Flames 2011-12 Player Grades: Goaltending


After Kent broke down the end-of-season grades for the Top Six and Support Forwards, I turned the attention to the Defense. Last but not least, we take a look at the Calgary Flames last line of defense, the goal-tending.

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Calgary’s goal-tending has always been a bone of contention – how do the Flames get some help so that Kiprusoff isn’t playing 70 games every season, especially now that he is 36 years old? As Kent wrote about, the topic of finally trading Kipper even though it’s been his best season in years has people on both sides of the spectrum speaking out. Do we as a fanbase finally have the confidence in a successor for Miikka or it just because this thing is such a mess that with his stock high, and the team going nowhere, it’s time to move on and hope for the best? Given that the Flames still felt it necessary to play Kipper in 70 this season… Things are obviously not going according to plan.



70 GPI, 2.35 GAA – .921 SV% – 4 SO – 35 Wins

Grade: A

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Kiprusoff is the one player that draws more debate than Jarome Iginla. From a statistical standpoint he was execllent this season. After all, he won 50% of his games, his 2.35 GAA places him 11th in the league and his .928 SV%, which is the standard for an average ranked goalie, spots him in at 10th amongst goalies who played 30 or more games.

Because of those numbers, many say the “Flames would have been Columbus" or will “finish below Edmonton!” Who’s right in this debate is difficult to ascertain simply because we don’t have any one to compare against. Miikka plays all the time and historically speaking, the Flames alternative has been the shooter tutor.

Something that makes the argument a little less black and white is the statistic the fans keep complaining about and the one the team keeps trying to rectify. If we take into account the number of games that Kiprusoff has to play, his statistical numbers look quite a bit better. If you compare his stats against other goalies that have played at least 65 games, then his GAA would be ranked third in the league behind Phoenix’s Mike Smith and LA’s Jonathan Quick. His SV% rises to fourth, behind Smith, Quick and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne. If you really want to stretch the argument into the grey area, you could also claim that Jonathan Quick faced 203 less shots than Kipper, but given that Quick had a GAA of 1.95, you won’t win that one.

When He’s Good: It has been said by his teammates, his coaches and even the opposition that Kiprusoff gives the Flames a chance to win every night. That is true and the reason that he only won 50% of his games has little to do with him and more to do with the team in front of him. A large percentage of his wins have been because of his play and the need for his ability to steal games when the team has had no business in getting the two points on that particular night. He’s the kind of goalie that has the networks always keep one hand on the record button because of the potential for Kiprusoff to make yet another highlight real save.


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Now I’m not sure how many people paid attention to the scores in those clips, but a lot were tied and one goal games, when the Flames had either one or no goals.

When He Struggles: There is usually no saving grace for the team. You know early in the game if Kiprusoff is having an off night, as was the case in back-to-back contests against the Stars when he let Jamie Benn score early in both. There are few criticisms against Kipper, but one that tends to surface when he does have an off game is when he lets in a soft goal right around the time the Flames just can’t afford one.

There were a few of those occasions in the Flames five game losing streak towards the end of the season, but then again it’s tough to pin a cause on it due to how many games he played in again. He looked mighty tired towards the end of the season, and he just can’t save them all.

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It should be noted that this season was not typical of Kipper’s abilities. He was a replacement level puckstopper in 2010-11 and 2008-09, with a good year sandwiched in between. His even strength save percentage over the last four years or so settle right in around the league average (.920) give or take a hundredth of a percent. At 36 years old, he’s therefore a bad bet to repeat what he managed this year.


9 GPI, 3.17 GAA – .900 SV% – 0 SO – 1 Win

Grade: D

Remember at the end of the last Star Wars movie when Obi Wan has his final battle with Vader, before he becomes Vader? You were the chosen one Henrik! You were supposed to bring balance to the Flames goaltending, not leave it in chaos! Kipper was supposed to play fewer games!

In his first season with the Flames Henrik went 4-5-6 in 17 GP. He wasn’t spectacular, but he was serviceable and in fairness, some of the games he lost, especially the OT ones, weren’t exactly his fault.

