The 5 Best Flames Goalies Ever

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.

  • Dan the Drunk

    I’ve got a soft spot for Rick Tabaracci, another pickup from an overstocked team who supplanted the underperfoming starter (Trevor Kidd).

    Stats aren’t great, but hey, those were the 90s.

    In typical Flames fashion (a la Jason Weimer, Phil Housley, Olli Jokinen), he also came back for a second tour of duty, sharing the net with Dwayne Wayne Roloson.

    • Greg

      I thought the same thing so I looked up their numbers in their respective Flames careers.

      Seriously. Brathwaite was better.

      As for McLennan (@Brent G.) he was never a starter with the Flames.

  • KACaribou

    I will say that I can think of a number of goalies equally as good as Freddie Brathwaite: Pat Riggin, Rick Wamsley, Hiller, Kidd, Roloson.

    Brathwaite did play well for a couple of seasons for the Flames during a time when the team was terrible, horrible, putrid.

    OMG: Oilers had terrible goaltending, Brent? Fuhr and Moog were as good as anyone in the league for years. Bill Ranford was the best goalie in the league following Fuhr. Then Cujo! Roloson!

    Not an Oilers fan, but until recently they have had a frustrating amount of great tenders.

    Vernie’s profile understated by Pike forgetting that he won 2 Stanley Cups vs. 0 for Kipper.

  • OKG

    Speaking of Brathwaite, (and Wamsley and Roloson) they’ve been a contributing factor in Mason McDonald’s rapid development. Mason credits him for teaching him a lot of fundamentals.

  • King Quong

    Pike had one last chance to redeem himself for his less than stellar previous two “Top Players” lists and he once again laid a Derek Engelland sized egg.

    How Fred Braithwaite ends up in the best five Flames goalies of all time is beyond me, humorous really. What was the criteria: A low amount of games played for the franchise, a horribly low amount of career wins, poor GAA and save %.

    I guess if those were the criteria he should be at the top of this list!

    May god have mercy on your soul Pike.

    • King Quong

      Unfortunately this list isn’t the top 5 “funnest goalies to watch” tho, it’s the top 5 best goalies in franchise history and Braithwaite isn’t even in the conversation.

      He’s borderline top 10 of all-time and that’s even questionable