March 15 2010 02:49PM
The Abbotsford Heat have won a boatload of games recently, launching them back into the AHL playoff race. The starter for the club over the recent winning streak? David Shantz, a 23 year old free agent signing who was picked-up to fill out the organizations bottom-end. He began the season in the ECHL.
Shantz's recent play has brought him SV% up to a very mediocre .908. Matt Keetley, the oldest of the wannabe puck stoppers, is currently playing in the ECHL himself. He sports the best save rate amongst Flame goalie prospects this year at .912. Leland Irving - former first round draft pick Leland Irving - has also spent time playing his trade in the ECHL this season has seen his sophomore SV% sink to .907 in the AHL.
The Flames struggling goalie futures, and their subsequent dance between leagues caused Jonathan Willis to take a look at Calgary's goalie hopefuls recently. It's not the prettiest picture. Not mentioned in the piece, however, is the departed Kevin Lelande, a guy I started tracking last year after the org dealt him for a 4th rounder. My conclusion at the time was the Flames had probably dealt away their best goalie (future) asset.
Time has done nothing to dissuade me of that opinion. This year, Lalande is the starter for the Blue Jackets AHL affiliate Syracuse Crunch, and although his SV% has fallen to a career worst .911 (yes...that's the worst save rate of his pro career thus far), glancing at the Crunch's other puck-stoppers is revealing:
26 GP, 3.96 GAA, 0.882 SV%
4 GP, 3.66 GAA, .870 SV%
Lalande has been head-and-shoulders better than his brethren in Crunch colors this year. One can make the educated guess that Syracuse is a fairly lousy team (they are - second last in the AHL Eastern Conference) based on these numbers and that Lalande's .911 SV%, while middling relative to his prior results, is impressive given the circumstances.
There's little utility in this sort of hindsight hand-wringing, I know. That said, I find it both interesting and informative to evaulate the decision making of the management team and I think it's fair to assign pass/fail type grades to moves when you're a few years removed from them. And, aside from Kipper, everything this org has done crease related since the installation of Sutter (or, as some would argue, since Vernon left) has been a failure to one degree or another. It's not a huge black mark since a lot of NHL teams have troubles evaluating and handling goaltenders, but it is potentially worrisome for a team that is heading into the twilight seasons of it's established (and expensive) starter.