At 6’5” and 215 lbs, he covers a lot of the net, and for a big goalie he actually gets around fairly well. He’s not the greatest puck handler, but then again neither was Kiprusoff when he first arrived in Calgary. His performance in those 17 games was enough to get him a two year deal in Calgary worth $1.75 Million, but as has been the case with all the other back-ups, the worst was yet to come.

This season when the Flames seemed committed to Kiprusoff not playing 70 games again, Karlsson lost his first five starts. It looked as if the team was thinking, “here we go again”, and as has been in the past, Miikka started to see the lion’s share of action.

When Karlsson went down with an MCL injury, the decision was made for the Flames as to where Karlsson fit in with the club going forward. Even upon his return from the injury, Hank didn’t see much action as the team elected to call up Leland Irving, who served as the back-up while Karlsson was out of commission. Karlsson’s one came in the last game of the season against Anaheim and probably the only person in the Dome who cared if they won or lost was Hank.

The decisions to call up Irving when Kiprusoff needed a rest and games still mattered, rather than go with Karlsson was a telling tale that more than likely we have seen the last of the “Calgary Tower”… at least here in Calgary.

When He’s Good: Like I said, he has a big frame and is quite mobile despite his size. He has a good quick glove hand that is capable of bailing him out if he is late on the cross or if a puck is deflected. He also provides a spark to the lineup as his enthusiasm is contagious on the bench, which usually leads the team in wanting to play well in front of him. He is also good with his ground game, even when he is in his butterfly.

 When He Struggles: There are a few things that Hank has difficulty with besides his puck handling. He will give out the big rebounds to inopportune areas, and when he does, he’s not always quick enough to get back into position. Also, when he is not on his game, his butterfly can actually work against him: he tends to go down too quickly and will leave the top of the net over-exposed and open for business.


7 GPI, 3.20 GAA – .912 SV% – 0 SO – 1 Win

Grade: C+

Irving had a better stint with the Flames than his one win would show actually. In fact his first three games were quite impressive, even though he lost two of them. Both losses came in extra-time to Florida and Ottawa, and I’m not sure you put the blame on Leland for one of them. Florida out-shot Calgary 41-26 and Irving got the Flames to the shoot-out where he stopped two of four Panthers. The problem was only Tanguay was able to score on his shot.

The second loss was to Ottawa where once again the Flames were out-shot 49-32. In this game, Calgary had built a 3-0 lead only to let it slip away. The three goals Ottawa scored to tie it up weren’t of the greatest quality since they came off defensive breakdowns. That being said, the kid could have had at least one of them. He couldn’t be blamed in OT though –  you don’t give Daniel Alfredsson two open shots from the slot, on the PP, and get to brag about it.

Irving’s one win came against the Vancouver Canucks where he was nothing less than brilliant. In a game no one expected to win anyways because it was the Canucks, he made a few highlight reel saves of his own, including a one massive off of Daniel Sedin in the last minute of the game. He posted a .967 SV% against the Nucks and was 3 minutes away from a shutout.

Unfortunately the beating that he took in the game against Boston is going to be the game he’s probably remembered for the most this season. It was by no means an impressive outing on any level for the net-minder, nor anyone else on the team. Leland allowed five goals in just over twenty-four minutes… No sense in re-hashing that massacre any further.

When He’s Good: He is a quick moving goalie with good vision and good lateral movement. In a few of his starts, he tended to over slide his crease a bit that would drag him out of position, but he also seemed to figure that out quickly and one he was more comfortable, he settled in fine. Irving is a quick thinker as well and will use his whole body as an asset to stop the puck. There was one play in the Vancouver game where his stick got kicked out of his hand and without hesitation, he slid across and still made the save by kicking out his pad.

He’s not the most aggressive goalie which could be because of nerves or uncertainty in judging the speed of the NHL vs. the AHL players, but he is still a proactive in moving the puck along to his defensemen to get out of the zone.

When He Struggles: If Irving lets in a soft one like he did in the Ottawa game, it seems to get to him which in turn seems to throw off his concentration, which then leads to more goals. He also demonstrated that in his start against Shelbyville, where there were a few that he would and should like to have back.

