Goaltending is immensely important in hockey.
Good goaltending can cover up a lot, but nothing can make up for bad goaltending. In the history of the Calgary Flames, there have been a few really bad goalies and a few really good ones. Here’s our list of the five net-minders that we determined to the very best in franchise history.
#5: FRED BRATHWAITE
Flame from 1998-99 to 2000-01
Brathwaite was originally a journeyman plucked from the Canadian National Team in Calgary’s nightmare season where they dressed something like eight different goalies. He had a shut-out in his first season and solidified the position for a team that had a few fundamental problems, providing solid, dependable netminding every night. He was flipped in the summer of 2001 to St. Louis as part of a package to land Roman Turek (whom he edged out for this spot on the list).
#4: REGGIE LEMELIN
Flame from 1978-79 to 1986-87
Reggie Lemelin was drafted by the Flyers but never caught on, so the Flames grabbed him as a promising 24-year-old prospect out of free agency. He was a prototypical 1980s goalie: scrambly, energetic, and capable of playing up to the opposition. But if the Flames weren’t great, Lemelin’s numbers would’ve suffered. That said, as the team was finding itself in the first five year of the ’80s, he was a dependable presence…until Mike Vernon supplanted him, at which point he left as a free agent.
#3: DAN BOUCHARD
Flame from 1972-73 to 1980-81
One of two goalies grabbed in the expansion draft by the fledgling Atlanta Flames (the other was Phil Myre), the young Bouchard quickly took control of the crease and was a rock for a really young team. He played a ton for Atlanta and played well – a goals-against-average around 3 was considered superb at the time – but he eventually was out-shined by young Reggie Lemelin and traded to Quebec for Jamie Hislop.
#2: MIKE VERNON
Flame from 1982-83 to 1993-94 and 2000-01 to 2001-02
Mike Vernon basically had three stints to his Flames tenure. First, he was the promising young draft pick from the local junior team and the scrappy up-and-coming back-up. Then after he won the starting job from Reggie Lemelin, he was the undersized, battling goaltender for one of the better NHL teams in the league. He was traded to the Red Wings just as his career was cresting and when he returned (after a trade with the Minnesota Wild) he was back where he started: as a back-up goalie. He was nowhere close to what he was in the early ’90s when he came back, but he still battled hard regardless.
And old school cage-mask Vernon is superior to new school hybrid mask Vernon, by far.
#1: MIIKKA KIPRUSOFF
Flame from 2003-04 to 2012-13
Miikka Kiprusoff is both (a) Darryl Sutter’s greatest acquisition and (b) the most talented goaltender in Flames franchise history. He was San Jose’s third-string goalie (behind Vesa Toskala and Evgeni Nabokov) and Sutter, fresh in his GM chair after a stint in San Jose, grabbed him for a second round pick. For the next decade, Kiprusoff flung himself around the crease to give the Flames a chance to win games. He played more frequently than any Flames starter ever, but also better. He set the modern-day goals against average record in his first (38-game) season in town, then won a Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie the next season. Good goaltending covers up a lot of flaws: the late ’00s Flames were flawed, but Kiprusoff gave ’em a chance to win every night.