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How should the Calgary Flames divide up their goaltending duties over the rest of the season?

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Photo credit:Brett Holmes-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
3 months ago
The Calgary Flames have three goaltenders under contract right now that they really like: veteran Jacob Markstrom, backup Dan Vladar, and up-and-comer Dustin Wolf. At present, the Flames’ playoff math is fairly perilous. If the team’s focus hasn’t already switched to building for next season, it soon will.
With 17 games remaining and three goalies they really like, how should the Flames divide up the starts?

The remaining games

The Flames have 17 games remaining: nine at home and eight on the road.
They have two sets of back-to-backs left:
  • March 23 in Vancouver, March 24 at home against Buffalo
  • April 11 in Los Angeles, April 12 in Anaheim
They have seven remaining games against teams in playoff spots and 10 against teams that are outside of the playoffs.

The balancing act

The unique thing about the three goaltenders is they all seem to be in different spots in their careers, and the Flames likely have a balancing act on their hands in terms of helping all three netminders with their personal goals.
Markstrom, 34, is in the midst of a heck of a season and has two seasons remaining on his current contract. Yeah, he’s been the subject of trade rumours, but that’s not really anything to do with him and his play. On the ice, while he’s missed time here and there due to various minor injuries, when he’s been healthy he’s been superb. Between Markstrom’s age and him battling injuries this year, load management could help him get into the off-season healthy and set him up for success in 2024-25.
And yeah, we see and hear you, “Trade Markstrom” camp. If Markstrom wants to play elsewhere in the future, cool, they’ll deal with it in the off-season. The name of the game for the Flames right now is ensuring that the player, the person and the asset are in the best position they can be heading into the off-season.
Vladar, 25, has a year left on his current deal. He’s been a pretty reliable backup for the Flames, but so far he hasn’t quite turned the corner and really shown he can be a bonafide starter in the NHL. He also hasn’t shown that he can’t, though, so at this point he’s sort of Schoedinger’s goalie: both proven and unproven at the same time. He’s held the Flames in a few games this season, but he’s also looked a bit out of depth from time to time. A strong few outings before the end of the season could help bolster his reputation a bit.
Wolf, 22, is a pending restricted free agent. At this point, you’ve probably heard a ton about him. He’s arguably the Flames’ top organizational prospect. He’s been incredible in the Western and American Leagues. He’s played a handful of NHL games and looked okay, but could use more reps at the NHL level to figure out what he needs to work on. The hope is that Wolf can become the team’s star netminder. It won’t happen instantaneously, though, and the Flames need to get him some NHL work so he can keep progressing. Meanwhile, he’s also the top netminder for the Flames’ AHL team and they’re playoff-bound.

A proposed split

In an ideal world, a good breakdown of starts between the three goalies would see Wolf get four games, Vladar get four games, and Markstrom get the remaining nine games. This wouldn’t see any particular goaltender get sidelined, maligned or disrespected, but would give each a chance to show their worth and build some confidence heading into the off-season.
Ideally, Wolf would close out the Wranglers’ regular season. If he could get a week or two of starts in the NHL, then he could get some reps in the NHL, go down to the AHL, finish the season strong and head into the playoffs with some swagger. The Flames have given Markstrom time off in the past to recover from recurring bumps and bruises, so using such a window to get Wolf some games would make a lot of sense.
Similarly, Markstrom’s the team’s top goalie until his contract is up or he’s traded. While he’s healthy, he should get the bulk of the starts. In that vein, as long as he’s available to play, he should get roughly two out of every three starts. That gives Vladar some time to play, too, while allowing Markstrom to finish off a strong season.
How many starts do you want to see each Flames netminder get down the stretch? Let us know in the comments!
Let’s get rowdy! GAME DAY hosted by Flamesnation & Barn Burner at Greta Bar YYC is coming at you live on Saturday March 23rd! Join the crew at our favorite Game Day Watch Party spot, Greta, to watch Calgary take on Vancouver! Doors open at 7pm. Tickets are $10! Good food, good prizes and a guaranteed good time. This event is brought to you by McLeod Law LLP and Village Honda. Get your tickets at nationgear.ca before they sell out!

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