One of the biggest things Irving needs to show the Flames if he is to earn a full time spot on this roster is consistency. He posted some very impressive numbers with Abbotsford last year, but as has been mentioned before, it would be nice to see him have a season in the AHL where he dominated: his career high SV% was .930 in the WHL, as a pro, his best year was a .913. He finished this season with what be a sub-average save percentage in NHL (.902) to say nothing of the AHL.

  • I’ll be interested to see what happens with a consistent presence from Leland Irving in the future. Flames and Heat teammates raved about his work ethic and attitude, and everyone seemed to be more relaxed on the ice when he was up. That said, the constant yo-yoing likely contributed somewhat to the dip in his numbers.

  • Graham

    The Flames simply do not have an heir apparent to Kipper, and as it stands now, they do not even have an experienced backup. (and we have not have a reliable backup for years)

    I don’t see how the Flames can start next season with Irving and..???, which means that if you trade Kipper, you have to either sign a free agent or trade for a starter / or at least a solid backup. If you go after one of the two decent UFA starters, you will find yourself in a bidding war… If you trade for a starter / backup, any return from the Kipper trade is likely gone. The return from a 36 year old Kipper is more likely to get a backup than an established starter.

    The other factor in trading Kipper is Iggy. If you accept that the owners do not want to trade Iggy, would the team trade Kipper knowing that Iggy wants to remain on a competitive team? Kipper may be the most cost effective option for the balance of his contract.

    If the decision is to keep Iggy, I suspect Kipper stays, we resign most but not all of our UFA’s, and have one more run with pretty much the current group.

  • Gange

    At some point, whether we like it or not, Kipper has to go. Irving isn’t ready for the job, that is true. However when his is ready, who’s to say that Kipper has any value left.

    So you’ll have to usher kipper out, bring in a starter, and try to split games with Irving. It’s a gamble but how many other choices do you have?

  • icedawg_42

    I’m FIRMLY in the “Calgary is Columbus without Kipper” camp. That said, look at Philly’s goaltending. I think we can all agree that MAF is over-rated but he won a cup. Detroit? Osgood? What I’m saying here is that I’d rather watch a good team with ‘meh’ goaltending, than suffer through a horrible team with stellar goaltending. I think the Flames need a change in philosophy. I also think that Feaster is far to gun shy when it comes to goalies to move Kipper.

  • Michael


    Basically the law of diminishing returns.
    We have simply held on to Kipper and Iggy far to long, and now, with a diminishing value on the trade market, the best bet might be to keep them and let them play out their contracts.

    Sad, but it has a ring of truth.

  • icedawg_42

    Kind of surprised at Irving’s rating. For someone who was called up from the AHL for the first time this year due to injuries, I thought his performance was worthy of something better than “adequate.”

    • His entire season was taken into account, including his AHL performance (since he saw so little action in the big league). Irving’s SV% on the farm was mediocre and he’s not even the current starter for the Heat in the playoffs.

      The kid had some really good performances, but he had some bad/average ones in the show as well. At the end of the day, he ended up with a .911 ES SV% in 7 appearances. Henrik Karlsson’s ES SV% was .910 in 9 games played.

      • Someone said in a previous thread that Irving’s wife just had a child (possibly their first?) and that’s why he’s been sitting. Don’t know why that would affect it beyond the initial birth, but it could be a reason he’s the backup.

        Here’s my proposal:

        Kipper, Stajan (hah!) and our first to Toronto for Kadri, Schenn, and their first

        Iginla + Karlsson/Ramo + prospect D-man (not Brodie) to Philadelphia for Bobrovsky and the other Schenn

        Problem solved. Plan the parade route.

  • RKD

    @Smellofvictory: Totally agree. How can you give a guy that when he played gave the Flames chances to win & based on the fact he was up & down from Abbottsford & his starts were so far & few between. You would have rated Rinne C+ if he had the same circumstances as Irving. I liked how this kid played, ne needs more games & will never get it as long as Kipper is here. I would have rated him a B. We need to groom a future goalie as we grow a new core, Kipper is not our future goalie anymore, he is only prolonging decisions that need to be made now!!!

    @ Graham: one more try with this group & then what? Iggy moves on to a contender & Kipper starts getting ready for liffe in Finland or he may decide to go somewhere to get a last shot of playoffs. We have missed 3 years in a row, why would another run with this group even be considered?

