It has been no secret that goaltending woes have significantly hurt the Flames this season. While it's unfair to heap all the blame on the goaltenders, they have left much to be desired. With both Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo being pending UFA's after this season, there's definitely some open doors to plan for the future.
Finding a true #1 goaltender is becoming an extremely difficult task in the NHL today. Most of the top goaltenders currently in the NHL were drafted, built, and have now succeeded within one organization. Creating a number one goaltender takes time, as it can take goaltenders much more time to reach stardom. Here's a few goalies who have taken time to develop within their organization to true star stature.
- Jonathan Quick (LA) -3rd Round in '05, Became #1 Starter in 09-10
- Braden Holtby (WSH)- 4th Round in '08, Became #1 Starter in 14-15
- Corey Crawford (CHI)- 2nd Round in '03, Became #1 Starter in 10-11
- Henrik Lundqvist (NYR)- 7th Round in '00, Became #1 Starter in 06-07
While there also have been goalies who made an immediate impact following their draft seasons such as Carey Price or Marc-Andre Fleury, most of the above goalies show that it takes time to develop into a true #1 goalie in the NHL. Most of the goalies above also took even longer to develop into the star stature that they possess today.
NHL- G Karri Ramo, Upcoming UFA, Age 29
Ramo had a whirlwind season that had him being sent to the AHL to being the unquestioned #1 goalie until his injury in early February. He had lacked consistency early in the season and had started to regain it until his injury.
Ramo finished the season with a 17-18-1 record and a .909sv% with a 2.63GAA. Ramo's stats are amongst the bottom third of the NHL with goalies who had played at least 25 games. It's kind of scary that he was our best goalie for the majority of the season with those numbers.
I was usually comfortable with Ramo's play and it seemed as though the Flames were too, and if it comes down to choosing one of the three longtime NHL goalies currently on the Flames, then I have no issue with Ramo. However, the Flames should be hesitant as Ramo is coming off a fairly serious injury this season.
NHL- G Jonas Hiller, Upcoming UFA, Age 34
His stats are worst among all NHL goalies who have played more than 6 games this season. His save percentage and GAA are both significantly lower than the nearest full-time goalie. Not to mention that he seemed to show little effort through the latter parts of the season once it was apparent that he wasn't part of the future here. Need I say more?
Brad Treliving made it very apparent in his end of season press conference that Hiller wouldn't be back and on April 19th he signed with EHC Biel in Switzerland for three years.
NHL- G Niklas Backstrom, Upcoming UFA, Age 38
Finished the season with a stellar performance against the Wild after being roughed up against them in his previous outing. While he's received recognition for his outstanding work ethic since arriving in Calgary, it's very likely that his NHL career is over due to his age and skills regression. Hoping the best for his future in hockey and perhaps he could following the coaching path later on in life. Thanks for your time Backs!
NHL- G Joni Ortio, Upcoming RFA, Age 25
Ortio gained some consistency in his play during the latter stages of the season as he finished the season with a 7-9-5 record. His other stats such as a 2.76GAA and .902sv% don't look outstanding either, but Ortio did struggle at the start of the season before playing well down the stretch. Whether or not his play from the latter stages of the season can translate into strong play in games that matter remain to be seen. At the very least Ortio will be a solid backup to an acquired goalie this offseason if the Flames choose to go that route.
AHL- G Jon Gillies, Contract Expires 2017-18, Age 22
Gillies had his first pro season cut short in Stockton following getting surgery for a hip injury after playing on 7 games for the Heat. Many view Gillies as Calgary's goaltender of the future and he has the potential to develop into that and more. However his development may well have been set back a year as he wasn't able to play in Stockton meaning that he probably won't make the jump to the NHL next season, or even the year after that. Gillies had a 2-3-1 record for Stockton with both of his wins being shutouts which is promising. He also had a 2.31 GAA with a .920 sv%, both numbers than any Flames goalie by a decent margin. Hopefully this small sample size was an indication of what's to come in his future in this organization.
AHL- G Kevin Poulin, Contract Expires 2016-17, Age 26
After playing 50 NHL games with the New York Islanders, Poulin was plucked off waivers by the Tampa Bay Lightning at the start of the season. He didn't play a single game at any level for that organization and was traded to the Flames in November for future considerations. Poulin played in 29 games this season in Stockton amassing a 14-11-3 record for the Heat with a 2.86GAA and a .909 sv%. He'll likely be a career AHL goalie but could warrant a look at the very least next season depending on the development and acquisition of other goaltenders. He's also an RFA so he might headed out the door too.
CHL- G Mason McDonald
McDonald's season came to an end last weekend with his Charlottetown Islanders being eliminated four games to two in the second round of QMJHL playoffs. McDonald had a 21-15-3 record during the regular season to go with a 3.33 GAA and a .902sv%. His GAA may seem especially high but that's often the case in the high scoring realms of junior hockey in the CHL. McDonald may find himself either playing in the AHL or ECHL or back in junior next season depending on how the Flames approach this offseason. McDonald also played for Canada's world junior team this past winter
CHL- G Nick Schneider
Schneider's season ended early in Medicine Hat as they missed the playoffs this season. Schneider was solid in net and was one of the real reasons the Tigers were in playoff contention. Despite a 21-26-1 record Schneider was a key piece of the Tigers this season and will likely be on the team next season too. He also had a 3.62GAA and .896% which like McDonald can be a result of high scoring junior hockey. Schneider began his pro career at the end of this season playing 9 games with Stockton Heat while compiling a 4-5 record down the stretch.
The Flames have some promising young goaltenders on their roster that will be replacing their older goaltenders over this offseason and next. Which are you most excited for?