Flames Without Kipper



Jay Feaster had himself a media scrum today, during which he said…well not much. One item stuck out to me, however, because it’s one that is easily verified.

"If we trade #34, is there a position lower than 30th to finish?"

Of course, this is rhetoric and hyperbole, but it’s worth asking the question – where would the Flames be without Kiprusoff? Mitch of M&G asked the same question last night and I figured I might as well share some back of the envelope calculations that might help clarify the matter.

This season, Kiprusoff’s even strength SV% is .928 on 1285 shots against (92GA and 1193 saves). A replacement level goalie – that is, a puck stopper readily available in the AHL or on the open market – is about .905. The difference between that level of goaltending and Kipper at ES this year is 31 goals against. Six goals is worth about one win in the standings, so Kipper versus replacement level (or, to get more concrete, Henrik Karlsson) is just over five wins, or 10 points. That would sink the Flames to 56pts right now, good for 13th in the West – definitely significant, but not 30th overall.

Furthermore, it makes more sense to compare Kiprusoff to league average goaltending since very few clubs actually role with replacement levels ‘tenders as their starter (outside of the Columbus Blue Jackets). A league average save percentage is about .920, meaning the difference between a middling goalie at 5on5 and Kiprsuoff overall is 11 goals, or two or three points this season. That’s certainly not nothing, especially because Calgary is in the thick of a very tight playoff battle, but again it’s not like the Flames would suddenly become the worst team in the league.

If we take a longer view, the difference shrinks even further. Last year, Kipper’s ES SV% was .916 over 1529 shots. If we combine the two most recent seasons, his ES SV% is .922, or .2% higher than the average NHL goalie. That’s worth a net five goals over 2814 shots, or one win in two seasons (if you round up).

The Recent Run

Of course, Kipper has been far better than average recently and is the single biggest reason the Flames are in a position to challenge for the playoffs. Before the losses to Edmonton and Phoenix, Kiprusoff was batting a .950 ES SV% average since the Boston masscre. That save rate was especially noteworthy because the Flames have been routinely outshot and outchanced over the last two months.

So in a way it’s fair to say Calgary would be plumbing the depths if Kipper had not been here, standing on his head through January and February.

The danger, of course, is perceive this recent run as his true talent level.

Bigger samples are always preferable to smaller ones when trying to judge a players true abilities and as Khabibulin and the Wild’s Josh Harding and Nicklas Backstrom proved earlier this season, goalies can sometimes get hot for weeks at a time before coming back down to earth. 

Kiprusoff hasn’t been a .930+ ES SV% goalie since 2006-07. He’s never been a .950 ES SV% over the long run (because no goalie is that good). Over the last five years or so, he’s mostly settled into average-ish terriotory, with some wild swings around the mean here and there (this year vs last year for instance). He remains an athletic, highly durable and capable enough starter in the NHL, but the last two months are by no means an accurate portrayal of his true abilities.


Sometimes it’s hard to separate a GM’s true feelings about a player from smoke blowing and message sending when they talk through the media. In fact, it may be Feaster’s lavish praise of his goaltender was a passive aggressive slight to his skaters. That said, Kipper isn’t really this good and my hope is Jay Feaster and the Flames in general doesn’t overly weight recent hot streaks when grading players and assessing their true value to the organization.

  • Get The Puck Outta Here

    Folks, Seriously I give up. Agree with me or not. When a draft happens the difference betweem 1st round and 5th round is very close, meaning when young players get to the point of drafting they are all very good players, born to play hockey. It’s their predigree. In most cases they come from winning attitudes, winning franchises, winning cultures. If there are 30 teams, we are talking about approx 600 athletes that eventually, can potentially make it to the bigs annually although we know this does not happen. That is not many. 600 out of all the young people that play the game yearly? Yes, some become great (Crosby etc) but the rest are definetly good enough to be in the dance. I hear the word parity alot these days meaning every team has a good chance to sip from the cup. To motivate and to bring the talent out of every player is the task of the coach. THE COACH. The players are all NHL claibre. The coach is the one. He is the key. He holds the key. Either he has the key or he doesn’t. Jay, make the change. The time is now.

    • T&A4Flames

      🙂 So I guess you dont like Brent Sutter. Really, whats the point of firing him now. If we miss the playoffs, you’re proven right & his contract wont be renewed. He makes the playoffs, he kinda proves you wrong doesnt he?

      Either way, a new coach now doesnt make sense, if we miss & he goes, so do a lot of our UFAs. May as well start fresh this summer.

      Cant believe Zidlicky got that much either, had him in a hockey pool & dropped him, he sucks. We could have given them Babchuk for a 2nd & they would be further ahead.