  • RKD

    I agree with giving Kipper an ‘A’, but I have to give Karlsson an F. Even though he has 1 win like Irving I felt like he took a step backwards.

    I would give Irving a B-, the Boston game wasn’t his fault. He gave the Flames a chance to win a game they had no business being in.

    I think Irving will be fine, but he has to play a lot more. Leland has to prove he can supplant Kipper like Schneider has supplanted Luongo.

    • Vintage Flame

      I didn’t give Karlsson the out-right “F” basically because of his injury.

      Yes, I agree that he did take a step backwards this year, but if the injury didn’t happen, then who knows maybe he battles and gets a few more “W’s”. It just seemed that the injury gave the Flames the out they were probably looking for to phase him out and Irving in. The “D” is more of a grey area. Yes he was bad this year, and though you are never supposed to lose your job to injury, Hank lost his spot on merit and the injury just gave him an adjustment period to get used to it.

      Also, regarding Irving’s grade… I based my grade on not just his play with the Flames but also in Abbotsford. The debacle in Boston actually had little to no effect on my giving him the C+.

      As Kent mentioned above, he wasn’t killing it in Abbotsford either and is now even playing second fiddle to Danny Taylor in the playoffs. Yes it has been mentioned that Irving’s wife had a baby and that’s why he missed some time with the Heat, but Ward also believes in playing the hot hand in net, and that still is Taylor. So baby or not, Taylor is seen by Ward as the better option, and that has to factor into assessing Leland.

  • @Kent: I realize you are trying to put an objective rating on Leiland but his circumstances are no where close to Karlssons. Number one, look how much he was brought up & sent back between the bigs & the AHL. Now I only have a Bachelors degree in Pyschology not a PHD but that had to have had an impact on performance, espeecially when he had to go back down to Abbottsford. What an emotional rollercoster that would have been to mess with a goalies head. And thats the last thing you really want is to mess with goalies pysche’s. Second, his wife was pregnant with their 1st child, so now he’s travelling between Abbotsford & Calgary & spending extended periods away & we really dont know the circumstances of her pregnancy. More mental baggage. I’m not defending Leilands performance, especially in Abbottsford because I didnt see the games, but I did see how he played when he got into the Flames games & I very much liked what I saw in the small sample of games he played in Calgary. Leading to my 3rd point, I thought this was an evaluation of Flames players in Flames games & performances in Abb shouldnt really be part of the grading. Thats like putting oranges in a apple pie. JMO.

    • I liked Leland a bit more than Karlsson by eye as well, but he only played in 7 games in the NHL and it was a mixed bag if we’re being honest with ourselves: he had two great performances, got absolutely blown up against Boston and was just average against the Ducks and Oilers at the end. He only finished 4 of the 7 games he appeared in.

      I’m not going to speculate on his state of mind or how that might affect his performance because that’s all just hearsay.

  • BobB

    I still wish someone would explain to me where this “average” sentiment comes from when doing goalie analysis.

    “his .928 EV SV%, which is the standard for an average ranked goalie, spots him in at 10th amongst goalies who played 30 or more games.”

    Average evsv% for goalies over 30 games this past year was .922009… not .928evsv%

    “His even strength save percentage over the last four years or so settle right in around the league average (.920)… at 36 years old, he’s therefore a bad bet to repeat what he managed this year.”

    This “age hypothesis” doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. (although I agree Kipper’s play is and will slide with age, just not to “average” or “below average” as people try to claim.)

    .9244 in the last three years. Two seasons .928 both well above “average” (.920). During Keenan’s era he was .914 which is pretty strong evidence of those years being an outlier… not age related decline.

    Unless you pick through single season small samples Kipper (.9254) including the Keenan years is only looking up at: Luongo (.9304), Thomas(.9302), Vokoun(.9299), Lundqvist(.9277), Rinne(.9284), and Lehtonen(.9257). The argument could go either way with Bryzgalov(.9250) and Hiller(.9256) who are both trending down and are younger.

    In a 30 starter/60+ goalie league, that list should be at least double the 6-8 it is for him to be considered “average”.

