, posted a plus-1 rating and earned 61 penalty minutes. He also led the team with eight game winning goals. The club earned a playoff berth with a 35-33-12 record, but lost the best-of-three series in two straight to the Los Angeles Kings. Bennett went scoreless as the Flames were held to a total of one marker over the two contests.

1976-77 would see Bennett play in 76 contests for Atlanta, scoring 22 goals on 183 shots with 25 assists to rank fifth on the Flames with 47 points. He also ranked last on the team with a minus-14 rating and spent 36 minutes in the penalty box. After breaking even with a 34-34-12 record, the Flames lost in the opening round of the playoffs, two-games-to-one to the Kings. Bennett scored once, earning seven penalty minutes in the process.

1977-78 started out with Bennett playing 25 games for Atlanta, earning 10 points (three goals, seven assists). On December 12th, the Flames traded him to the Blues with Phil Myre and Barry Gibbs for Yves Belanger, Dick Redmond, Bob MacMillan, and a second round pick (Mike Perovich).

After a season and a half with St. Louis (124 games, 21 goals, 36 assists, 116 penalty minutes), the Blues traded Bennett back to the Flames for Bobby Simpson on May 24th, 1979. He played 21 games for Atlanta in 1979-80, scoring once and adding three assists. He retired following the season, and lived in Atlanta for over two decades before relocating to Hawaii.

Although not primarily known as a fighter, Bennett occasionally dropped the gloves:

All-Time Statline: 405 games, 126 goals, 140 assists, minus-23 rating, 190 penalty minutes, 20.20 point shares.