Kiprusoff: Can less be more?


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.”

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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.

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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.

  • RCN

    "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?


  • RCN

    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.

  • RCN

    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.

  • RCN

    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.

  • RCN

    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.

  • RCN

    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.