Jon Gillies to get hip surgery, out 4-6 months

Not even the Stockton Heat have been able to avoid the nightmare that has been Calgary Flames goaltending this season. Despite all the low save percentages and horrific goals against in the NHL, though, it’s the farm team that may have gotten hurt the most: both figuratively, and literally.

Jon Gillies, one of the Flames’ top goaltending prospects (if not the top guy), will have hip surgery next Wednesday, Dec. 9. He’s expected to be out for 4-6 months, meaning the earliest he could return is April.

After just seven games, it’s probable Gillies’ first professional season is already over.

Standing at 6’6, and weighing 225 lbs., there’s little doubt Gillies has the size to be a professional goalie. Further to that, though, is the seasons he’s spent building his resume.

Committed to Providence College, Gillies was the Friars’ starter in his freshman season, in which he posted a .931 save percentage over 35 games. In his sophomore season, he again posted a .931 save percentage, then over 34 games. Finally, in his junior season, he had a .930 save percentage over 39 games, all the while leading his team to a National Championship by defeating Jack Eichel’s Boston University Terriers in the Frozen Four final by a score of 4-3.

In short: he looked like the real deal. And, as one of the top college goalies with absolutely nothing else left to prove in the NCAA, Gillies graduated to the professional ranks this season in the AHL, and debuted with a 19-save shutout.

Gillies posted one other shutout on the season: a 36 save effort, and the only other win he backstopped the Heat to. Not that the Heat’s inability to win was on him, as the Heat only scored seven goals over the other five games he played.

He was looking like any young goalie just starting out his professional career: flashes of high performance and high ability, while displaying inconsistencies that would naturally come about as he made the transition between leagues.

And even then, he still posted a .920 save percentage over his seven games: still a good number in line with someone on track to hopefully become an NHLer one day.

There is one silver lining to this news: it shouldn’t mean anything bad for Gillies in the long term.

Gillies is expected to be back and at 100% by development camp, and have a strong push next season.

Where all this really hurts is that Gillies essentially loses an entire year of development, but at this point, it can’t be avoided. The Canucks’ Thatcher Demko is an example of a young goalie who required hip surgery as well, and thus far this season in the NCAA, he has a .953 save percentage, including six shutouts, so it clearly didn’t derail him.

Sam Bennett is another player who essentially lost a year of development, but it was more important to get him at 100% the next time he stepped on the ice, and it paid off. It’s not the ideal outcome for Gillies’ season, but right now, this is the best option for him.

  • Christian Roatis

    Sucks, but Canucks’ prospect Thatcher Demko had the same procedure done last year and has started this season with a .953 SV% and 6SO in his first 13 games at Boston College, so the procedure helps.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      And we could’ve had that guy… man I hope MacDonald starts putting up some better numbers. I understand the whole QMJHL lack of defense and all but I still expected a bit more from him this year.

      Edit: according to Burke’s “draft a goalie every other year” philosophy… that puts this next draft as the one. Anyone else afraid if we acquire a mid to late 1st rounder at the deadline that it ends up being a goalie?

      • The Last Big Bear

        I’m just going to put this out there…

        You can pick it up, or you can leave it there, that’s up to you…

        But 13 of the NHL’s starting goalies were 1st or 2nd round picks.

        Price, Schneider, Rask, Dubnyk, Luongo, Varlamov, Lehtonen, Crawford, et al.

        Goalies are voodoo, this is true. But goalies with a strong pedigree have (on average) stronger voodoo.

        They’re a bigger gamble than some other positions, but the payoff is a lot bigger too. If you’ve got an extra 1st rounder lying around, and don’t need to use your own, it’s not the worst investment to spend it on the top ranked junior goalie in the world.

        • Bean-counting cowboy

          That’s a fair point. However for every one of those guys you can probably list twice as many busts. My problem with goalies in the 1st round has more to do with the number of available positions in the NHL. 2/20 players on every given night are goalies (10%). That means you need the other 90% made up of defense and forwards. The reason so many 1st round goalies ‘bust’ is because there are limited roster spots for them in the NHL. Your 1st round forward (60%) or d-man (30%) have more available spots on the roster they are vying for from the minute they get selected.

          Even Edmonton came out and said last year they would not spend their Perron pick on Talbot or any goalie and the trend has been to start taking them in the second round. Gone are the days of the top 5 pick goalie.

          Since they are voodoo anyways and so many are available via trade and free agency every year… why use a first rounder on them?

          I’d be more comfortable trading our second late 1st rounder for a semi-established guy with good numbers and promise (Vasilevsky) than drafting one who is 4 to 6 years away from the NHL (if all goes right)

          • The Last Big Bear

            I agree with the last part.

            As much as the Flames (and every other team) wants to find a diamond-in-the-rough undrafted superstar goalie, more often than not you’re going to have to bite the bullet and pay the price for one.

            I think what you are suggesting is probably the best way to go.

      • PrairieStew

        But the Flames were able to sign that kid out of Medicine Hat Nick Schneider after training camp. So heading in to next year you have Ortio, Gilles as pros, and Mcdonald and Schneider in their last year of junior. The gap is not at the bottom end but at top or middle.

  • KiLLKiND

    I’m on a wait list for the same surgery and by all sounds once fully healed goalies have a lot more mobility. One problem however is that they only do one hip at a time. So in the not too distant future Gilles will need surgery again just on his other hip.

    As far as taking a goalie in the 1st round I say go for it. It seems to me most elite goalies are taken among the top of their class, and saying goalies are voodoo doesn’t mean whoever ends up taking the 1st ranked goalie wasted their pick is silly. Especially this year if we get another late 1st round draft pick. Look at the last time we had multiple picks Poirer and Klimchuck. Poirier seems to have potential to make the show but I’m starting to doubt Klimchuck will. Carter Hart looks like a future franchise goaltender to me and is the top ranked goalie in the draft. He is currently not projected to be taken in the 1st and if we can get him the 2nd even better.

    Unless Calgary pulls a Calgary and drafts the 2nd ranked goalie or trades their pick for the top ranked goalie and the 2nd ranked guy ends up being Brodeur…. Wow Calgary is bad at drafting goalies