Did anybody have a more up-and-down season than Joni Ortio? Part of a three-goalie conundrum, he spent extensive time sitting in the pressbox. When he got a chance, he got shelled. When the Flames finally realized they had no choice but to demote him, he posted bad numbers in the AHL.
But when Karri Ramo’s season ended early. When Ortio was brought back up into the NHL, he started showing signs of being capable of playing at this level. By the end of the season, he was the Flames’ best available goalie – not that the bar was set particularly high. And as it stands right now, it appears he’s the only goalie we know should be playing in Calgary next season.
The 2015-16 season alone was a wild ride, and his career is still just getting started.
Preseason: The Flames kick things off with three goalies fighting for two spots. Ortio and Jonas Hiller were already under contract, while Karri Ramo was re-signed just before free agency officially opened. Through the preseason, the first two play three games each, while Ramo plays four. Hiller has a .965 SV%, Ortio .946%, and Ramo .941%. Thanks to nobody truly standing out, the Flames decide to enter the season with three goalies on the roster.
Oct. 7-20: Ortio sits in the pressbox while Hiller and Ramo trade starts and spots on the bench. Ramo eventually gets demoted, and Ortio gets to play backup.
Oct. 25-31: Ortio gets his first game action, including two starts. He gets shelled as his team scores all of two goals for him; 10 go in past him. Ramo is brought back up as a result of Hiller’s injury and wins the starter’s job.
Nov. 1-27: Ortio rides the pine, keeping the bench warm and looking good doing it. He does literally nothing else. Hiller returns from injury, prompting Ortio to be placed on waivers. He goes unclaimed and is sent down to the AHL.
Nov. 28-Feb. 12: Ortio splits time with Kevin Poulin on the Stockton Heat. He plays 20 games and posts a .893 SV%. Ramo suffers a season-ending injury on Feb. 11, resulting in Ortio being brought back up to the NHL.
Feb. 13-22: Ortio plays backup to Hiller, only getting some game time after the latter lets in four goals on 17 shots against the Ducks (Ortio lets in two goals on nine shots in the final 33:38 of the game). Hiller lets in 21 goals over this time frame.
Feb. 23-April 9: Ortio effectively becomes the starter, playing 17 of the Flames’ final 24 games of the season. He posts a .908 SV% over that time, including a memorable shutout in the final Battle of Alberta game at Rexall Place. Hiller and Niklas Backstrom are granted some last hoorahs for their NHL careers.
To recap: Ortio played 20 games for the Stockton Heat, posting a .893 SV%; he played 22 games for the Calgary Flames, posting a .902 SV% (.912 ES SV%).
Via Corsica, here’s a density map of the shots Ortio saw in the NHL at 5v5:
The highest concentration appears to be primarily from right in front of the net – high danger shots – although they’re fairly spread out, as opposing players appear to have taken shots from just about anywhere in the defensive zone.
Via War on Ice, his low-danger 5v5 save percentage was 97.03% (behind Ramo and Hiller), his medium-danger save percentage was 92.06% (behind Ramo), and his high-danger save percentage was 84.09% (best on the Flames; 34th in the NHL among goalies with at least 300 5v5 minutes played).
Now, here’s his shot density map from when the Flames were on the penalty kill:
Here, shots against are much more concentrated in the high-danger slot area.
On the penalty kill, Ortio’s low-danger save percentage was 100% (best on the Flames), his medium-danger save percentage was 80.95% (behind Ramo), and his high-danger save percentage was 74.07% (behind Ramo).
What comes next?
Nothing is certain when it comes to the Flames in net. However, once Ortio got a regular chance, he put together his best stint of the season – similar to Ramo once he was given the opportunity. With the option to actually play instead of sit in the pressbox, Ortio’s numbers rounded into something at least respectable.
He’s only just turned 25, so it would be premature to declare his career over already. However, while he did show improvement over the course of the season, Ortio’s numbers still weren’t that great. That’s not entirely on him – the Flames as a whole were not a particularly good team – but he’s hardly earned the right to be handed the starter’s job.
Maybe that will happen over the course of the 2016-17 season, but assuming the Flames go after another netminder – either an established starter or another young player with the potential to become one – he’ll have his work cut out for him.
One thing’s for sure, though: no more three goalie situations. Ortio is either in the AHL or NHL because he deserves it, with no fear of a waiver claim restricting movements. Wherever he ends up, he needs to play. Only then will the Flames have any idea of just what they have in him.