      • RexLibris

        Zidlicky returned two marginal NHLers and a barely-repalcement level defenceman in Foster (Trust me, I know, I watched him here in Edmonton). Those players are for the immediate future and probably to help bolster a farm team that needs some assistance. The picks are the meat of the trade, in my opinion.

        The problem with this trade, for Minnesota, is that they just took on three contracts in exchange for one. Veilleux is a UFA, but Palmieri is the wrong Palmieri and doesn’t look like much more than a career fourth liner.

        I agree that a Babchuk for 2nd rounder would have been a much simpler deal, but perhaps Lamoriello was also looking to blow out some contracts prior to the deadline. It’s no secret he needs to shed salary quickly, so my guess is that this is the deal that suited him best, in the short and long term.

        With Brent Sutter likely not returning (I’m guessing) this raises some very interesting questions about Feaster’s own future. GMs like to hire their own coaches, Feaster has that opportunity soon. If he hires a coach to a two-year deal that would indicate that perhaps Feaster’s own term with the team has been given some shorter terms. Anyway, could prove interesting.

        I still think they missed the boat in not bringing Hitchcock on to coach when they had the chance.

        • RexLibris

          Hey Rex! Yeah that was my thoughts, what a lot of contracts Lou just dumped, I was shocked Minny took them all. Really the 2nd & 3rd rounders & Palmieri wouldnt have raised too many eyebrows. Also as your young stars ELC start expiring, you will find that the number of NTC & NMC will increase in number. Seems to be the trend, wonder if they become an issue for the CBA.

          Shootout: If at least 1 1st rounder is not coming back for Kipper, I dont do the deal. Seeing Jay has the connections to Tampa, they now have a couple 1st rounders, maybe Stevie Y targets Kipper & we get one of those 1st rounders & Connolly this summer.

          • RexLibris

            Sorry meant Shutout not Shootout/ 🙂

            See Rangers gave Wolski to Florida for basically nothing(cap move), looks like Nash to Rangers is going to happen soon. Tallon seems to like those kind of deals, would he not have taken Stajan?? Cmon Feaster, make me proud Ive been one of the few backing you.

          • RexLibris

            I fully expect Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins to get NTCs. I would even expect a limited NTC on Smyth’s new deal (no different than one that might appear on Iginla’s if he sticks around) as a show of trust.

            The point that has been made both here on FN and elsewhere is that a NTC is supposed to be used as a bargaining tool to engender good faith and reduce cap hit. Sutter didn’t seem to see them that way and thus far neither has Feaster.

            By the fall of 2014 I would expect to see between three and five contracts with NTCs or NMCs on the core group. That might increase to seven with the addition of a few deadline players or a UFA, time will tell.

            Essentially the point is that a clause like those makes more sense on a player’s contract who fills the role for your team that a Kiprusoff, or a Toews, or a Chara does. Not a Sarich or a Stajan. The lack of one on Hemsky’s deal gives me some optimism that Tambellini won’t be overly generous with them.

            Good luck against the Flyers tonight. Unfortunately Edmonton doesn’t usually play well against the Coyotes, so I can’t promise any favours from our end of the QE2.

    • supra steve

      Sorry dude, you have no idea what you are talking about. If you think there is little difference between 1st round and 5th round.

      Little difference between 2nd round and 5th round perhaps, but the top 10-15 players each year and leaps and bounds and multiples better than the 550+ players drafted after them.

      Its a fact, plain and simple. If you think a new coach can turn some of our middling late rounder draft picks into bonafide NHL stars you are completely delusional. Look at Edmonton, they have superstars in the making and an incompetent coach. Because we never draft high we have no superstars in the making and an incompetent coach. I agree we should replace the coach but your take on draft picks is just plain wrong. fact.

  • Franko J

    @ Mitch111

    Dead bang on. Sutter as coach was good. Sutter as GM not so good.

    Even right now Kiprusoff is putting Feaster in tough position with his play this season.

    San Jose had good depth at the goalie position, but like you said D Sutter got lucky.

    Just like ST.Louis got lucky with Brett Hull.
    At the time of the trade, Calgary was very deep at right wing and St. Louis traded for him.

  • T&A4Flames

    Okay…Zidlicky for 3 roster players 2nd rounder & a cond. 3 rd????!!! Are we ready to move some players now…SERIOUSLY!!!!

    Minny can probably go and trade the 2 older guys for more draft picks and make the deal even better for them.

  • CitizenFlame

    I’m not necessarily a proponent for rebuild or for being a seller, but declaring yourself a seller now would bring in higher return than waiting for the trade deadline or for the summer. There are not a lot of sellers right now with the amount of teams that are within sniffing distance of the 8th spot in either conference, so if Feaster declared that the Flames were selling he would get the drop on a lot of other teams even if by only a couple of days. Look what the Zidlicky return was.

