The Kipper Injury - Options and Consequences

Kent Wilson
February 06 2013 10:08AM

 


 

As no doubt everyone knows by now, Miikka Kiprusoff did not play the third period of the Red Wing game last night due to "lower body" injury. The extent of his malady is currently unknown, although apparently he isn't going to dress for practice this morning so the problem is a bit more than a bruise.

This obviously presents a problem for Calgary. Kipper has been the franchise's workhorse since he took the reins from Roman Turek in 2003. The last time he was injured was that very season and since the lock-out, no other goaltender has played more games. In addition, the Flames currently have no other readily available puck stopper with an NHL deal aside from Leland Irving - Joni Ortio is on loan in Finland and his team's primary puck stopper - he's not likely to make a trip across the pond to dress as a back-up to Irving. Prospects Laurent Brossoit and Jon Gillies are having good seasons, but aren't inked to entry-level deals yet. Barry Brust and danny Taylor are the best goaltending duo in the AHL, but both are on minor-league contracts only. Karri Ramo, the current heir apparent for Kiprusoff, is Flames property but doesn't have a contract with the club. He's also the starter for one of the KHL's top teams.

Meaning if Kipper is hurt for longer than, well, today, the team organization will have to find someone they can sign or acquire to back-up Irving at the very least. Henrik Karlsson was dealt to Chicago, so that option is gone. Some other names like Ben Bishop or Jonathan Bernier may be available for trade, but it's doubtful Feaster will want to yield any assets for such a stop-gap measure.

Aside from the logistics, there is also the obvious issue of performance and what Kiprusoff's absence might mean for the Flames playoff chances if he's out long-term. He's had a poor start to the season, but there's little doubt Kipper is a better option in goal than Leland Irving even at 36-years old given Irving's struggles in the AHL both this season and last. Despite the aura that tends to surround him, Kipper isn't the Vezina trophy winner he once was (his SV% has settled into NHL average territory over the last five years), but the chances of Irving providing even league average netminding over more than a week or two are slm.

The Options

The clearest, most obvious option for Calgary is to ink one of Barry Brust or Danny Taylor to a one or two year two-way contract. This option would be far more unappealing if the pair were not providing the best puck stopping in the league for the Abbotsford Heat. Brust has a .940 SV% in 18 starts while Danny Taylor boasts a .930 SV% in 26 games - good for 2nd and 4th overall in the AHL respectively. The two goalies dueling with Brust and Taylor at the top of the ranks are NHL noteworthy guys Robin Lehner and Braden Holtby. 

These results aren't outrageous abberations for either guy. When we discussed Leland Irving's performance and talent level in November, I noted both Brust and Taylor had better overall career save rates than the Flames former first rounder, with each goalie hovering around .920 in the AHL (while Irving is about .909).

Taylor is the most obvious choice. At 26 years old he's closer to his prime and with three consecutive noteworthy seasons (.919, .927 and .930) looks like one of those rare guys who has figured things out in his mid-'20s. Taylor has served as the Heat's putative starter for the last two seasons and could ably fill that role again next year if the Flames sign him to a two-way deal extending beyond this year.

Barry Brust is older at 29 and is also bigger than Taylor and somewhat unorthodox in net. He played 11 games for the Kings in 2006-07, although he was lit up in that brief span (.878 SV%). Brust would be an interesting story, but despite his slightly superior save rate he's a longer shot to be signed at his age and given his somewhat odd playing style.

As mentioned, Ben Bishop and Jonathan Bernier may be be available on the trade market. Bishop is currently with the Ottawa Senators and seems to be between a rock and a hard place with Craig Anderson as the club's obvious starter and Robin Lehner the next guy in line. Bishop is a towering 6'7" 26-year old who like Taylor has put together three consecutive seasons worth of good results in the AHL.

Jonathan Bernier is the Kings former 11th overall pick in 2006. He managed a better than .930 SV% career in the AHL and was goalie of the year in 2009-10 for the Manchester Monarchs. He has been LA's back-up since 2010, but hasn't been able to really establish himself as a starter thanks to Jon Quick's emergence as a high-end puck stopper.

Neither guy is established at the NHL level, but both boast fairly good resumes at other levels. Of course, it would entirely depend on what each guy's organization is asking in return for each of them - anything above a nominal draft pick or prospect and I doubt Feaster bites.

