Is Joni Ortio ready for the NHL?

As it stands right now, at this exact moment, without a single trade or signing, the Flames’ goaltending for next season will consist of Jonas Hiller and Joni Ortio. Hiller, the proven veteran, would be the team’s starter. Ortio, the unproven rookie, the backup.

That’s without a single change to the lineup. We all know Hiller, with his 350 NHL starts, can handle what an 82 game season will throw at him.

We don’t really know what Ortio’s 15 starts mean for him, though.

Conflicting numbers

Ortio has put up some pretty decent AHL numbers. In the 2013-14 season, his first year as an AHL starter, he played 37 games, and posted a save percentage of .926 along the way. He was also named to AHL’s All-Rookie team to cap off an impressive season.

However, in that same season in the NHL, over nine starts, he only managed a total save percentage of .891: quite a drop.

The extremes balanced out a little more over this past season. Entering 2014-15 as Adirondack’s undisputed starter, Ortio again played 37 games, but his save percentage dropped down to .912. He was still named an AHL All-Star, but instead of having the second best save percentage in the league, he ranked 31st.

It should be noted, however, that in 2013-14 Abbotsford was second in their division with a 43-25-5-3 record (Ortio collected 27 of those wins), while in 2014-15 Adirondack failed to even make the playoffs, finishing fourth in their division with a 35-33-6-2 record (Ortio collected 21 of those wins – about the same percentage as his first year).

His NHL save percentage did improve over his six games in 2014-15, though. He posted a respectable .908%, bringing his career average up to .899%.

2013-14 in the NHL: A closer look

Ortio’s NHL debut saw him post a .917 SV% against the Los Angeles Kings. He had two games more impressive than that: a .929 SV% against the Buffalo Sabres, and a .968 SV% against the Ottawa Senators. He also managed to post a .909 SV% against the Anaheim Ducks.

Those four starts were the only games Ortio played in which he had a save percentage above .900. Over another four games, he posted the following numbers: .885% twice, .870%, and .857%. Dropping below .900 is a bad sign, and doing it so often doesn’t help; at the same time, it was understandable because he was a rookie injury replacement, and wasn’t expected to make his NHL debut that year.

Take Ortio’s first eight games, and he averages to a .906 SV%. 

The .891% is a result of a mixed first eight games, and a disastrous ninth. In his final NHL game of that season, Ortio gave up four goals on 13 shots to the Nashville Predators, and was pulled. Fortunately for him, Karri Ramo returned to health after that disaster, and Ortio was sent back down to the AHL.

2014-15 in the NHL: A closer look

Following a hellish trip to get to Calgary to backup Hiller, Ortio kicked things off with a bang, earning his first NHL shutout in a 1-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. He took a team on the second of a back-to-back, in someone else’s barn, and stopped all 36 shots he faced.

As a result he won the starter’s role for the next game, where he posted a .964 SV%. And the next, which resulted in a .864 SV%, but a victory. And the next, in which he earned a .971 SV%.

Over the first four games of the then-crucial Pacific division road trip, Ortio earned an extremely impressive collective save percentage of .958. 

And then he played his fifth game in a row against the Anaheim Ducks, the one Pacific team the Flames had trouble with this past season. He gave up four goals on 11 shots, and was once again pulled, posting a measly .636 SV% along the way. That dropped his overall record to a more realistic number: .931%. It was the final game before the All-Star Break, and by the time the NHL came back, Ramo was once again okay and Ortio back in the AHL.

Ortio got one more game in: a completely meaningless affair against the Winnipeg Jets in the regular season finale, in which he allowed five goals on 22 shots while still recovering from a high ankle sprain. His sixth game of the season saw him post a .773 SV%, and that was that: he finished the year with a .908 SV%.

Ortio never got a chance to redeem himself

The point of all of this isn’t to say, “Well, if you just take away a couple of these games from his already very limited resume, his numbers look way better.” That would be cherry picking to suit a narrative that may never exist.

The point is to note that all of Ortio’s worst games in the NHL thus far have come at the end of his runs, and he has not once been afforded the opportunity to come back out for the next start and prove he has another good game left in him. That’s nobody’s fault: it just so happens that both times he’s been an injury replacement, he’s had extremely bad games right around the time the injured goalie (Ramo, both times) was ready to return.

