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.
“This is not an uncommon procedure, especially for goaltenders.” -Treliving
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) December 3, 2015
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.