Potential Positives

Because of his past accomplishments and enduring durability, the Flames have long labored under the idea that the club simply can't survive without Kiprusoff. Certainly Vezina caliber netminders are invaluable to any club's bottom line, but the truth is Kipper hasn't been at that level since about 2007-08. Average NHL goaltending is also better than suffering with, say, Steve Mason or Vesa Toskala, but is much more readily replaceable and not nearly as indispensable as elite puck-stopping. 

One long-term positive which may come from a Kiprusoff injury is the team may learn they can survive in the affable Fin's absence and need not fear the rapidly approaching "post-Kipper" era. If Irving or Taylor or whoever (or some combination) can hold the fort with at least average goaltending while Kiprusoff is down, perhaps the organization can quell the perpetual anxiety which has surrounded the position since Kipper started playing 70+ games per season. As I've argued before, middling NHL netmiding is probably one of the most fungible commodities in the league and what drives NHL GM's to consistently overpay or over-evaluate the abilities of "their guy" is that visceral fear of a bad save rate sinking the ship (rather than a rational evaluation of a goalie's true abilities and market value vs other options).

Conclusion

Alternatively, if Irving and backup completely fall on their face with Kipper in the infirmary it will only serve to reinforce the organization's anxieties, no doubt doubling up on the perception that "as Kipper goes, so goes the Calgary Flames." Also, poor netminding would lno doubt cripple the team's aspirations for a playoff berth this season, leading to a 4th straight year outside of the post-season and more questions about the club's future.

All of this may be moot if Miikka is only hurt for a game or two. Longer than that and things get much more interesting, however.

39d8109299a9795cb3b41a4e9b49d501
Former Nations Overlord. Current Fn contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#1 Matt
February 06 2013, 11:33AM
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Hate to get super anal about language but "potential heri[sic] apparent" doesn't make any sense. You're either a potential heir (one of several who might take the job) or you're the heir apparent (the presumptive person to take the job). You can't be both.

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#2 Jonathan Willis
February 06 2013, 10:36AM
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@Rain Dogs

The slow starts may happen every year, but Kiprusoff's first five games were worse than any five-game stretch he played in 2011-12.

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#4 Rain Dogs
February 06 2013, 10:23AM
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Blessing in disguise. People are getting far too worked up, too early about Kipper's struggles (these slow starts happen almost every year, and the Flames have faced some offensively dynamite teams. That said, he had two very, very rough games and a couple of poor puck luck ones... but he played well against Van, Chi and Det with 3 "quality starts". Those teams usually rip him apart.)

The good thing is, we'll get to see Irving. Sink or swim, which is needed. He looked awful technically last night (wasn't getting set on low zone plays, playing deep AND small and was chasing the puck/over-committing), but he controlled his rebounds and didn't allow a goal.

There is a long history of goalies coming in due to starter injury and having long careers.... but the opposite (re: short careers) is also true.

We're hopefully going to see which Irving we have.

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#5 icedawg_42
February 06 2013, 10:28AM
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If say, Taylor got signed to a 2 way deal, would you see him as the starter or backup to Irving? Personally the thought of Irving as an NHL starter scares the hell out of me - Taylor scares me too...but only because he's got 1 period of NHL experience.

Also, you see NO free agent stop-gap options?

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#6 icedawg_42
February 06 2013, 10:29AM
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BOOM there it is - Flames have signed Taylor.

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#7 Colin.S
February 06 2013, 10:32AM
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Danny Taylor just signed to Two Way deal, congrats to him

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#9 Jai Kiran
February 06 2013, 10:51AM
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The Taylor signing has got to mean the Kipper injury is not nothing. If the injury is minor - 5 games or less - I agree with Rain Dogs: a blessing in disguise. I think Taylor & Irving can hold the fort or better for a few games, and if they do, the sense of competition will mean Kipper comes back strong. A longer term injury and we're in a Strange New World...

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#10 Kevin R
February 06 2013, 10:53AM
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icedawg_42 wrote:

BOOM there it is - Flames have signed Taylor.

Amen! There is hope for Feasty boy yet. I would rather burn one of our contracts we were saving than give up any kind of assets to get a goalie. Bishop or Bernier are to cost a 1st or 2nd ++

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#11 seve927
February 06 2013, 10:53AM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Good for Taylor. He's earned it. I'll be interested in seeing him play a game or two in the show.

Yep, I think it was the obvious choice. I think that plan was in place as soon as they were able to trade Karlsson.

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#12 seve927
February 06 2013, 10:56AM
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Interesting question now is, who plays? You'd have to think they play Taylor ahead of Irving, don't you? He's been ahead of him for the past year, why would that change?

