Once upon a time, the Calgary Flames had the most steady goaltending in the league. Nobody played more hockey than Miikka Kiprusoff in between lockouts, but age and wear and tear and contract status eventually caught up to him, and so, we fared Kipper well, knowing his reincarnation was already among us.
Joni Ortio is the same height as Kiprusoff. Same weight. From the same town. Played for the same team in Finland. And now, for the same team in the NHL, where Ortio will be looking to replicate his predecessor's success, but probably without the 70+ games played each and every single season.
The beneficiary of a Karri Ramo injury, Ortio had a hellish trip in trying to get from Glens Falls to Calgary to sit on the bench and watch his team get shelled. He made it, though, and then had a quick turnaround as he became the starter on the second of a back-to-back.
The Flames had a five-game Pacific Division road trip to play, first stop Vancouver. Ortio got the start, and with it, the shutout. That earned him the next start... and the next... and the next, as he ended up playing every single game on the crucial swing, only finally falling in the final game of the trip. It was in Anaheim, and as we all know, Anaheim is cursed, so that hardly counts.
So even though Ortio didn't play all that much this year, he was the focal point of an important part of the season. That, and the fact that he'll be vying for a full time roster spot next season - and remember, he's now waiver-eligible, so he might just get it - means a judgement for him. We're getting ready.
Joni Ortio only played six NHL games this past season, and they were all quite the ride. From his tumultuous travel schedule to his first shutout to another three wins in a row to the misfortune of having to play in the cursed Honda Center, Ortio went through all the highs and lows a rookie goalie can go through.
While he didn’t necessarily stand on his head the entire time, he showed flashes to prove he’ll be a serious contender for the backup position next season. Now it’s up to him to keep earning it. A good AHL performance was the start, and he has had some great NHL games under his belt. If he can eliminate these bad games from his repertoire, the Flames may have found their second Miikka Kiprusoff.
Mike FAIL (B-):
The beginning of his AHL season, much like the Adirondack Flames, was less than memorable. Fortunately they hit their strides and so did he. A call-up allowed him to get five games this season which resulted in a roller coaster of emotions. There were limited flashes of decent goaltending and some moments of headache. Such is the life of watching a young goalie play at the NHL level.
He needs to find consistency in the crease as he overcompensates at times and he needs more time overall. I feel like his five game streak this season could have ended more positively if Hartley didn’t decide to write short unsustainable numbers and started Hiller instead. After this year, I have no idea who or what he will become. I’m cautiously optimistic he and Jon Gillies can be the future but I’m inclined to give the nod to Gillies long-term if Ortio fails to shoulder the load.
If we were including his work in Glens Falls, New York this grade would be a lot different. We’re not and his performance with the Flames was horrible. His .897 save percentage at even strength ranked 63rd of all goalies that faced at least as many shots as he did, and only 70 goalies qualified. He was 51st when going by overall save percentage, but all Flames netminders saw a boost as none of them saw as much penalty killing time as the rest of the league thanks to the Flames' fantastic penalty differential.
This isn’t to say that he’s bound to be terrible, but in his limited sample size this year he wasn’t very good. He hasn’t been very good in the N.H.L. as a whole, but his performances in the A.H.L. have been pretty decent. The question is whether or not he can carry that over into success at the N.H.L. level or whether he’s Jacob Markstrom, who puts up fantastic numbers until he reaches the pros.
Ortio only played six games with the Flames this season, but what he brought to the table was promising. His first four games were pretty outstanding for a younger goaltender, then he was given the task of trying to keep a winning streak alive in - where else - the Honda Center. And I vote we all just throw any memory of the last game against Winnipeg out the window. Even with those last two blowouts, Ortio posted a .908 SV%. He’s got more to learn, but Calgary has lots of love for Finnish goalies.
Speaking of, a certain Finnish goalie - from the same town as Ortio - posted a modest .902 in five games in his first taste of the NHL. This may not have been Ortio’s first taste, but not everyone can be Miikka Kiprusoff. I’ll take it if he’s even close.
Praise be to Turku, Finland, hometown of Flames goalkeepers. There was a whole lot to like about him in his limited appearances: his athleticism, reflexes, and decision making were in-form. Here’s to goaltending stability.
His cameo in January will live on for a long while. I like him, and he is definitely a potential starter in the future. I’m looking forward to seeing how much he plays next year.
Joni Ortio has potential, and that’s about all we can ask of him right now. In his five game stint with the Flames in January he made some absolutely dynamite saves, racking up four wins and a shutout in the process. If unrestricted free agent Karri Ramo doesn’t re-sign in Calgary, and many believe this to be the case, then Ortio becomes the de facto Flames #2 goalie. At this point this is right where he belongs. He’ll see more NHL rubber and get a chance to really prove what he’s capable of. By all appearances, Joni Ortio is up to the task.
Once again, we're all in general agreement - even HGE, grade aside - when it comes to Ortio. He isn't anything yet other than a guy who shares some peculiar similarities with an old favourite, and someone with a ton of potential. Whether or not he reaches it is yet to be seen, but in the meantime, we're giving him a C+ average.
Ortio will have a lot to prove next season. Don't forget he's coming off a high ankle sprain all the while, and will be rehabbing throughout the summer, which could throw a wrench into some of these plans. That said, he's had his flashes of brilliance, and his terrible games to go along with them. The brilliance has been much more pronounced, though, as the brutal games have always come at the end of his runs, and with goalies returning from injury, he's never been given the chance to really bounce back after one of them. We'll see how that carries over when he will no longer be an option to send down.