Take away those three outliers – because aside from them, Ortio has posted a save percentage of at least .857 (which still isn’t great, but much better than giving up four goals and falling below .700% before finally getting pulled) – and his numbers look much better. Gone is the .891%, replaced with a respectable (for an injury callup rookie) .906%. Gone is the .908%, replaced with a ridiculous .958%. 

This isn’t to say he would have finished his seasons with those numbers had he been given another chance to start. Maybe he would have brought himself back up; maybe he would have fallen further. But fact is, Ortio has yet to be in a situation where he’s able to receive another NHL start following a brutal game. He has generally posted good numbers and played good games before eventually burning out, but there’s no evidence to show he would continue spiralling downwards.

Small sample size aside, that’s another reason to take his less-than-fantastic overall numbers with a grain of salt.

So is he ready for the NHL? Considering how Ortio requires waivers to be sent down, it may be now or never. What we do know is Ortio has shown excellent stretches at the NHL level, ending with terrible games, with no chance to bring his performance back up after.

It doesn’t hurt to be cautious by looking for further goaltending options, but there is still a very real chance Ortio ends up being one of the guys in the Flames’ future. After all, everyone has bad days. What remains to be seen is how often they appear, and what the response is after.

  • beloch

    The only thing clear about Ortio is that a larger sample is required. He’s ready for backup minutes, but second starter minutes like Ramo had last season? We just don’t know.

    Perhaps the more important question is, can Hiller handle being the #1 starter all season? In answer to that question, the Flames have been going after Cam Talbot.

    • Greg

      It’d be odd to pick up Cam Talbot if the reason is you aren’t sure Hiller can play ~60ish games. Ortio has to be here due to waivers, and Hiller seems like a more proven bet than Talbot if that’s the risk you are hedging against.

      Unless… It’s Ortio going the other way? Ortio and one of the excess 2nds or 3rds for Talbot or Lehner? That actually might make decent sense…

  • OKG

    The question isn’t “is he ready”. His fundamentals, his athleticism, and his timing are perfectly ready. You don’t need a sample size to see that.

    It’s “is he going to get lucky and off to a strong start, or is he going to get unlucky by a team playing like crap in front of him”.

    That’s really all it comes down to with goaltenders making the transition from AHL to NHL. Some get lucky, like Talbot, Vasilevsky, Darling, and Hammond, others get unlucky like Markstrom(they threw him under a bus by signing Miller), Kipprusoff (in San Jose) and McElhenny (look now, he’s a rock solid backup in Columbus, he’s not more ready, he’s just getting the opportunity).

    At the end of the day you have to gamble on the player and see what you have.

    If Devan Dubnyk proved anything, it’s that the team in front of you can be the difference between waiver-wire and Vezina contention.

    • RexLibris

      I’ve been reading a fair bit lately on goaltending performance as it relates to the team defense and the repeatibility of save percentages and it would appear that there is a greater correlation to goalie coaching and success than the strength of the defense in front of said goalie.

      I would take the exact opposite view that Ortio’s season will be determined by the luck he gets in the beginning and say that the biggest determiner for him this coming season will, aside from both his and Hiller’s health, be consistency.

      He has displayed an ability in the past, but his inability to repeat that performance on a more consistent basis is what could lead to him being relegated to the status of being a good AHL goalie and decent NHL backup.

      For the sake of researching this topic I checked his save% relative to the number of even-strength shots he faced the last two seasons and he was being outplayed by players like Matt Hackett, Richard Bachman and Louis Domingue.

      You can check some of the data, if you’re interested:

      I ranked them by Shots Against so you have similar sample sizes and then checked sv% to see who did the best with comparable workloads.

        • RexLibris

          He was running pretty close to Martin Brodeur.

          I think that speaks to Brodeur’s season more than Ortio’s, though.

          The benchmark that has been determined by fellow Oilers fans GMoney and WheatNOil over at Oilers Nerd Alert is 1300 even strength saves. Once a goalie hits that mark they establish enough of a record to make a call about where their career sv% may fall.

          So if Ortio can work on his consistency, we should begin to get a clearer picture of where he falls in the goalie spectrum.

  • RexLibris

    There is just so much talk with credible sources that the Flames are kicking a lot of tires & making a total change in net going into next year. & these rumours are just not going away & that leaves me totally confused.