    Unfortunately Calgary doesn’t have a lot of moveable pieces unless they declare full on rebuild and start moving the NMC/NTC’s. I don’t see any move right now that Calgary can make that doesn’t make them weaker immediately or that they would have to sell draft picks/prospects to make a push for this year. Feaster said the team will not be idle, but I don’t see any other option given the stated goal of making the playoffs this year.

  • T&A4Flames

    Five goals being equivalent to two points in the standings may be a generalization for most teams, but not a good estimate for us. Look at the goals for against differential, we are minus 19, ahead of only minesota and Colorado. We are lucky to be vying for a playoff spot. If we give up 10 more goals, we could very well be behind the oilers.

    Also, without kipper, we probably would lose a lot more shoot outs.

  • RexLibris

    Judging goalies by runs and hot streaks is foolish at best. While Kiprusoff was the biggest reason for the 9-3-3 record he cannot continue to win games single handedly. I am reminded of Brian Boucher’s record of five consecutive shutouts everytime I hear somebody take a small segment and project into the future when it comes to goaltenders.

    Kiprusoff might be the best player on the Flames this season. But he was not last season. And he may not be again next season. His trade value maybe at an all time high with so many teams needing goaltending help, his play being at the top of his game, and the small margin of difference between teams on a nightly basis.

    The fact remains that Kiprusoff is 35 and there is little chance that the Flames are going to make the playoffs this year. Why would you not want to make a trade that improves the hockey team for next year or in 2-3 years. Kiprusoff is not in his late twenties or early thirties and is no longer a cornerstone building block.

    Say you make a deal with Chicago and bring back Crawford. With Washington and bring back Neuvirth or Holtby. That gives you another young goaltender to compete with Irving and Ramo. I think with some money Ramo could come over next year if needed.

    As Kent said, these goaltenders might only end up being average, but average is not that bad. And the team should be holding players accountable for playing the team game so you dont have to rely on a goaltender to play allworld and hope he saves the games.

    My deal is still:

    To Chicago:

    To Calgary:
    2012 2nd round pick
    2012 3rd round pick

    • RexLibris

      They missed the opportunity to trade Iggy last year when he got 43 and they’ll do it again with Kipper thsi year.

      Ownership is so deathly afraid of another Young Guns era they’ll do nothing until absolutely forced to.

      Even though their penny-pinching and incredible lack of foresight contributed to the YG era in the first place.

      And their insistence on still being as competitive as possible and making the playoffs resulted in the YG era being a disaster as opposed to a succesful rebuild.

      Only the rising $ saved this team and allowed Darryl to make some moves by spending to the cap. Band-aid moves, unfortunately.

      Anyone else hold the owners truly accountable for this mess?

  • BobB

    The problem with looking at “average” or “replacement” level goaltending is that you may just be flattening all the peaks and valleys from other teams.

    I think it’s best to look at the Flames in isolation because we’re comparing closer to apples vs apples.

    For example, both Boston goalies are up around .935evsv% which I think reinforces the idea of “team strength” (or they are very lucky to have years of Elite goalies like Raycroft)

    So, this year (small sample) our backups have been (mostly on Irving’s back):




    Difference is 19 GA (or about 3-3.5 wins)

    Last three years:

    1094/1208=.906 vs 4087/4422=.924, Diff=81g (13.5 wins, avg 4.5 per season)

    In Kipper’s career in Calgary:

    2182/2416=.903 vs 10461/11304=.925, Diff=259g (43wins, avg 5.4 per season)

    So, Miikka compared to the rotating door of backups gets us about 10points per season vs our backups.

    The difference of 259 goals is the largest in the NHL of any #1 vs #2’s I have calculated on my spreadsheet (although I haven’t done them all)

    Thomas is -85,
    Luongo is -138,
    Vokoun is -79,
    Bryz is 0 (Phi should have asked me about Bryz)

    Miikka has treated us very well, but what interests me going forward is a larger sample for Irving.

  • Captain Ron

    I disagree. I believe Calgary would be quite a bit lower in the standings because of lack of team confidence. I remember how Calgary played in the years prior to kiprusoff (when they actually had more talent). A team plays very different in front of an average goalie than a good goalie. Look up in Edmonton early in the year, when Kabibulin was playing well.

  • Captain Ron

    The Flames without Kipper right now = empty seats in the Dome. It will have to happen eventually I know but plan B had better be good when it does. Right now plan B looks like Irving, Ortio, and Ramo. Lets hope one of them is at least close to as good as Kipper, not to mention as durable as he has been.

  • Franko J

    Direction comes from the top. The Flames ownership only sees the $$$$$. Count how many Kipper and Iginla jerseys are in the stands.

    When the fans no longer attend games and season ticket holders no longer renew, when it hurts the ownership pocket book this is when they will be forced to change their mandate and philosophy.