The Flames complete goaltending changing of the guard

Last season, the Calgary Flames had some problems – you might have heard. One of their big issues was that they were the worst National Hockey League club in terms of goaltending. Their save percentage was bad – an .898 overall. Their American Hockey League club in Stockton wasn’t much better, posting a disappointing .896 save percentage overall.

So it probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that the Flames had planned off-season changes in goal. Last season’s goaltenders on NHL contracts included Karri Ramo, Jonas Hiller, Jon Gillies, Kevin Poulin, Joni Ortio and Niklas Backstrom (along with AHLer Kent Simpson). Gillies is the only surviving member of that group, and probably because (a) he was the only individual with a contract for 2016-17 and (b) he missed all of the games after November 6 due to hip surgery. Everybody else has been jettisoned (and when you see the results from last season, it’s hard to argue against it).

Indeed, the Flames have very purposefully changed the net-minding guard throughout the organization.

“No, it wasn’t by accident,” shared Treliving following the introductory press conference for Chad Johnson and Troy Brouwer. “When I had talked about it is we wanted to
obviously add depth, but it wasn’t just at the NHL level. We think Jon [Gillies]
is a good young goalie, Mason McDonald is a good young goalie. We signed
David Rittich, again, who our European guys like. He’s a young goalie,
you’ve got some depth there. Beyond that you’ve got [Nick] Schneider and
[Tyler] Parsons we drafted.”

The goalies with active contracts for 2016-17 are Brian Elliott, Johnson, Gillies, Rittich, McDonald and Schneider (whose deal will likely slide). Departing the organization this off-season are Hiller (signed in Switzerland), Backstrom (signed in Finland), Poulin (not given a qualifying offer), Ortio (also not qualified) and Ramo (injured and likely not offered a contract). The changeover in personnel appears to be part of an effort to upgrade the team’s reserve list.

Treliving explained the moves in the context of building the organization’s overall depth.

“Building a team isn’t just the 23 you see here, it’s
building your reserve list,” said Treliving. “Eighteen months ago when I came in here, I
believe that you built your teams on the blueline and in goal and from
there and up center ice, so when you look at where our defense reserve
list was 18 months ago to where it is today, where our goaltender
reserve list was 18 months ago from today, we drafted and will continue
to draft a bunch of centers every year, that’s the strength of where
teams are built. So it’s not by accident we’ve added some bodies, now
it’s up to those guys to continue to develop and strengthen. But I think
we’ve got some guys that have a real chance.”

In terms of the two goaltenders on one-way deals, recent acquisitions Elliott and Johnson, Treliving indicated a general sense of satisfaction with his moves of the past couple of weeks.

“Well, we’ve got two of them…,” joked Treliving. “I tried the three thing last year and… We’re real comfortable. I think they’re both good goalies, both real good guys and real competitive guys. They work, and I think they’ll push each other, they’ll support each other… We haven’t played any games yet, but I like where we’re sitting.”

  • Danomitee

    In my mind, there is absolutely no way we can be worse then last year. There’s a lot of flack over the Bowzer signing, but this team can definitely make the playoffs this year with an above average goalie tandem.

    Good work Tre, now trade wideman, sign the kids, and fill in the gaps.

  • beloch

    I liked Ortio down the stretch. I think he would have made a serviceable (and cheap) backup goalie this season, with possible upside for the future. With both a clear starter and a good backup now signed, I don’t see Ortio returning. Chad Johnson is probably going to be a better backup next season than Ortio would have been, but he’s not going to be a starter of the future.

    With Gillies, Parsons, and McDonald ripening in other leagues, the Flames seem to have some very promising goalie prospects that will be hitting the NHL over the next few years. As such, Johnson’s lack of upside isn’t a big issue. Still, I can’t help but feel like Ortio is going to be the starter who got away. Like his fellow Finn, Kiprusoff, Ortio might be a late-blooming goalie whose career will blast off with another team. Given how goalies often develop much later than other players, I’m a little concerned the Flames are trying to force goalie talent through the pipes too fast to really know what they’ve got before it’s gone.

    On the bright side, barring injuries the Flames should get greatly improved net-minding next season. Even with Hartley’s offensive defensive system, the Flames were a pretty average team in terms of shots-against, although they did give up too many high danger scoring chances. If Gulutzan goes with a tighter defensive system, the Flames could reduce their goals against next season to a degree that will shock the league.

  • RKD

    I’m confident Elliott and Johnson can not only carry the load but give us the goaltending we so badly needed last season. However, that being said the Flames have a lot of areas to clean up in defensively. Their coverage was really poor to the extent that Gio and Brodie were so over worked even they were getting exposed on the ice. I would still like to see another top 4 d-man play with Hamilton. Hopefully Gulutzan brings in a brand new more thorough defensive system.