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#13 Bigfatflamesfan
February 06 2013, 11:02AM
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Flames twitter is saying Kipper is Day to Day, so he wouldnt be gone for too long I wouldn't think.

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#14 Jeff In Lethbridge
February 06 2013, 11:03AM
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what scares me is the way the team changes their play when kipper leaves the net. Last night was a good example - the third period the flames seemed to be running around in their own end a lot. is this a sign of team protecting the lead, or losing composer because of the net-minder change?

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#15 icedawg_42
February 06 2013, 11:08AM
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seve927 wrote:

Interesting question now is, who plays? You'd have to think they play Taylor ahead of Irving, don't you? He's been ahead of him for the past year, why would that change?

Based on stats, and from watching Irving, I'd agree 100% with you...Taylor would be my guy...but the team has never even so much as laid eyes on Taylor..so I don't know.

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#16 Stockley
February 06 2013, 11:09AM
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@seve927

You have to think Irving gets this next start. Relatively weak Columbus team. It's time to throw Leland off a cliff and see if the boy can fly. One way or another they have to test him and see if it's time to fish or cut bait with him. He might surprise us all or he might fall flat on his face. Either way Taylor's earned at least a chance as well. We'll get to see if either of them has a legitimate future with the Flames.

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#17 vowswithin
February 06 2013, 11:09AM
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I would be lying if I said I wasn't excited to see Taylor give it a try! First it means that Irving gets pushed and has to sink or swim, Second one of the two could emerge as a backup option and third it could prove that when ramo comes over we could finally trade kipper.

No kipper hate here, just realism about him being 36 and us needing assets.

And as many of you are aware worst case scenario? We bomb hard and end up with a great draft pick in DEEP draft.

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#18 Subversive
February 06 2013, 11:11AM
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I'm excited and optimistic. I think the team has to be getting frustrated with Kipper letting in a soft one or two a game. I bet they play great in front of (hopefully) Taylor.

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#19 vowswithin
February 06 2013, 11:13AM
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Colin.S wrote:

Danny Taylor just signed to Two Way deal, congrats to him

Jesus he must be so pumped up!!!

Taylor has the age advantage on Brust for sure, Bookofloob you must be pissed at this decision!!!

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#20 Subversive
February 06 2013, 11:14AM
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@vowswithin

No, the worst case scenario is we muck along just mediocre enough to not trade for the future, yet not good enough to make the playoffs, with no shot at the top tier talent in the draft.

Bombing hard would be ok, or making the playoffs strongly even better.

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#22 the-wolf
February 06 2013, 11:41AM
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Bishop and Ramo next year would've been a nice combo.

But I agree that the asking price is too high. A first this year? Never.

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#23 Alt
February 06 2013, 11:46AM
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Good to see Taylor get a contract after Feaster had made the point of rewarding players for there play, regardless of their status That was,nt the case when Irving was brought up and allowed to compete with Karlsson for back-up.If performance would have counted Taylor would have been signed a month ago,although i get it that Irving was signed, and on his last chance.Will get interesting from here

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#24 Scary Gary
February 06 2013, 11:59AM
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Good for Taylor, he's been a nice surprise this year and last.

On a seperate note I'd love to see Bernier get a starting job somewhere, he's an RFA next year and should push for a trade. Team Canada gets pretty thin after Price and Luongo :)

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#25 kittensandcookies
February 06 2013, 12:13PM
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Irving to get start in Columbus.

Baertshi put on IR.

Kipper out day to day.

From CH.

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#27 jandrewyang
February 06 2013, 12:29PM
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Little funny, little sad.

"lit up in that brief span (.878 SV%)"

Kiprusoff through 7 games, .870 SV%

http://www.nhl.com/ice/player.htm?id=8462147

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#28 beloch
February 06 2013, 12:38PM
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Danny Taylor has played just 61% of the AHL minutes that Irving has. This strikes me as odd since Taylor's Sv% (calculated from total saves over total shots) is significantly better over his AHL career (0.921 vs Irving's 0.908).

Taylor spent several years getting light duty on a few different AHL teams, and then spent part of a season in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga. He didn't do particularly well there, but has been finally become a regular starter in the AHL since his return. 59% of his AHL minutes have been after his return to North America in 2011/2012! Perhaps there's a story from Hamburg waiting to be told?

Taylor is a couple of years older, but his last season and a half in the AHL are better than any stretch in Irving's career. Perhaps he did "figure it out" late. Taylor does look like the better goalie to start right now, but not giving Irving the start against the BJ's would probably destroy what little confidence he has. If Taylor starts, that means the club has given up on Irving, and I doubt they'll do that easily given how much they've invested in him. I can certainly see Taylor sharing the duty until Kipper's return though, even if Irving plays well.

