A short while ago Yann Danis, the Oilers backup goaltender while Khabibulin gets up to NHL speed and their starter in the AHL, was put on waivers.
Why didn’t the Flames take him?
The current backup for Miikka Kiprusoff (and now starter) is Leland Irving who was a healthy scratch in Abbotsford in favour of Barry Brust and Danny Taylor during the lockout. Irving was also waived earlier this year, along with Henrik Karlsson.
Fair to say that the Flames organization does not appear to be a great deal of faith in Irving as a future goaltender?
Then, Tuesday night the Flames bogeyman came home to roost when Kiprusoff left the game with an MCL injury that has some worrying that the end is nigh.
I thought Irving played that game relatively well, albeit against an opponent that inspires fear more through reputation than performance right now. I’ve always thought that Irving was a serviceable backup in waiting, however management would appear to have other ideas and I’m certainly no expert on scouting goaltenders.
Now, the Flames have Kari Ramo due to come over from the KHL at the end of the season, but by all accounts, he is playing well and his team, Avangard Omsk, is expected to do well in the playoffs. This makes him a very unlikely candidate for the role of hero rushing to the rescue.
At the same time, the Flames signed AHL goaltender Danny Taylor to an NHL contract and likely expect him to play imminently. They may have been working on something like this for some time, but their hand has now been forced by Kiprusoff’s injury and they have lost control of the situation. As such, they appear reactive now, rather than proactive.
So let’s take another look at Danis, in comparison to Irving.
Danis is 31 years old, so he is no spring chicken. However, at this point, with Ramo ready to come over from Europe and another season of Kiprusoff under contract, Danis would only be a short-term solution.
Danis’ save percentage over his last three AHL seasons averages out to .918. Irving’s to .909, not including this season because he has only managed to play six games this year. Taylor has a save % average of .924 over the past three seasons. That being said, these are all partial numbers because the most games he has played in a professional season is 37 with the Gwinnet Gladiators back in 2009-2010. Prior to signing his NHL contract with the Flames Taylor had played only one NHL game back in 2007-2008 with the Kings. He had an .800 save percentage that game.
The NHL numbers greatly favour Danis because of opportunity and experience, his save percentage in the big league is .914. Taylor has had a phenomenal AHL to date in partnership with Barry Brust.
Overall, Danis is a better goaltender than Irving is now and perhaps will become. He is also likely a safer bet than Taylor based on an NHL resume. Be that as it may, I understand selecting Taylor ahead of Danis based solely on their performances in the AHL this year.
But this is where things could have gotten interesting…
The Flames have 48 players under contract, room to sign two more through the season including players drafted and exiting their development leagues to turn pro.
By claiming Danis on waivers the Flames could not only have secured an upgrade in net and an improved insurance policy against Kiprusoff either becoming injured or continuing to struggle. They could also have done direct damage to the fortunes of a divisional rival, one they likely need to leapfrog to climb the standings. By forcing the Oilers to either sign an unrestricted free-agent, dress Khabibulin before he is ready to play, or call up recent AHL pickup Niko Hovinen to back up Dubnyk, the Flames could have put the team in a very difficult position. Perhaps even forced a trade of assets for immediate needs, something Steve Tambellini is loath to do.
What to do with Danis once you have him?
If Ramo finishes his season early and is ready to come over Danis could simply be sent back on the waiver wire or traded for a depth pick, essentially stealing an Oilers asset and turning it into a draft pick. I can think of no action that would more gall Oilers fans.
The Oilers have Danis pegged as the likely backup to Dubnyk for next season and goaltending coach Freddie Chabot is very high on Danis’ progress and preparedness for the NHL. It wouldn’t just have been screwing over the Oilers this month, or even this season, but perhaps have thrown a monkeywrench into their plans for next season as well.
The Flames would still have likely been able to find a use of Danis for a month or more, while at the same time denying their provincial rivals that luxury. It is a move that fits perfectly with the oft-repeated philosophy of improving the team by any means necessary in order to add talent and win now.
This is all moot now because of the Taylor signing, but I think it was a missed opportunity – words that may be carved on Jay Feaster’s professional headstone.
From where I sit, taking Danis off waivers would have been one of the easiest decisions of the season as Calgary’s GM.
Is there something I’m missing here?