  • RealMcHockeyReturns

    Happy with both signings as solid veterans, both are mature guys who can perhaps have their best years here.

    And Johnson is almost no risk for the $ due to it being a 1-year contract, plus did not realize Johnson grew up here so that’s a cool bonus.

  • freethe flames

    The addition of the two goalies help improve our chances of being competitive but let’s not get too excited. We still have to make some other changes to this squad such as Smid to LTIR and move Wideman. This team is better today than yesterday and while I do not like the cost of Bouwer it is what it is. More work needs to be done.

  • Greg

    So… All teams are required to expose at least 1 goalie who’s under contract for 2017-18. Neither of these guys is, and I can’t see Elliot resigning by himself if that means he’ll be the one exposed. Would have rathered Johnson was signed for 2 years to avoid what might get dicey towards the end of next year.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Pretty safe to say that suspect goaltending won’t be an ongoing issue for the Flames in the upcoming season.

    Reimer signing for quickly for bucks and term was the most surprising acquisition on Day 1 of free agency. So much for the thought that the goaltending market had dried up when the Flames lassoed Elliot. Now I am curious as to where Bishop goes as the Bolts appear to hitching their wagon to the pup.

    I don’t know the cap situation is in Buffalo, but Bishop could make that team of the future into a team of today.

    Can the Jets afford Bishop? Or more to the point, can the Jets not afford to go make a solid pitch for da Bish. He would put an end to the suspect netminding that has dogged the Jets the past few seasons.

    Obvious landing spot is Dallas, but their crease is already stuffed with a pair of ugly contracts, so unless Jimmy Nill can do some magic, Dallas will be a Bishop-free zone.

    Do the Oilers get creative? If their pitch for a high-end defenceman falls short, maybe they give up on and go for a high-end goalie and try to win a lot of 6-5 games. Oilers would have to clear healthy cap space for Bishop and I can’t see them doing that without taking on more dough, so Bishop to the Oilers might be the longest of longshots.

    If the Flyers have the cap space this year and beyond, I say BB become a PF.

    • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

      You on the weed or what ? The oilers are not in need of a starting goalie. Cam Talbot proved his worth last season and you know it!

      And another thing… They wouldn’t need t clear cap space they have almost $10 m to work with.

      • freethe flames

        Way closer to $8m than $10m. However that would be enough for them to add 2 defenders to their core w/o having to subtract from their forwards. And yes they Talbot did prove himself last year to be a solid NHL goaltender. You team may be on the verge of breaking the 10 year drought but that will only be proven when the season is played out.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        Look down the road a bit, monkey boy. Bishop is likely looking for a 5 or more year contract. Within 2 years Connor is going to be looking for a huge raise–could be the highest paid player in the NHL then– and Leon and Nurse will be in line hefty new contracts too. Cap space disappears very quickly when big contracts need to be offered.

        Are you seriously saying Talbot rates higher than Bishop? Pass the peace pipe, buddy.

  • freethe flames

    Any way you look at our forwards an honest assessment is that we still need to get better. Johnny, Monny both can be seen as stars in today’s NHL. Backs, FRolik, and now Bouwer solid 2 way NHL players. Bennett, Ferland, and Shinkaruk yet unproven NHL players although Bennett will likely be a star. Bouma and Chiasson reclamation projects who both need bounce back years. Stajan and Bouma both of whom have seen better years. Thachuk, Poirier, Jankowski, Mangiapane, Pribyl and Klimchuk all are unproven players and I hope that 2 of them can earn jobs on the big club and push Bollig into the AHL and Stajan to 13 spot.

    Let’s also not fool ourselves about our d core outside of our top three Gio, TJ and Dougie there are some serious issues. JJ looks like the best of the bunch and he is still young and probably best suited as a 5/6. Smid is Smid and should be on the LTIR and would help this team more by retiring. Wideman is a 5/6 at best who can play on our 2nd pp unit but should not play on the PK. Eng’s is best suited as 5-7 defender. That’s 3 guys making over #11m a year who should not play in our top 4 and probably should not play on either special teams. Yikes. We do have some players in the AHL who I think are NHL ready Spoon and Kulak both of whom would be better defenders than the $11m trio. Andersson has great potential as does Kylington but both need to be in the AHL. Others also show potential as well.

    I know I sound like a pessimist but after last seasons problems and wishful thinking I’ve decided to be realist. There are enough pom pom waivers in the media and on this site already and there needs to be room for different perspectives. Until we get rid of the bad contracts and the kids earn a spot and show they have the skills we likely remain on the outside looking at the playoffs.