The 2015-16 season was lousy for the Calgary Flames in terms of their goaltending. What could go wrong did go wrong and the quality of netminding left a lot to be desired. However, last season cannot hold a candle to 1998-99, which was a nightmare year for goalies in a completely different (and terrifying) way.
So pull up a chair, and allow me to tell you about The Year of Seven Goalies.
The Flames were coming off a bad 1997-98 season that saw them finish with the worst record they had ever posted since their move to Calgary. Their goalies that season were Dwayne Roloson and Rick Tabaracci. General Manager Al Coates went in a different direction, trading for Pittsburgh Penguins back-up Ken Wregget.
Finally, the Flames would have solid goaltending. They began the season with Wregget and young back-up Tyler Moss. Then the wheels fell off the bus. And the bus caught on fire. And then crashed into a pool of gasoline. And then exploded.
- On Nov. 3, Wregget left a game in Detroit due to injury in the second period. Moss came in and salvaged a 5-4 win. The next day, the club brought up AHL starter Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
- For the next while, the Flames rolled with Moss and Giguere as their tandem. They were okay, but not great.
- On Dec. 11, Moss left a game in Tampa Bay due to injury in the first period. Giguere finished the game. With nobody else in Saint John to bring up (besides ECHLer Igor Karpenko), the Flames brought up junior prospect Tyrone Garner from the OHL to back up Giguere.
- The Flames went with Giguere, their third-stringer, starting and Garner backing him up.
- On Dec. 27, Giguere was injured in a loss against Colorado. He finished the game, but the next day the Flames traded with Chicago to re-acquire Andrei Trefilov.
- The Flames rolled with Treliflov starting and Garner backing him up.
- On Jan. 4, Trefilov left a game in the first minute in Boston, the team’s fourth such goalie injury in a two-month span. Garner finished the game (and got lit up). The Flames, out of options, summoned ECHL starter Igor Karpenko from the Johnstown Chiefs and started Garner (in his second game in two nights) against the Penguins.
- The very next day, Coates signed Fred Brathwaite from the Canadian National Team. He started on Jan. 8 against Dallas with Garner as his back-up (and Karpenko was returned to the minors without playing a second of NHL hockey). He posted a 1-0 shutout win.
- Gradually, the Flames got healthier and goalies returned from injury.
- The Brathwaite/Garner tandem lasted two games. Garner was sent back to the OHL when Giguere was cleared. (Trefilov was returned to the IHL’s Chicago Wolves, from whence he originally came.)
- The Brathwaite/Giguere tandem lasted five games. Giguere was sent back to the AHL after the All-Star Break as Moss recovered enough to rejoin the active roster.
- After about a month of Brathwaite and Moss, Wregget returned and Moss was bumped down to the AHL.
Ultimately, the greatest legacy of The Year of Seven Goalies was Brathwaite. Had the Flames not had to scour the world for netminders, they wouldn’t have been desperate enough to try him out. He turned out to be a really solid goalie and developed enough as an asset that teams wanted to trade for him. He was part of the package Calgary sent to St. Louis for Roman Turek, who was a pretty underrated part of the Flames’ 2004 Stanley Cup Final run.
That run probably doesn’t happen without The Year of Seven Goalies.