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.

  • everton fc

    Just read a rumour the Flames may have interest in Kostitsyn. I know this threads about Kipper… But thought I’d post this…

    I wouldn’t mind Dustin Brown in a Flames jersey.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Geez I thought by the headline you meant Kipper was injured. Scared me to death.

    On second thought, that would’ve made Feaster’s decisions a whole lot easier.

  • RKD

    Well 13th in the West still means you are still ranked 24th or lower in the league overall.

    When it comes to Detroit, they did bring in Hasek, Cujo and Vernon. However, they won more Cups with Osgood that any of is the other goalies.

    Detroit has been pretty strong defensively by allowing less shots, they consistently outshoot their opponents by a wide margin.

    Another factor is that they outscore their opposition and must always be amongst the top teams in goals for. Even if their goalies are playing average, they score more goals than the other teams.

    I don’t think the Flames have any chance of landing Nash, the Flames are probably not even on the list of teams he wants to go to. It’s probably NYR, or SJ.

  • RexLibris

    Found this on Eklund’s site: There was some talk an hour or so ago of the Flames getting in on Nash, but so far that appears extremely preliminary.

    Just thought I’d pass that on. Now if you’ll excuse me, I suddenly feel quite dirty and I think I need to go shower.

  • Cool Beans

    Every year around December/January the Flames make a huge push to 8th riding Kippers hot streak. When his play dips the Flames fall in the standings. Its like ground hog day.

  • everton fc

    Man, just listened to Sutter’s post game. He was ticked.

    He defended Smith and Glencross. And Kipper.

    But he called out Comeau. He called out most of the team. He is ticked off and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s told Feaster to move specific people who won’t pull their weight.

    He said Kosto/Stajan/Bouma was the best line all night. “They finished checks, they forechecked, they were intelligent in the neutral zone… defencively, they were good.”

    I’d say they’re safe.

    I get a sense Iggy could be in trouble here. I get a sense he’s the one being called out by Feaster. Perhaps Tanguay, as well, though Tanguay’s had some good games…

  • Derzie

    I got into a email tussle with Scott Cullen of TSN over Kipper. He was of the opinion this time last year that Corey Crawford was a better goalie than Kipper because he had better numbers. I balked and told him he was living in the clouds on that one. He disagreed of course. This year, the numbers better reflect who is the better goalie.

    But, the numbers only tell part of the tale. They don’t take into account the difficulty of the saves or the timeliness of the saves. 23 saves in a 1-0 loss is not nearly as valuable as 1 save in a 1-0 squeaker win. Kipper is the best trade bait we have right now. I say go hard after all we can get. We have 3 goalies in the system with promise: Irving, Ortio and the KHL guy. Let’s get some prospects and picks for Kipper and watch him win his cup somewhere else.

  • RexLibris

    If the Flames even want to consider a rebuild, and by extension a high draft pick, then Kiprusoff would have to be traded. Otherwise, his exceptional play would only serve to keep the team afloat when, from what I’ve gathered to be the general concensus here, it really needs to be taken out past the shallows and scuttled.

  • jakeryley

    Feaster has done a lot of talking in his time as Flames GM – and, he’s been fairly active. However, what he’s yet to do is make this team BETTER.

    So far, what I’ve seen is a GM who has had to make moves in order to maintain the status quo (a 9th-11th placed team in the Western Conference). Sure, he’s made trades and made the team younger – but those trades have done nothing but maintain this team’s utterly unproductive position. Without those trades, it’s likely this team would have fallen to a 12th or 13th position – or, they may have grey-bearded their way to the exact position they’re in now. Either way, big whoop.

    Point being – we’re younger, but we’re still bad so who gives a crap. Youth does not guarantee a “better tomorrow”. It just means we’re able to suck, have better hairlines, and fewer members of the team start the day off with a glass of metamucil.

    And to somehow tie my mini-rant into this topic, this team without Kiprusoff? Well, it would likely be a 13th place team, which is sadly a hell of a lot better than being a 10th place team.

  • Cool Beans

    Phoenix and Philly are proving what Detroit has known for years. The system makes the goalie. At least a large part of him. Though I think Kipper is defying that to some extent and is playing well despite Calgary’s play.

    On a side note, how in the heck does Feaster say that he believes the answer is “in the room” and in the same breath say his team is a last place team without Kipper.

    If your team is a last place team without an elite goalie then the answer is clearly not in the room! Especially concerning when your goalie is turning 36 and can’t carry the team forever.

    • I’m not sure if the system “makes” the goaltender, (ie; determines his SV% to a large degree).

      In Detroit, for instance, they have just never bothered to shell out for goaltending, instead relying cheap, average-ish netminding and a great group of skaters to win. Howard is having a pretty good year this season, but DET has survived (and won) nmuerous other seasons with average to below average save rates.

      It will be interesting to see if Mike Smith keeps this up. My bet, even with Tippet in PHX, is no…at least not to the high level he’s played this year.

      • Bryzgalov and Smith are two examples. Kipper has been a different goalie depending on the coach and system. Howard is a decent goalie playing for a less elite Detroit. But Osgood managed to be respectable in past versions. (Okay, barely).

        I am sure someone could compare numbers to find out the impact team play has on goalie stats. But in my eyeballing opinion most goalies numbers vary drastically depending on the team and system.

      • RexLibris

        I would agree on Phoenix. While I think that the netminding there has benefited from Tippett’s coaching and system play, it seems that every year Phoenix manages to get only so far and then falls to superior opponents only to repeat the process all over again next season.

        In some ways its like the Flames, except with an only slightly higher level of mediocrity and a worse draft position.