Reasonable Expectations: Karri Ramo


I could have stopped ’em all, I could’ve stopped you. Up there, Burke’s the law, out here on the ice it’s me

– an especially badass Karri Ramo, vigilante and goalkeeper

You’ve patiently sat through an entire August of Reasonable Expectations, and you’re still here reading this (good for you!), so today I thought I’d switch things up and give you a Reasonable Expectations piece – ON A GOALIE!

As far as Flames netminders go, this coming season is going to be the most noteworthy since way back to when Miikka Kiprusoff retired. The long time Flames faithful who can remember that far back know what I’m talking about. The battle to tend the cage is as open as it was last season, but with the caveat that what makes it worth mentioning this time is that Karri Ramo‘s opponents are not Reto Berra and Joey MacDonald. Nay, this year Karri has to go toe to toe with an actual NHL goalie in Jonas Hiller, and it’s up to him to prove he’s worth it.

And if he can’t, well, he can always go back to killing lawmen who try to arrest him unjustly.

2013-14 At a Glance

a relatively quiet highlight reel save by Karri Ramo. Ramo is a strong positional player, so you don’t see a lot of ten bell saves coming off his pads.

It was a roller coaster season for the native of Asikkala, Finland (home of the flying Asikkalas!), his debut in Calgary and first NHL action since making 48 appearances for the Lightning in the late aughts. After having to earn what should have by default been his starting job, Ramo had a few shaky outings and was then relegated to the cold, lonely pine chariot for games on end, forced to watch helplessly as alleged goaltenders MacDonald and Berra tried with vigorous aplomb to return the position to the Bill Ranford “reflex only” philosophy, out from its slumber and back into public consciousness in 2014. Results were less than mixed.

After seeing the light, and by light I mean gaping net left conspicuously open by an out of position Berra, Bob Hartley finally, mercifully passed the starter’s mantle onto Ramo, who put together a string of average to good starts before injuring his knee ahead of the Olympic break, forcing him to miss 15 games. It was terrifying, but the team was also kinda bad, so nobody really noticed.

Karri returned to the Flames in a post Berra apocalypse, and vainly attempted to return glory between the pipes for the better part of what was a much improved end to the Flames season, an era highlighted by the demonstration that this team kinda knows how to play hockey. Ultimately it wasn’t enough, but Ramo, much like his teammates, showed that there was stability to be had when coach Hartley finally learned how to utilize his players.

The Numbers

Ramo 40 2194 1091 97 994 .911 2.65 17 15 4 18
Berra 29 1648 788 81 707 .897 2.95 9 17 2 14
MacDonald 11 599 264 29 235 .890 2.90 5 4 1 3
Ortio 9 501 193 21 172 .891 2.51 4 4 0 4

Not much in the way of charts and graphs that you’ve becomes accustomed to with the position players for these features, because as you know, the quest for useful stats on goalies is more or less in it’s infancy right now. The only really valuable number we have to measure a keeper’s contributions is save percentage, but I included all this other crap like GAA and Wins because it’s a pretty sad looking chart without it.

Ramo played 40 games and finished with a SV% of .911 which is a shade under league average. Certainly not outstanding by any measure, but it does reflect the Flames as a whole, who in 2013-14 could reasonably be defined the same way: just below average. Karri had a pretty abysmal start to the campaign, but finished relatively strong when he was officially named as the everyday number one. As with anything, the highs and lows over the course of a season tend to correct themselves, and what we see is basically a league average goalie. (And at a cap hit of $2.75 million, the Flames are paying for what they get)

Which, frankly, is all you can really ask for from your goaltenders. If they’re stopping as many pucks as the padded man on the other end of the ice, he’s doing his part. It’s up to everyone else to fill the net after that. There are maybe 5 or 6 “good” goaltenders around the league who might be able to hide a team’s offensive shortcomings over a more sustained period (affectionately known as the Kiprusoff Effect), so as long as you’re not actively Trefiloving out there, your team should be in decent shape. 

Now obviously you’d like to have seen Ramo and co. stop just a few more pucks to get to the league average mark or above, but they didn’t, and that’s why Sam Bennett is a Calgary Flames prospect now. That’s the slogan we can use for the 2013-14 Flames: They Just Didn’t.