Personally, I'd give Irving the start against the BJ's and, if that game goes well, possibly against the Canucks on Saturday too (mostly because he played well against them once before). I'd definitely give Taylor the following start though, both to see what he can do and spark a little competition with Irving.

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#29 Bean-counting cowboy
February 06 2013, 01:23PM
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So who backs up Brust in Abby?

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#30 shutout
February 06 2013, 01:25PM
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You have to give Irving the start against Columbus. He has been practicing with the team, made the team out of camp, and did alright in the third in Detroit. To not start him against Columbus destroys any confidence and belief that he thinks the organization has in him.

As far as I am concerned, as long as Irving is playing well and giving the team a chance to win he starts every game that Kiprusoff is out. You need to evaluate him on how well he plays, not on wins and losses, because this team has been notorious for not showing up for its backup goaltender the last half dozen years.

If Irving struggles tomorrow against Columbus than you give Taylor the next start. Buy you have to give Irving the chance, and base the decisions on what he can control and how well he plays.

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#31 NateBaldwin
February 06 2013, 01:55PM
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shutout wrote:

You have to give Irving the start against Columbus. He has been practicing with the team, made the team out of camp, and did alright in the third in Detroit. To not start him against Columbus destroys any confidence and belief that he thinks the organization has in him.

As far as I am concerned, as long as Irving is playing well and giving the team a chance to win he starts every game that Kiprusoff is out. You need to evaluate him on how well he plays, not on wins and losses, because this team has been notorious for not showing up for its backup goaltender the last half dozen years.

If Irving struggles tomorrow against Columbus than you give Taylor the next start. Buy you have to give Irving the chance, and base the decisions on what he can control and how well he plays.

Nailed it!

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#32 everton fc
February 06 2013, 02:21PM
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NateBaldwin wrote:

Nailed it!

Indeed. Time let Irving hang himself, or succeed. Fate!

I had mentioned signing Taylor to a 2-way last year. Glad it's finally come to fruition.

(Of course, I remain wrong about Desbiens! Can't win 'em all!)

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#34 Steve
February 06 2013, 03:02PM
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shutout wrote:

You have to give Irving the start against Columbus. He has been practicing with the team, made the team out of camp, and did alright in the third in Detroit. To not start him against Columbus destroys any confidence and belief that he thinks the organization has in him.

As far as I am concerned, as long as Irving is playing well and giving the team a chance to win he starts every game that Kiprusoff is out. You need to evaluate him on how well he plays, not on wins and losses, because this team has been notorious for not showing up for its backup goaltender the last half dozen years.

If Irving struggles tomorrow against Columbus than you give Taylor the next start. Buy you have to give Irving the chance, and base the decisions on what he can control and how well he plays.

I disagree. Your organization obviously thinks Taylor is the better goaltender. The job goes to the better goaltender. It sounds like they're expecting Kipper to be back soon, so we may never know, but if there are any number of games to be played, I think Irving remains the backup and the guy they think is the better goaltender plays.

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#35 ngthagg
February 06 2013, 03:23PM
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With the Taylor signing, I have to assume Kipper is expected to be back in the near future. Irving/Taylor is a combo that is great for evaluating the future of Flames goaltending, but poor in the long term, since success depends on one of the two demonstrating above average NHL proficiency.

If Kipper were out long term, I think we'd be seeing a trade for a more established goaltender.

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#36 beloch
February 06 2013, 03:31PM
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ngthagg wrote:

With the Taylor signing, I have to assume Kipper is expected to be back in the near future. Irving/Taylor is a combo that is great for evaluating the future of Flames goaltending, but poor in the long term, since success depends on one of the two demonstrating above average NHL proficiency.

If Kipper were out long term, I think we'd be seeing a trade for a more established goaltender.

That doesn't really follow. If Kipper is out long-term, Feaster would likely need more than 48 hours to organize a trade and somebody has to back Irving tomorrow.

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#37 Baalzamon
February 06 2013, 03:36PM
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@ngthagg

"since success depends on one of the two demonstrating above average NHL proficiency."

Really? I'd settle for consistently average goaltending.

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#38 shutout
February 06 2013, 03:43PM
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Steve wrote:

I disagree. Your organization obviously thinks Taylor is the better goaltender. The job goes to the better goaltender. It sounds like they're expecting Kipper to be back soon, so we may never know, but if there are any number of games to be played, I think Irving remains the backup and the guy they think is the better goaltender plays.

