When Jonas Hiller struggled to get up following a collision with Bobby Ryan, you knew it probably wasn’t going to be good.
This left the Flames with a problem. They may have tried to run with three goalies, but that didn’t work. You know what’s really not going to work, though? Running with one, since all indications are pointing towards Hiller being injured.
So, a week after he was sent down, Karri Ramo is back with the Flames.
Ramo had a very poor start to the season. After being re-signed to a one-year, $3.8 million deal, he was part of a three-way battle for two jobs at camp – a battle that he won in part, as he was the Flames’ first starter of the season.
It’s just unfortunate that he gave up five goals in his first start, and went on to lose all three games he did play. Ramo left Calgary with a thoroughly unimpressive .879 save percentage.
With Jon Gillies needing playing time in Stockton, Ramo only played 20 minutes over his AHL sabbatical. In it, he saw six shots, and stopped all of them.
Hopefully it’s something he can build off of as he battles to return to the .912 save percentage he exhibited with the Flames over the 2014-15 season. Because while goaltending in Calgary remains uncertain, there’s one thing we do know: it needs to be better, and Ramo does have the potential to play a key role in improving it.
It leaves us with a few questions, though.
Who’s the starter now?
We don’t yet know just how badly injured Hiller is, and indeed, there’s no mention of him going on the injured reserve. By sending down Jakub Nakladal earlier in the day, the Flames can afford to recall a player without making any further moves. However, it’s pretty clear that Hiller will not be playing in the immediate future, so we aren’t revisiting the three-goalie conundrum at this point in time.
So if the starter’s net is between Ramo and Ortio, then really, you have to go with Ortio.
The Flames hid Ortio in the pressbox through the first several games of the season, too afraid of potentially losing him to play him. But now that time is past. If you want to keep a goalie, you have to have good reason why – and it makes no sense whatsoever to keep Ortio if you aren’t going to play him.
Ortio hasn’t been perfect to start the season, but pretty much nobody on the entire Flames team has. This is a rebuilding team, though, and with rebuilding teams, you need to see just what your young players can do. Ortio is among that group.
If things go south, Ramo is back to handle it; in the meantime, though, you wanted to keep the kid so bad? Play him.
What happens when Hiller recovers?
Ramo can simply be sent back down to Stockton within 10 games played or 30 days from today, so if Hiller is back within that time period, it would make the most sense to simply return him to the AHL – unless Ramo has put together some incredible performances in that time frame to force the Flames to keep him.
But then that creates another awkward situation in which Hiller is the odd man out. With seemingly little market for goalies out there, a trade may not be likely, and then you’re left waiving your second veteran goaltender in the same season. That’s messy.
If Hiller is out long term, though, and Ramo proves himself capable, that creates a conundrum for the Flames. Depending on how Ortio performs, it could be the end of his time with the Flames; if, however, he thrives, then Calgary will be back to where they started the season: with three goalies, two of who are veterans clogging things up.
It’s fortunate that with Hiller injured, the Flames at least have the personnel eliminating the need for them to make any additional moves. But the three goalie system didn’t work to start the season, and it’s probably not going to work later in the year, either.