Ramo, Berra, and prospects: Flames goaltending is doing just fine

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Miikka Kiprusoff's retirement left a gaping hole in net, but there's no reason to worry just yet.

The Flames are one of the worst teams in the league this season when it comes to goaltending. They average 2.98 goals against per game - the sixth worst in the NHL - and have a team save percentage of .896, better only than the Islanders, who sit in last place at .891. There has been improvement over the season, as both Karri Ramo and Reto Berra have (re)adapted to NHL ice, but the fact remains: the Flames do not have good goaltending.

And that's okay.

A frequent topic of discussion when it comes to the Flames is that they need goaltending. This is the team's first season in ten years without Miikka Kiprusoff in between the pipes. So familiar was Kipper that he spent seven straight seasons starting 70+ games for the Flames. It makes sense that people are clamouring for the Flames to find the new franchise goalie.

The thing is, they don't need that franchise goalie now.

Even the most optimistic of Flames fans should be able to agree that the Flames are still a few years off from legitimately competing. So what's the rush when it comes to goaltending?

Calgary is handling the goalie situation rather well right now. Ignoring off-season suggestions that the Flames sign Ilya Bryzgalov, or Hockey Night in Canada's bizarre proposal that they try to trade for former Calgary Hitman Martin Jones, is the way to go. The Flames have four goaltenders in the system - five if you count Joey MacDonald - and they're all playing well within their roles.

Karri Ramo and Reto Berra

Ramo has played 29 of 60 games this season. He has a .908 save percentage, the greatest on the team for anyone with more than one game played.

Berra has played 28 of 60 games, with a .898 save percentage. They are both 27.

Both were acquired in trades over the last few years. This is Ramo's second go at the NHL after spending four seasons playing in the KHL, and his save percentage is up. Berra, meanwhile, is seeing his first North American action after a life in the Swiss A League.

Neither is likely to be a long term solution. Ramo is a little better than Berra, but he probably won't be the guy when the Flames become competitive.

What they are now is stopgaps. The two 27-year-olds can take the NHL competition while the Flames give their prospects time in development leagues without throwing them to the wolves. Meanwhile, there's no need for the Flames to overpay for another goalie.

Joni Ortio

The Flames do have actual prospects in net. They can afford to take the time to wait for them.

The suggestion to take Martin Jones, for example, is a ludicrous one. Jones spent four seasons playing in the AHL before he got his chance with the Kings.

Joni Ortio is in his first full season in the AHL. He's 22, two years younger than Jones.

Ortio is one of the best goalies the AHL has seen this season. As a rookie, he has a save percentage of .926 over 28 games. That's second in the entire league, behind only, yup, Martin Jones. Prior to coming overseas, he played in the SM-liiga, posting a .917 save percentage for HIFK Helsinki last season as their starting goaltender.

Ortio's career is just getting started. He played his first NHL game a few days ago, and while it was quite obvious he is a rookie, he still stopped 22 of 24 shots for a .917 save percentage, and neither goal that got past him could be blamed on him. Depending on what happens with the Flames' current tandem, Ortio could be seeing more NHL time sooner rather than later.

Jon Gillies

Gillies is currently in his sophomore season at Providence College. He's 20 years old, and has a lot of potential.

Gillies is one of the NCAA's better goalies. He got off to an excellent start in his freshman season last year, leading the Providence Friars to a playoff appearance with a .931 save percentage over 35 games. This season, he's sitting at a .927 save percentage over 29 games, including three shutouts.

Gillies is highly valued within the organization. He still has another two years at college, should he choose to finish his degree, but he's definitely a legitimate candidate to be the Flames' number one guy in a few years.

In summation

If neither Ortio nor Gillies turns out to be the guy, then the Flames should cross that bridge when it's time. But for now, that should not be a concern. Ortio's professional North American career is just getting started. It would be premature to skip over him and Gillies in an effort to find immediate help, especially when the rest of the team isn't ready to compete, either.

What it comes down to is the Flames need to grow their own prospects. Acquiring names from other teams has not exactly worked out. Top talent is acquired through the draft. The Flames have two very good young goalies in their system, and they need to stick with them.

There's no rush. There's no need to waste assets. All the Flames need to do is be patient. The goaltending is going to be just fine.

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