If the organization thought that Taylor was better why was he only on a minor league contract? Why bother signing Irving to an NHL contract if you knew that Taylor was in the organization and was better. You cannot go off of the play in the minors or base your judgement on how Ward has been deploying his netminders. This is a clean slate as Hartley said, and starting now playing time is based on performance. To do anything less would undermine the whole charade the new coaching staff is bringing to the club.

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#40 Vowswithin
February 06 2013, 04:32PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

For those wondering about Ahl-to-NHL equivalencies for goalies, the best we have is a 0.7% loss in save percentage (or 0.007):

http://nhlnumbers.com/2012/7/18/improving-ahl-equivalencies-ahl-to-nhl-shot-metrics-translations

So a true .930 goalie in the AHL would expect to be a .923 goalie in the NHL according to this study.

I just read that article last night :), seemed a little shocking to me. But good we have a .923 goalie now.

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#41 seve927
February 06 2013, 05:07PM
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shutout wrote:

If the organization thought that Taylor was better why was he only on a minor league contract? Why bother signing Irving to an NHL contract if you knew that Taylor was in the organization and was better. You cannot go off of the play in the minors or base your judgement on how Ward has been deploying his netminders. This is a clean slate as Hartley said, and starting now playing time is based on performance. To do anything less would undermine the whole charade the new coaching staff is bringing to the club.

Contracts were signed for a season starting in October. They know a lot more now than they did then. I don't know why you would say you can't go off their play in the minors. Is play in practice a better indicator? Clean slate or not, the only information you have is that Irving has been very poor all year. Taylor has been very good.

Are you saying you think Irving is the better goaltender, or he just deserves a shot because they gave him a contract? If it's the former then I agree with you. I just think you play the guy you think is better.

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#42 negrilcowboy
February 06 2013, 05:32PM
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kippers injury mcl,day to day. what will the brilliant management do now? no adequate backup. start the rebuil jay.

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#44 Baalzamon
February 06 2013, 06:26PM
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@Kent Wilson

still, that puts Taylor as a .913 sv% in the NHL, which (I believe) is around the league average overall.

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#46 Rain Dogs
February 06 2013, 07:47PM
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@Jonathan Willis

The spreadsheet says he let in 22 goals from Nov.8,2011 - Nov.25,2011 in 7 games. He let in 20 in 6 over that stretch. (Karl lost 1-4 vs CLB in the middle)

He's let in 22 in 7 games this season (the same number) and 21 in 6. It's hardly worth making any fuss about the difference.

Sure Kipper was awful in a few games to start this season, no doubt, but we've been down the small sample panic before. You choose 5 games... someone else will chose 4... or 3. Bad stretches happen to every team and every goalie.

He had an awful stretch in '11-'12 of 7 games and still finished .928. That is likely not going to happen this year, but those five games could also be relatively meaningless to his season.

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#47 RKD
February 06 2013, 10:58PM
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Day to day so hopefully it isn't too serious. Irving will need to prove himself tomorrow night. Tomorrow against CBJ will be a test for the Flames.

Weak teams seem to give Calgary all kinds of fits.

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#48 Kevin R
February 07 2013, 12:37AM
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shutout wrote:

If the organization thought that Taylor was better why was he only on a minor league contract? Why bother signing Irving to an NHL contract if you knew that Taylor was in the organization and was better. You cannot go off of the play in the minors or base your judgement on how Ward has been deploying his netminders. This is a clean slate as Hartley said, and starting now playing time is based on performance. To do anything less would undermine the whole charade the new coaching staff is bringing to the club.

Well if I'm Hartley, I know Irv just played a 3rd period in Detroit & didnt screw it up. Taylor is on a whirlwind & should probably just get used to being on the NHL bench & watch the flow of the game up here. Irv gets the next start. He wins, he plays again. He craps the bed & Taylor is in the next game. If he craps the bed..........PANIK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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#49 meat1
February 07 2013, 08:27AM
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I don't think there could be a better scenario, timing-wise, for this to happen. Irving was able to get his feet wet during a successful third period the other night. Now he starts on the road against a Columbus team that is not what you consider red-hot. If he is good tonight, and Kipper isn't ready Saturday, Irving would then play a Canuck team he had great success against in his start in Vancouver last season. If he wets the bed, I could easily see HIM sent down to Abby when Kipper gets better. And never to return.

Just wondering...would Taylor need to clear waivers if, say, Kipper returns in a week and he gets sent down?

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