Is Dan Vladar worth keeping around at this point?

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
6 months ago
The goaltending situation was one of the main points of contention for the Calgary Flames before the season and has still been a central point of contention even throughout the first 22 games, most of which Jacob Markstrom has started.
Markstrom has been very good in the net for the Flames, despite what his 5-7-2 record might show. He has a 2.93 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage, but the statistic that should draw everyone’s attention is his goals saved above expected (GSAx). Per Evolving-Hockey, he sits fourth in the league with 10.08, behind the likes of Thatcher Demko (13.02), Tristan Jarry (10.59), and Adin Hill (10.11). There have been a few goals so far this season he will want to have back, but overall, he has been a huge reason the Flames are even still in the playoff hunt.
However, on the other side of that coin is Dan Vladar, who lots of people (including myself) had reservations about coming into 2023-24. He has started a total of seven games for Calgary and holds a record of 4-2-1.
Despite the satisfying win-loss ratio, and a fantastic outing on Monday against Vegas, Vladar hasn’t been as good as many would have liked him to be. Of course, it’s Markstrom’s net, so it’s not like he will be thrust into an important position if everything remains the same. But, you need your backup goalie to perform better than he has to start this season.
Vladar has a 3.20 goals against average and a .883 save percentage over his seven starts, but again, the number to pay attention to is the GSAx, which puts him in some rough company.
With a GSAx of minus-2.64, Vladar sits 63rd out of 76 total goaltenders in the NHL who have faced an unblocked shot attempt this season. So, yeah, he hasn’t been great, and there’s a goalie in the American Hockey League who would love a shot at a consistent NHL spot.
A 22-year-old by the name of Dustin Wolf (you might be familiar with him) is, once again, killing it with the Calgary Wranglers to start this season. In 11 games played, he holds a record of 8-3-0, a goals-against average of 2.50, and a save percentage of .916.
In the one NHL game that Wolf has played so far this season, he wasn’t magnificent by any means, but he wasn’t terrible. He finished with a 4.02 goals-against average and a .895 save percentage, but once again, lots of that had to do with the team in front of him (which you could argue has been a problem for Vladar as well), and it’s also only one game.
What all of this comes down to would be whether or not Flames management believes there would be a team that would claim Vladar on waivers if he’s sent down to the AHL. If not, I don’t see the harm in bringing up Wolf for an extended stint just to see what he has, as he’s clearly too good for the AHL, which he also proved last season. At some point, though, general manager Craig Conroy has to find a way to pave the path for Wolf to come up and see what he has at the NHL level because the likelihood that he’s worse than Vladar is low. His potential for success is higher as well.

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