2014-15 Expectations

Ramo goes into the season knowing this is his contract year, but also that his new partner is on a 2 year deal, and the young protege trying to catch both of them will next year be on a one way contract. It’s going to be a crowded crease, and Karri is likely aware that while he is once again fighting for the starting gig, beyond that he is auditioning for a job in the future, be it in Calgary or somewhere else.

This is a win-win situation for the Flames. Newly inked ‘tender Jonas Hiller also has something to prove this season, as he tries to show everyone that he is still a capable starter in the NHL after a tumble from atop the depth chart in Anaheim. Joni Ortio, meanwhile, continues to climb towards NHL relevance before Jon Gillies arrives and really turns everything on it’s head. There’s a lot of competition between those pipes, and all three need to offer their best if they have designs on being the man who guards them.

But again, as long as Ramo and Hiller can provide league average puck stopping between them, ultimately they’ll have done everything the Flames will need them to do. I would expect Ramo to more or less repeat his performance from 2013 (barring MAJOR regression, but I have no real reason to believe that’s going to happen). I’m of the belief that Ramo is an NHL goaltender, and if he were minding the cage for a stronger team, I’d doubt we’d have the debates about that with the voracity we do now. And sure, while you would always like more information when assessing these kinds of things, over a thousand shots in a season is a pretty good barometer when it comes to judging goalies, which Ramo did indeed face, and generally handled it decently well.

Overall, the goaltending will just be better this year, because while he’s maybe not the All-Star he once was, Jonas Hiller is better than Reto Berra and Joey MacDonald, so even if Ramo replicates his numbers, Hiller is going to be an improvement over the other two. Couple that with the Flames likely being better on all ends of the puck going forward, this should mean a few more of those one goal games ending up favourably on Calgary’s side this time around.

And I know those of you in TankNation are crying at the thought of the Flames having better goaltending now, but let’s be honest: while the Flames are bad, they’d have to be next level suck to compete with the likes of Buffalo or Winnipeg for the rights at Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, and they just aren’t realistically bad enough to do it. So with that in mind, we’re all better off watching a young team progress as planned while getting a few saves from their goalies along the way.

Gosh, that sounds downright reasonable.

  • PrairieStew

    Here’s hoping he plays well and if the 2 young guys show further development – then you can move him for a pick at the deadline. If Berra was worth a second – shouldn’t Ramo be worth at least that ?

    If you do that – Ortio on a one way next year – does Gilles come out at the end of this his junior year – plays a full AHL season and by 16-17 it is an Ortio – Gilles tandem.

  • PrairieStew

    Your Tanknation reference at the end of the article may apply to the goaltending situation but not the rest of the team (Engelland, poor right wing depth and too many bottom pairing defenceman). That is why the Hiller signing was a headscratcher. Why shore up our goaltending when the rest of the team is a few years away from getting better? I’d rather pick top 2 next year than 5th or 6th.

    • There was poor depth last year, and Engelland is essentially this year’s O’Brien. And yet the team played relatively well when the players that drive the play were deployed properly.

      This is not to say the team will be better, I just don’t believe they’ll be worse. And Buffalo and Winnipeg look actively bad, it’s going to be hard to out-suck them (I think Florida is questionable too). Basically I think other teams are going to be bad enough to keep Calgary out of the Top 2 picks, so if that’s that, it would be nicer to see a young team learn the NHL together and have whoever is in goal make some saves.

      • BurningSensation

        Totally agree.

        As much as the holes in the Flames roster are fairly obvious; a #1C, a #1RW, depth at RW, and 2 2nd pairing D-men, the Flames are legitimately not bad.

        If goaltending is close to league average, the Flames will end up close to league average. With both Ramo and Hiller in the fold, it is more likely than not that we’ll be 10 points clear of the basement at the end of the year.

        That all said, If Giordano or Brodie spend any significant time rehabbing shotgun wounds, or if both our goaltenders get busted at a Finnish doom metal concert for ‘doing weird things to a goat’, than a McDavid year is possible.

        Otherwise, it’s hard as nails every night and give the kids some time to prove themselves. If, by miracle of the hockey gods, Monahan-Gaudreau is the next Toews-Kane, Ramo is cleared from all the goat charges, and Giordano earns a Norris, we might even sniff the playoffs.

        The morals of this season are going to be ‘the only thing that matters is whether we beat Edmonton’, and ‘don’t go to doom metal concerts with Jonas Hiller’.