    Really when you think about it, we have a young up & coming kid starting a one way deal at min wage & had shown very well in a small sample size last year. We have a solid veteran who gave us average NHL goaltending with 1 more year to carry another 55 games & let the youngster cut his teeth. The worse bit would be losing a potential 2nd or 3rd rounder by not being in a position to trade Ramo & probably seeing him walk July 1. Still, why would goaltending be on the radar? Next year sure, this year, why?
    Is there an issue with Hiller maybe wanting out, knowing longterm his future isn’t with Calgary? Are the Flames not sold on Ortio either & are looking to move him while there is any kind of perceived value from that small sample size & decent AHL numbers? Hiller upset about not getting back in against Anaheim & wants out? Something is smouldering & it sure would be nice to know what the issue is. I thought the net situation seemed pretty clear going into next year, what happened?

    • Franko J

      Why are you confused? Both Ramo and Hiller were very inconsistent throughout the entire year. Inconsistency is the last thing you want in your goaltending. Neither were good enough to be deemed the starter by Hartley….this is the most critical position on the team and I am glad the Flames are looking at upgrading!

      • Greg

        Maybe I missed something last year. We went to the 2nd round of the playoffs & had our best season in how long with one of the worst possession stats in the league & our best Norris candidate dman & captain injured. Sounds to me goaltending was pretty good for a team in Y2 of a rebuild. I don’t think too many people would criticize us for going into next season with Hiller & Ortio or even Ramo & Ortio for that matter. A bonafide #3 Dman is where I would upgrade before the goal position.

      • MattyFranchise

        I’m not sure where I see him playing aside from on the RW (obviously) but I think Vancouver’s 2nd is a good starting point. I’m not sure what the Islander’s needs are apart from cap management. Also, Okposo would essentially be a one season rental looking at it from someone who isn’t ‘in the room’ with management on a day to day basis.

        Still would like to have him though. Insert some ‘mortgage/farm’ metaphor here.

        • RexLibris

          All these posters suggesting we give away our high end draft picks…reminds me of the Darryl Sutter strategy…and what did that get us???

          Stay the course…build through the draft…especially this one!!

          • wot96

            Okposo is already a first or second line RW. Something the Flames need. He is currently on a relatively inexpensive contract for what he produces, i.e., he produces more for less than Jones. The big risk is him not re-signing plus, to be fair, the opportunity cost of trading away a high pick.

            I haven’t seen anyone suggest we spend a first for him. If they can convince the Islanders to extend and trade for a second and a third or for a middling second and one of the many players the Flames have that are on and off the roster, then how is that a bad deal?

            A second, even in a deep draft, has what, a 33% chance of being a player? Versus a guy that slots in nicely where the Flames have organizational weakness? In addition, the seconds available to the Flames this draft are not high enough to qualify as a pseudo-first.

            There are a lot of moving parts to make this a good deal, but I don’t think it should be opposed just because this is a deep draft and you want to build through the draft. The will to tailor a rebuild plan to circumstance and opportunity is more important than dogmatically pursuing a formula.

          • RexLibris

            Case in point..the Chicago Blackhawks…built primarily through the draft! You are suggesting the Flames go in a different direction….make no mistake the Isles will want drafts and prospects for your soon to be UFA Ogo Pogo….

  • wot96

    There is NO chance the Islanders move Okposo for less than a 1st +. What did Vermette fetch at the deadline? Start with that and keep adding.

    Also saying he’s “already” a 1st or 2nd line RW is a little odd; he’s 27 years old. It’s not like he hasn’t been around for a while already.

    • RexLibris

      Okposo for the 15th overall is probably where the conversation heads.

      Doesn’t mean Treliving likes it or does it, and I doubt Snow likes that deal either, so maybe nothing happens there, but that’s the closest asset the Flames have available that the Islanders would presumably want.

  • RexLibris

    Nothing against Okposo or Lucic but both make a lot of money and both will be UFA next season with a good chance of not being back. Both would help us short term but if we lost them to FA for firts round draft pick and prospects and did not win the cup most of the writers here would go ballistic. I for one would pass on both looking longterm.

    I could see the Leafs trading Kessle to NYI for Okposo and some sort of draft pick being included as well as other prospect completing the deal.

  • RexLibris

    Based on the discussion it seems that everyone has written off Ramo…BT claims to have a number of scenarios for goal tending….I bet signing Ramo and trading Hiller could be one of them.