Are the Flames post-season bound?
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It’s been a pretty busy past couple weeks for the Calgary Flames, the organization said hello to their new President of Hockey Operations, Brian Burke and goodbye to long-time goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff. With these two big changes to the club we could see some drastic changes coming for the Flames and after coming off their worst season in over a decade this past season, this should come as good news to Flames fans.
With the departure of the franchise all-time leader in wins, filling the gap in net left by Kiprusoff will be very interesting. Last season in just 48 games the Flames used 4 different goalies and while Kiprusoff actually had the worst stats of the four tenders, recording a 3.44 goals against average and an 0.888 save percentage. The three other goalies that saw ice time for the Flames last year all saw numbers that ranged around 3.00 goals against average and a high 0.800 save percentage, both not acceptable for a starting goalie in the NHL. So, who takes the reigns this year?
Going into training camp it seems that the position could be wide open to any goaltender that can impress Bob Hartley and the coaching staff. One name that could make a splash is Finn Kari Ramo. Ramo had a brief stint with the Tampa Bay Lightning between 2006 and 2009 and after failing to live up to the organization’s standards, Ramo left to play in the KHL.
While playing for Avangard Omsk of the KHL the past two seasons, Ramo put up a save percentage of 0.925% in 2012 and 0.929% this past season. Ramo has also kept his goals against average under 2.00 the past two seasons. If Ramo can bring this same level of play back with him from Europe there is no reason why he couldn’t be the man to take the lead in Calgary.
The other tender in the organization that is likely to be given the opportunity to prove he is starting goalie material is Joey MacDonald. MacDonald is coming into his second season with the Flames organization and after serving as a back-up with the Flames last year he is hoping that the departure of Kiprusoff means he will get the chance to finally play the bulk of the games this season.
MacDonald played in 21 games last season going 8-9-1 while putting up a 2.87 goals against average and a 0.902 save percentage. Though these numbers aren’t spectacular, for a team that isn’t very deep with goaltending they aren’t terrible either. There is no doubt that if MacDonald gets the starting position these numbers will have to improve. However, at 33 years of age MacDonald is the veteran goalie on the team and he may finally get the chance to prove his worth to both the organization and the rest of the league.
As for other changes that could come to the Flames, those could come from the new man in charge, Brian Burke. With Burke now in position as the team’s new President of Hockey Operations this means General Manager Jay Feaster will report to Burke. However, if Burke really wants to make a splash in Calgary and turn this team around relieving Feaster of his duties as GM might be the best thing he can do for the team.
Feaster has been at the helm of the organization since 2011. After Darryl Sutter was fired Feaster, Sutter’s assistant at the time, took over. Since he has been given the job of General Manager, Feaster has both failed to bring in big names to help the organization while also trading away key players without a good return.
The first of these trades being the trade that saw Dion Phaneuf, Keith Aulie, and Fredrik Sjostrom go to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Nicklas Hagman, Matt Stajan, Jamal Mayers, and Ian White. Phaneuf has since been named captain of the Maple Leafs and has become arguably the team’s best defenseman, while the only piece left of the trade in Calgary is Matt Stajan. Stajan is coming off a season that saw him record just 5 goals and 23 points in 43 games for the Flames, to put things into perspective.
The other big trade that Feaster has seemed to have lost on is the recent Jarome Iginla trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Feaster dealt the franchise’s all-time scorer to the Pens in exchange for prospects Ben Hanowski, Kenneth Agostino, and the Pens first round draft pick that turned out to be Morgan Klimchuk. Now although these players have yet to hit their mark and in some cases even make it into the lineup of an NHL game, it already seems like the Flames failed to receive equal value for the trade.
The Penguins are a stacked team who have arguably the biggest abundance of talented roster players, which is why it seems shocking that Feaster would not have looked to receive a roster ready player as part of the deal. He could have added a player that could have helped the team immediately, especially knowing that removing Iginla from the lineup would create a massive hole in the team’s roster.
Besides making questionable trades, Feaster has also been known to bring players back who have already served with the team (both on his own and while serving with Darryl Sutter). Feaster has brought back Oli Jokinen (now with the Winnipeg Jets), Alex Tanguay (now with the Colorado Avalanche), and Mike Cammalleri, players that never really panned out with the organization, but were brought back regardless. These players are all players that seem to have already played their best years in the NHL and bringing them back served very little to the organization.
Burke needs to sit down with Feaster and discuss the direction in which the team should be heading and suggest in better ways to do that and if Feaster can’t make a change in how he makes transactions then maybe Burke should find someone else who can.
In all, this should be a very interesting season for the Calgary Flames. It will be a season that will rely heavily on players trying to fill in the gaps of some of the franchise’s great players and management trying to find the best players to do so.
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