Few players in the entire National Hockey League saw the highs and lows that Calgary Flames goaltender Karri Ramo did during the 2015-16 season.
He started the opening game of the season… and got lit up by Vancouver. He was inconsistent enough in October to get waived and banished to the American Hockey League. He played a period in the minors only to return when Jonas Hiller was injured. Ramo played well enough to get Calgary back into the playoff picture, only to see his season ended when a goal-mouth collision exploded his knee (and probably derailed his chances for another contract with the Flames).
The opening few games were the blurst of times for Ramo. He went 0-3-0 and either got lit up terribly (in two starts) or gave up butter-soft goals at unfortunate times, notably a late-game softie to Dustin Byfuglien against Winnipeg in the Flames’ best 60-minute game to that point.
He was waived and demoted to Stockton on Oct. 22. Jonas Hiller suffered a lower-body injury in a collision on Oct. 28 and was recalled from the farm after playing 20 minutes in the minors. He served as backup to Joni Ortio in Calgary’s worst game of the season, a 6-2 home loss to Montreal. Basically throwing his hands in the air in bewilderment, Bob Hartley turned to Ramo.
From henceforth, Ramo was the team’s workhorse. He started 34 of the next 43 games before he was injured. He went 17-15-1 with a .923 even-strength save percentage. He was easily Calgary’s best goalie but for context there were 18 goalies who played 30+ games in that span, and his even-strength save percentage was 14th out of that group. (Worse goalies than Ramo in this respect: Marc-Andre Fleury, Mike Condon, Martin Jones and Pekka Rinne.)
IMPACT ON TEAM
When a team has good goaltending, it can cover up for a lot. When they have great goaltending, it can cover up for everything. The Flames had rough defensive zone coverage in 2015-16. They had bad, bad goaltending in October, from everybody. It sucked to watch, to cover, and everybody was glad when it was over.
Ramo was pretty consistent throughout the season in terms of his low and medium-danger save percentage. His dramatic improvement in high-danger chances after October allowed team to get a bit more aggressive offensively, and that in turn likely contributed to them getting all of the goals in December and much of January.
They weren’t able to overcome their own rough, rough defensive play, but Ramo’s netminding at least gave them a chance (post-October).
WHAT COMES NEXT?
To be honest? I’m not sure.
During his tenure in Calgary, Ramo has suffered ligament injuries on both of his knees and battled a hip malady. He is an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and was the best goalie for the NHL team that had the league’s worst goaltending. He was good (for Calgary), but compared to the rest of the league’s netminders he wasn’t great.
Would you actively pursue a 30-year-old goalie with slightly below-average underlying numbers and a history of injuries? That said, he’s the goaltender the Flames seem to know (and trust) the most, and considering his injury history it’s likely that he could be a dirt-cheap backup goaltender… if his play doesn’t wildly deteriorate following knee surgery.