    Also, then what are Theodore (.9188), Ward (.9183), Fleury (.9176) and Anderson (.9145)?

    Below average?

  • MC Hockey

    I really think everyone including Flames mgmt beats up too much on Karlsson and given his last year’s save % is only 1/1000 less than Irving and he was more consistent, perhaps I have some evidence to support the point. If you gave him 5 more games lat year (like Olli Jokinen being re- signed and given 2 full years to get better), maybe he improves. He could be, if Kipper was dealt, the next Mike Smith or Craig Anderson, who just needs the right situation to thrive and be great, it is possible, maybe in Calgary. And at his age and relative maturity vs. Leland, would he not be a safer bet to rebound and be better next year? I think the body of evidence is too small to give him or Leland an accurate grade…15 games minimum is needed…even Kent may agree with that premise! (?)

    • BobB

      Henrik Karlsson has played a total of 18 games, so your sentiment of him needing more games, because of a tiny sample is correct, but he’s played more than 15.

      His 458/505evsv% in that time = .9069% while Kipper is a .9244% goalie in the last three years. That divide is massive.

      Nothing of that tiny sample is encouraging. And, if the objective measure (stats) is too small to determine anything from (or to be considered) then by the subjective eye (how we’ve seen him), he’s hardly been worthy of a third chance.

      Craig Anderson has had small sample seasons of .953 (389/408) & .928 (629/753), the first of which is about the # of evSA Karl has seen. But at least Anderson’s #’s could raise curiosity.

      Anderson is only a career 6139/6713 = .914evsv% goalie. By the common refrain of “average” he’s brutal vs the .920 benchmark.

      Anderson’s last two years he’s been .917ev (“below average”?) and .920ev (“average”?).

      If people are critical of Kipper, we sure don’t want Anderson, “Anderson-level” or “Karlsson might be another Anderson”.

  • RexLibris

    IwillnotcommentIwillnotcommentIwillnot…ah, what the heck…

    From what I saw of Irving this season I have to say that I think he has earned a shot at the regular backup position for next season. If we play the what-if game and assume that Kiprusoff is traded then perhaps Irving could be backup to Vokoun for two seasons while he develops further at the NHL level.

    I wouldn’t try to categorize him yet as a starting or backup goaltender. He has a long ways to go, as goaltenders tend to mature. His performance to date has to also be taken with a grain of salt. In the 10-11 season Devan Dubnyk and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers were both auditioning for the backup role for this season just past. Deslauriers won more games than Dubnyk but to most eyes by the end of the season Dubnyk was going to be the better goalie. His positioning was better, his reads more accurate, and his temperament more suited to the position. Statistically he was inferior to Deslauriers, yet…

    As for Kiprusoff, wasn’t the original statement something like “without Kipper this team would be worse than 30th place”? Would that make the Flames the Golden State Warriors of the NHL?

    Seriously, though, Kiprusoff gives the Flames a chance to win every night, but at this stage, maybe taking away that safety net and exposing the team for all its shortcomings would have been best these past few years.

    Had Sutter played Karlsson instead on a few more nights and the team was then beaten, perhaps badly, might it not have been the proverbial rainstorm needed to show ownership and management that the roof needed mending?

    My recommendation would be to trade Kiprusoff, sign an available veteran goalie to start and have Irving backup playing about 20 to 25 games. He may be the unfortunate soul to occupy the Flames net for the next five to seven years as the team finds a new equilibrium.

  • RexLibris

    We can’t trade Kipper as we do not have not yet groomed a replacement (like the Canucks have). Kipper is on the downside of his career but he remains a workhorse and his salary going forward is attractive. We should keep him, play Irving more this year and perhaps try and bring Ramo into the mix for a test drive if we can pry him from the KHL.

    • Vintage Flame

      Problem with that is that Ramo won’t come over here to be second fiddle let alone share the back-up duty with Irving.

      He left Montreal for the KHL, because he knew he wasn’t going to get a shot as the starter. He may be willing to come over and play like one year under Kipper if he knew he was going to get a significant amount of starts, but there is no way he shares duties with Irving.

      It’s going to be hard enough to get him out of the KHL with the salary he makes there. Even as a starter for the Flames, he may look more favourably at his paycheck in the K.

