Game No. 47: Whither Kipper?

Henrik Karlsson goes tonight, and that’s got me wondering.

Miikka Kiprusoff has been several very specific kinds of horrible in his last handful of starts and, well, that’s the kind of thing that happens with most goalies every once in a while.

The last several years, you watched the Flames and, even when Kiprusoff was playing so-so hockey, you shuddered to think of where these mediocre teams would have been without him.

Make no mistake, my opinion of Kiprusoff is much as it ever was: he’s a goalie that when he’s on top of things is probably the most impenetrable in the league. Other goalies have gaudier save percentages and GAAs (especially this year), but they didn’t play behind some of the defenses Calgary has rolled in recent years and, indeed, if money weren’t a consideration, most GMs would probably want him to be The Guy in a one-game playoff, were you to be assured that you were getting Vintage Kipper.

But we haven’t gotten anything close to Vintage Kipper — hell, some nights this season we’d settle for Vintage Noodles — for much of the season save a couple outstanding efforts. Karlsson has played the majority of games in January, and if I’d told you THAT in October, you probably would have sobbingly called me a liar with your face buried in your hands. But it makes one wonder.

What, exactly, is the long-term goal with Miikka Kiprusoff?

Acting GM Jay Feaster has made it quite clear that he considers Kiprusoff part of The Core, and based on his history, he’s probably the least-offensive older guy to be considered part of that group. But diminishing returns are, for lack of a nicer way of saying it, on the horizon if not already here.

Calgary claims it’s fighting for a playoff spot at this point, and if they’re putting the load on Karlsson’s shoulders rather than Kipper’s, then that is very puzzling indeed. I think they probably believe that Karlsson, even at his rather advanced age for a prospect, can be an NHL goaltender with a bit more seasoning. I think they’re probably giving him an extended run-out to see what he’s got with a more regular workload than "Whenever Miikka gets tired." And yet that puts Kiprusoff in an odd position.

Say Karlsson continues to get better and earns a greater role next season. Are you really gonna go 1A-1B with a guy making that much money, who can’t be traded without his say-so? And if you are looking to shop him, this whole "Lost his starting role to a 52-year-old rookie" gimmick isn’t gonna boost the ol’ market value.

This is a team that’s been mismanaged for years from behind the bench and in the front office — why stop now?! — but there’s gotta be a better plan than this.