  • Really the thing I’m looking from Ramo is consistency. I want him to carry over his play from the second half of last season and turn that into a full season. As for Hiller, I expect him to be motivated to reprove his worth in the NHL and I have a feeling he will be better. Shutouts are nice but unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Being able to make the timely saves and rebound strong after a loss are important and stealing a game every now and again doesn’t hurt either.

  • dudeguybro

    I honestly think spending money on goaltending was a sneaky way of Burke’s to get to the cap floor without improving the team too much. At the start of the year CGY will have at least $2.75m sitting on the bench every night as opposed to say playing 18 minutes of defense.

    Plus it simultaneously shields the team from becoming atrocious like an EDM during the rebuild years through competent goaltending depth. That’s worth drafting 1-2 spots lower I think.

    I do hope Ramo wins the job this year and the team has a tough choice to make next summer though.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    What do people think the games started ratio is going to be for the tandem by the end of the year?

    I think it will be 1:1 . Obviously injuries and subsequent Ortio callup not included, so 41 games each.

    For a position where depth is non existent (in the sense that there are 12 fwds, 6ds that play every game) why pay ~$4M to sit most of the time? Cap floor? Not wise expenditure, or efficient to get there.

    Money isn’t meant to sit still for long stretches.

    It seems to me that BT isn’t going to believe anything about this org until he gets his eyes on every facet for at least a full season. Makes sense. Why should he just accept other’s appraisals?

    So next year is last year all over again. Could be wrong.

    • dudeguybro

      I’m looking for 50-32 Ramo-Hiller, with Ortio maybe getting 10 of those.

      Also capgeek’s got Bouma listed at $775,000 for the year, just 25 grand more than Setoguchi

  • Parallex

    Reasonable Expectation: Play like you don’t want to go back to the KHL. Hard to really come up with one for Ramo… I really liked Ramo last year no he’s not flashy but he stops pucks at an acceptable rate for a starting goaltender. That’s good enough for me.

    Frankly, I expect that by the trade deadline one of Ramo or Hiller will be gone (Hey Winnipeg… do you reeeeally want Pavelec starting all those games? wouldn’t you rather have a Ramo or Hiller at a reduced pay rate?).

    The 1-way deal (and waiver ineligibility) for Ortio basically means he’s our back-up next year so someones gotta go and if Ramo can’t at least equal Hiller it’s gonna be him. The only question is “What if Ramo not only equals Hiller but outplays him?” We’d want to extend that guy no? Younger then Hiller, Can be a better mentor for Joni what with the finnish background and language and such.

    Bah, I’m rambling now…

  • Parallex

    I appreciate the optimism and I am (for the first time in years) actually excited and feel good about where this team is going. That being said, I fully expect this team to be bottom 2 in the league. They don’t have the benefit of a softer conference (I think it’s safe to say the west got even better this off season) and (correct me if I’m wrong) the top scorer in these reasonable expectations pieces is 40ish – 50 points. Not good. I imagine they’ll ice a truculent fourth line (which may help the younger, smaller guys feel more comfortable /confident) and hopefully they trade some vets for prospects during the season. Either way, this team is fun to watch and if they end up winning more, great. A generational talent would be amazing, but that alone doesn’t get you a cup – a balanced, deep team does and that’s what I think the flames are building towards. If this team exceeds my expectations and drafts 5/6 next year, that just means we’ve got some quality pieces already and I’m happy with that.

  • Burnward

    I was pulling my hair out last year when Berra was getting the starts over Ramo. I think it’s fair to call him a league-average goalie. I think he’s one of the best in the league technically with his movements.

    I can see the Flames being at the bottom with the teams you listed. If they are to be better than the Sabres/Oilers/Jets, it would depend on if Monahan/Gaudreau can be effective top-six players, Brodie/Gio can replicate, bottom-four defence can hold their own, etc. Ramo and Hiller will give the team a chance to win which is all we can ask for.

  • Burnward

    This year, Winnipeg is better than Calgary. Yeah, the goalie sucks, but I don’t see the Jets as a disaster. And I definitely see them as an improving team: Scheifele and (especially) Trouba are stud draft picks, and I like Ehlers too. I think Kane gets traded, but I think they’ll get a fine return on him.

    I’m not saying they’re a contender, or even a playoff team yet. But they’re closer than we are, right now.