  • RexLibris

    @ Vintage Flame

    So with Ramo’s reluctance to come over and play a backup role, does this diminish in your mind the value of his return in the Cammalleri trade?

    It looks almost like Feaster acquired him and now is stuck with a netminder that he doesn’t want to trade, one that isn’t quite ready to play, and one that may not be good enough but may demand a starting role.

    • Vintage Flame

      No it doesn’t diminish his value in my mind, unless the Flames falter on what ever plan they had for him. They had to be aware of his circumstances before making the deal (I would hope), so I still think it’s theirs to wreck.

      Ramo had said on twitter that he was very excited to be dealt to Calgary, and for the chance to play with a fellow countryman (Kipper). My assumption is that he knows that given Kiprusoff’s age, that he would not be a back-up for very long; a factor that was obviously lacking in Montreal.

      I still make that deal of Cammalleri for Bourque any day of the week. The part of Holland for Ramo looks suspect right now because of what Holland has done this past year, but the fact remains that there is still no guarantee that Holland brings that production with him into the NHL.. Especially in a fickle market like Montreal. [IMO]

      Is Ramo good enough to replace Kipper straight up? Probably not. But if the Flames can build up a strong defense to play in front of him, a la Detroit, then his career averages might be pretty close to that of Miikka. I guess that depends if he can play in the NHL like he does in the KHL; though they are significantly different leagues in terms of talent of the opposition he’ll face over here.

  • BobB

    I’m somewhat optimistic about Ramo like everyone, however, I think we need only look at the Henrik Karlsson experiment to know that different leagues don’t often translate for talent. Especially goaltending.

    The 2011/12 KHL leading goalies were:

    Vitali Koval .930 1.75

    Rastislav Staňa .926 2.06

    Karri Rämö .925 1.96

    Michael Garnett .922 1.97

    Alex Eremenko .920 1.91


    Petri Vehanen .926 2.10

    Karri Rämö .925 1.97

    K. Barulin .925 1.91

    Jakub Štěpánek .923 2.05

    Vitali Koval .921 2.07

    So by those numbers, certainly Ramo looks impressive. And, he is amongst the leaders in both years… which is also good. However, there are 6 or 7 other guys on the list very comparable to Ramo, and NONE are realistically seen as the next big thing in the NHL. Point is… he’s in the class of KHL but not in his own class, heads above everyone else.

    Ramo looks to be a very good goalie, but I think people should temper their expectations with him. He may have not played goal in Tampa… TAMPA of all places… for a reason. In 2010/11 Montreal got not great .913evsv% backup duty from Alex Auld and they went out and got Budaj for 11/12. Ramo wasn’t even brought to camp, but 6 other goalies were. That might be contract?, but contract issues should be the same for the Flames? It may also be talent? Desire? Who knows? If he was a “super goalie” he’d be there.

    I just don’t want people to think “You were the chosen one Karri! You were supposed to bring balance to the Flames goaltending, not leave it in chaos!” w/ Ramo as well as Karlsson. The NHL is a tough gig.

    • Vintage Flame

      I just don’t want people to think “You were the chosen one Karri! You were supposed to bring balance to the Flames goaltending, not leave it in chaos!” w/ Ramo as well as Karlsson. The NHL is a tough gig.

      *Slow Clap*… Well played sir

  • RexLibris

    @ VF

    I was curious if this altered your perception of the deal at all. Thanks for the info. I think I said at the time that the 2nd round pick stuck out like a sore thumb to me and I still hold that it will be the bit that might stick in a Flames fan’s craw the most.


    Very nice. Slow clap indeed.

    This does, however, beg the question: does Ramo have any children we know of?

  • RexLibris

    I think its idiotic to say that after 17 games anybody is or isn’t ready to play in the NHL. Look at Backlund, or any other rookie, do they get judged after 17 games? no. Only it seems goalies get subjected to this crap.

    I don’t think you could judge any of our non kipper goalies unless they spent 2 years alternating and each playing 40 games a piece. Like Ottawa did with Elliot and Leclair.

    I watched almost every game this year and in many of Karlsson’s games the team just didn’t show up to play in front of him.