Kiprusoff: Can less be more?

Jean Lefebvre
September 13 2009 01:10PM

kiprusoff

Considering how much was made of the relationship between Miikka Kiprusoff and Mike Keenan (and frankly, the fuss was completely out of proportion with reality) Brent Sutter’s dealings with the veteran Calgary netminder will be under scrutiny.

It was notable then that, on the eve of main camp, the new skipper made this declaration: “It’s a tough league for a goaltender to play that many games in. Especially with the amount of travel that there is out in the Western Conference. I’m not using that as an excuse at all. But facts are facts. So again, we'll just monitor it and see what happens. But at this point in time, I certainly wouldn't expect him to play as many games as he has.”

Sutter’s remarks are interesting because the one season in New Jersey he had a No. 1 goalie at his disposal for the entire year, Martin Brodeur played 77 games, which is a lot even if the Devils don’t have the same travel issues as the Flames. Also, during Sutter’s final season at the helm of the Red Deer Rebels juniors, he used his starter 60 times in a 72-game schedule.

Also, there isn’t that much evidence that Kiprusoff’s problems have anything to do with wear and tear.

During Keenan’s two years at the reins in Calgary, Kiprusoff’s cumulative regular-season numbers in October and November consisted of a 3.01 goals-against average and an .890 save percentage. The corresponding figures in March and April for those two years are 2.95 and .900. Remember also that the 2008-09 Flames were beat up and playing shorthanded at the end of the season, which compounded any issues Kiprusoff was having on his own.

It just seems too convenient to explain away the late-season woes as fatigue when no satisfactory explanation can be found for Kiprusoff’s declining play in other portions of the calendar.

The other part of the equation is that you need a good backup option and no recent Flames bench boss has seemed especially confident in Plan B whether the No. 2 goalie has been named McLennan, Sauve, Boucher or McElhinney. Curtis Joseph’s half-season under Keenan is about the only instance of a coach having some degree of faith in the non-Finnish netminding option.

Even if the Flames take a damn-the-torpedoes approach and try to work in the backup more often while viewing any points gained in those games as gravy, what if Kiprusoff continues to post poor numbers even with a reduced workload? You’ll forgive Calgary fans if they refuse to think about that possibility, especially with all the miles and dollars remaining on Kiprusoff’s contract.

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Lefebvre is in that awkward stage of hockey following -- old enough to fondly remember the Cleveland Barons and too set in his ways to accept charity points and games where there's a winner but apparently no loser. As a long-time ink-stained wretch, he's also a firm believer in the old Bobby Knight quote about journalists: "All of us learn to write in second grade, but most of us go on to better things."
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#1 b1ackhat
September 13 2009, 10:08PM
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"what if Kiprusoff continues to post poor numbers even with a reduced workload?"

This, Mr Lefebvre is what is keeping me up at night as the season approaches. Without his mind bending workload to use an excuse what if he is just plain getting worse?

YIKES

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#2 Kent Wilson
September 14 2009, 06:23AM
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Good stuff, Jean. As you say, the data doesn't really support the "he's just tired" narrative. Kipper has been awful to start the season several years in a row, a time at which he should theoretically be the freshest.

This summer was probably the last chance Sutter had to try to deal Kipper if the decline continues. No one will touch the guy after this year if he posts more average-to-below average numbers, especially behind that blueline and with Brent coaching.

There's no excuses left for Kipper now.

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#3 LiveOne
September 14 2009, 02:38PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

There’s no excuses left for Kipper now.

I couldn't agree more with you both.

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#4 Abracanada
September 14 2009, 05:58PM
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Before you dismiss the problems with Keenan, I would look at how Kiprusoff played for every other coach. He had problems with Wilson and Keenan, and performed well with Sutter and Playfair. With Sutter and Playfair, he had an average between 7 and 10 shutouts per season. With Keenan, his numbers dropped in half.

His time with Keenan and Wilson in San Jose represented pretty severe drops statistically.

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#5 Kent
September 14 2009, 06:08PM
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So he played poorly for half his coaches and well for the other half. I don't know if that really tells us anything.

His ES SV% has dropped every single season since he came to the Flames. That's what's worrying. Another drop and he's flirting with Raycroft territory. In fact, given his contract, anything but an improvement is bad news.

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#6 ANNE
September 14 2009, 08:42PM
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I am not worried at all....we will have a renewed focus on team defence, which will keep our shots against totals down. When Kipper can see the puck he will stop it. Period. He was and still is amazing.

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#7 LiveOne
September 14 2009, 11:00PM
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@ ANNE:

Ladies and Gentleman Anne Kipprusoff.

(hold for applause)

LOL kidding

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#8 LiveOne
September 14 2009, 11:01PM
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And I now realize I misspelled Kipper's name.

(hold for applause)

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#9 Abracanada
September 15 2009, 09:56AM
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I know it isn't considered statistically but I look at shut-outs as exceptional performances. You need to be on your game to perform them, much like a hat trick for a forward.

A drop in "exceptional performances" that drastic suggests the goalie is not getting in the zone to the same level he once had.

I think the assumption that Kipper lost his game co-incided with Keenan taking the Flames reigns. I guess we will see what happens during his fourth coaches tenure. That should answer that question at any rate.

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#10 ewfmhkh
October 10 2009, 06:53AM
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