If you’ve ever wanted to explore the trials and tribulations of finding a goalie for the Calgary Flames, try taking a trip to your nearest library and go to the non-fiction section. It’s undeniable that the Flames have needed a solid number one goaltender ever since the retirement of Miikka Kiprusoff, and they’ve seriously struggled to find one.
It’s been a few years of constant frustration, seeing the likes of Karri Ramo, Jonas Hiller, Joni Ortio, Brian Elliott, and Chad Johnson all fail to rise up and be the solid goaltender the Flames have desperately needed. While each had their flashes of brilliance during their time in Calgary, they all ended up parting ways with the club.
You’ve got to think there’s a bit more to it than just bringing in a solid goalie with great underlying stats. It’s common knowledge that finding a goalie good enough to backstop a team into Cup contention is no easy task.
Flames management has tried time and time again to bring in a goalie that can handle the load. Too often we have heard that all the Flames need to be a perennial contender at this point is sound goaltending, and no matter who was brought in, there was always a crippling flaw. Whether it was cracking under pressure, being wildly inconsistent, or giving up the first goal far too often, any and all Flames goaltenders in the recent years have had their shortcomings.
It’s a trying process
It goes without saying that the Flames are still figuring out their goaltending issues. While we patiently wait on the goaltending prospects to see when and which of them can hold their ground in the NHL, Brad Treliving has continued his venture in solidifying the goaltending. This year, it’s Mike Smith and Eddie Lack.
There have been many discussions on what might unfold bringing in a 35-year-old goalie to be the starter, and only time will tell how Smith plays for his first Canadian club. We can only hope he puts on a show and perhaps continue his dominance over the Oilers, which will be a key divisional battle throughout the season.
Why did the Flames acquire Mike Smith? We may have a theory pic.twitter.com/KuD7Nip1tu
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) September 2, 2017
Post-Season Opener note: Looks like Smith has reached his quota for losses against the Oilers, so things should look better from here.
Smith is being given the chance to take the Flames deep into the playoffs. That’s an obvious statement. Most goalies on most teams are given the chance to do so. But what makes it different for the Flames? Simply, it’s the fact that the Flames’ goaltending is the last piece of the puzzle.
Despite some obvious gaps at right wing, which they’ve bettered with the addition of Jaromir Jagr, the Flames can comfortably say they have enough forward depth to be able to figure it out as the season progresses. Goaltending, though, doesn’t offer such flexibility.
A different mentality
Smith joined the team with the perceived notion that making the playoffs is contingent on his playing capabilities only, as the forward and defensive lineup the Flames have should be more than sufficient for making the team competitive, not to mention that Lack would be a formidable back up if he can find the form he previously had in Vancouver. That kind of perspective makes playing for the Flames very different than playing for other teams.
The Edmonton Oilers, for example, found a quality starter in Cam Talbot. But he joined the team as a part of the solution, knowing full well that the defense in front of him was mediocre at best – not to mention the seemingly perpetual debacle up front with what appears to be a medley of fundamental differences between management, media, and former first round picks. Essentially, if a season goes off the rails, provided Talbot plays a solid game, it would be far from being entirely Talbot’s fault. Few people would even direct the blame his direction at all. That kind of mentality offers a pressure relief for Talbot, allowing him to focus on his game and claim his spot as a top-tier goalie as the Oilers continue to work out the rest of their issues.
Smith isn’t blessed with such luxuries. The Flames are ready to compete and he is not a part of the solution, he is supposed to be the solution. Brian Elliott might have a thing or two to tell him about how that feels when the Flames visit Philadelphia on Nov. 18.
Along with the added pressure, there’s also the ego boost Smith would get by being sought out by the Flames. Getting a call from Treliving after the disastrous goalie carousel unhinged itself and being offered a chance to play out the rest of his contract with the Flames would be a big vote of confidence for Smith. The commitment put into Smith would give him the mindset that he truly is the solution and not just a trial goalie needing to prove himself to the Flames.
While it can’t be known for sure, this setup can easily lead to a severe case of hubris. As much faith as the Flames’ brass has shown, many people can’t help but think that the Flames’ goaltending is shaky. If Smith takes these notions and plays to prove people wrong, it certainly won’t hurt proving that Treliving was right.
It’s all in your head
As we saw in the first game of the season, at times Smith was the only player who seemed to want to keep the team in the game. If he can maintain this composure consistently throughout the season, the rest of the Flames will definitely be able to rebound from their lacklustre effort against the Oilers, and they should be in good shape.
Playing goalie requires a lot of mental strength, but when playing for the Flames, it might require a mental fortress. A calm demeanor will prevail, and we all remain hopeful that Smith will be the stoic starter the Flames have looked for since the Kiprusoff era.