Leland Irving: The Best Goalie In Alberta?

So says his agent, Ritch Winter, via Twitter:

My opinion of best goalie in Alberta – Leland Irving. But he’s a client. Better than .940 Sv% outside Bruin gm and points in all other games.

Now, to be fair, Irving is coming off a pretty nice game last night against Phoenix, stopping 33 of 35 shots. Vintage Flame shone the spotlight on the young goaltender in his post-game write-up, making some of the same points that Winter would make this morning:

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The first goal he let in wasn’t great but he really buckled down and played a solid game. Stopping 34 of 36 shots in his first game since the Boston blow-out, he showed great composure and was steady all night long. Every time Irving steps in the crease he is making it a harder decision for the Flames as to who should be Kiprusoff’s back-up. Aside from the Beantown game, even when Leland loses, he manages to get the Flames a point, something Karlsson has hardly been able to do this season. Undoubtedly, Irving is showing he is ready for the NHL and is proving he deserves his shot.

When we look at Irving’s five-game stint in Calgary – if we ignore the Bruins game – we see a lot of good things. The game against Phoenix. Forty-five saves against Ottawa. Twenty-nine saves and just one goal allowed against Vancouver. Then, going back to his first appearance against Florida, 39 stops on 41 shots in an overtime loss.

While it’s difficult to look at five games and make the leap that Irving is better than Kiprusoff – the leap Winter seems to be making – there’s no denying that Irving’s done a very good job for the most part when called on. Given that Henrik Karlsson isn’t regarded as especially essential and backup goalies are a dime a dozen, there’s probably a case to be made that Irving should be the number two guy on the depth chart even if Karlsson were healthy and on the NHL roster.  That’s a decision the Flames will be forced to make soon.

Irving’s performance has to count as a pleasant surprise for the Flames, given that his AHL track record is solid but unspectacular. Kent Wilson, writing about Irving’s original call-up, pointed to the bulk of his career work as a reason to keep expectations reasonable:

It will be interesting to see how [Irving] fares, but expectations for the youngster should be muted: his reuslts in the "A" have been good but not great and if he follows the long-path to the NHL (assuming he ever becomes a starter at all), he’s probably at least two years away from truly making the leap.

Given that we’re talking about five games and studiously overlooking the Boston catastrophe in assessing Irving, I think there’s a lot of truth to what Kent said at the time, and I think it applies just as well today. Despite the recent run, there isn’t a ton of daylight between Karlsson and Irving career-wise, and with Irving the better long-term prospect, there’s also a case for sending him back to Abbotsford.

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Personally, I’d be very tempted to risk Karlsson on waivers and hang on to Irving, however. Development is all well and good but the Flames are in a tooth and nail fight for one of the last two spots in the Western Conference playoff race. Irving’s hot, and Karlsson’s coming back from injury. While we all know that Kiprusoff is going to get the bulk of the starts the rest of the way in any case – as he should, given the season he’s having – every point is vital and it’s hard to imagine the Flames not going with the option that gives them the best chance to win.

Right now, that option looks like Irving rather than Karlsson.

  • Oh f*** me. Winter is Irving’s agent? God I want that guy to just crawl into a hole and leave the NHL alone. He’s a frickin’ plague. Yes, he’s a good agent in the sense that he gets tons of money for his clients, but that’s literally all he’s good for. There’s more to a contract than just the dollar figure, and Winter is one of the guys who’s ruining the league.

    • xis10ce

      He’s also great a ruining players actual potential careers by pushing his clients in too fast and not giving them enough time to dev properly. As a business man it’s in his best interest for the short term, but it’s hurting him in the long run.

  • redricardo

    I think that it’s a very fair comment. Over a five game stint he has a .940 save percent (If you take out the Boston Game).

    So he’s obviously the best goalie in Alberta. I know there are going to be some “math people” who say that you can’t just pick and choose whatever stats make your client look the best, or some “common sense people” who point out that with the career Kipper has had, to declare Irving the best in Alberta is ludicrous, and that’s without even looking up north at the goalies they have.

    Keep fighting the good fight Rich Winter. Never let math or logic stand in the way of you making an ass of yourself. Fight the power!!

  • RexLibris

    don’t worry, everyone! ritch’s got the solution for the flames-all they have to do is trade for brian boucher and then they’re playoff bound!

    god, what a dumbass.

    • I wouldn’t go this far. I agree the Flames need to take a look at what they want to do with this two tenders and make a decision on one, but let’s face it. Kipper once again is going to have to play most of the remainder of the games leaving maybe 2 left for whoever is backing up. I say send Irving back down to abbotsford and try to package up Karlsson in the off season for something. There’s no point in risking someone grab him for nothing.

      • Vintage Flame

        I would have to agree with Steinberg on this matter. The Flames have stated emphatically that they are going for it. If this is true and given that there are still 3 back-to-back situations in March, then Irving gives them the better shot in those games.

        If the belief that there is no playoffs, then yes they are better off sending Irving back to Abbotsford for more playing time and then just ride out the season with Karlsson.

        There’s no point in risking someone grab him for nothing.

        How is this even a risk. What has Karlsson done to warrant another team thinking he is an addition that will make a difference for their team?

        • @ Vintage Flame.

          I guess I just believe there are teams that will pick him up at his price and age. Although he hasn’t proven anything in this league yet, many teams are desperate for a goaltender. I think with the games remaining for the back up, and where the flames are in the standings today Karlsson is more than capable of covering those games.

          I realize Irving has had a good showing so far in the games he has played, but Karlsson has played some decent hockey himself and the team infront of him is giving him no help.

  • Derzie

    The only discussion about Alberta goalies should be who is 2nd best. Kipper is untouchable. When another goalie is in the MVP talk and Top 5 in the league talk and 300 wins talk, then we’ll talk.

  • Ken V.

    I don’t think Irving’s agent was ever saying he was better than Kipper, that’s a leap maybe you are making about his statements….. I feel this was solely directed at his results compared to those of Karlsson. Irving has come a long way but really needed to make that first stop last night and didn’t. He will be ready next year so I don’t know what all the fuss is about. If anything his agent is just trying to establish an argument that his player is ready for the bigs; which is how he makes his money. And Ritchie is all about making the money.

    • RexLibris

      My opinion

      clearly ritch’s opinion

      of best goalie in Alberta –

      clearly mapping out the location parameters, which would include the flames and oilers

      Leland Irving.

      clearly not miikka kiprusoff