Let the battle to be the Flames’ next starting goalie begin
With Miikka Kiprusoff officially retired, the mantle is there to be picked up by Karri Ramo, Reto Berra or Joey MacDonald
Attention: Joey MacDonald, Karri Ramo and Reto Berra.
Auditions are now officially open.
Monday, with the anticipated announcement that meal-ticket Miikka Kiprusoff, as promised, was retiring, the Calgary Flames’ posted their Wanted: No. 1 Goalie ad, the queue for the job having already started to form.
“As a goalie, I think we all know what he did for the Calgary Flames over the last several years,” said boss Bob Hartley, arriving for the team’s annual golf tournament luncheon at the Red and White Club at McMahon Stadium. “I remember fully the trade that brought him from San Jose to Calgary. A great trade for the organization.
“It’s unfortunate, but he felt the time had come for him to call it quits. On our side, we have to turn around and we’re going to have a great battle at training camp for our No. 1 and No. 2 goalies.”
The Flames as a whole can say the same.
Not many — read, any — pundits are expecting much of anything from a group that has finally put the emphasis on youth this season, after seeing the departure so many mainstays (Iginla, Bouwmeester and now Kiprusoff).
This is virtually starting from Ground Zero. And that kind of building requires time.
Hartley, however, claims that will be no built-in excuse.
“I’ll be honest with you: We can talk about retooling and talk about rebuilding all we want. For myself and my staff, the expectations of winning game after game, and day after day challenging those guys to be better as a team and individuals, that doesn’t change at all.
“I honestly don’t care about which words we use to look at our team.
“It’s the coaching staff that creates the expectations and from Day 1 you’ll see that we’re going to have everyone accountable.
“Time and patience will be very important factors, but at the same time I cannot come into the dressing room or in front of you guys and say since we’re rebuilding or retooling, it’s OK to lose or it’s OK not to have second effort.
“My job is to fast-forward the progression of the young players.”
Given the demographics of the final on-ice product the goaltenders promise to be, uh, shall we say quite ‘active’ on most game nights. No one human being can replace Kiprusoff, of course — the man’s only the winningest goalie in franchise history — but how fast whoever assumes the No. 1 mantle can embrace it will go a long way in fast-tracking the totality of the process.
MacDonald is the only known commodity of the trio, having gone 8-9-1 last season with a .902 save percentage and 2.87 goals-against-average. The other two arrive with solid credentials, but non-NHL credentials. And that is so significant.
“Karri Ramo,” said Hartley, “I remember him in Tampa. I’ve talked to a few Russian guys, like Slava Kozlov and few others that I’ve coached. I know in the KHL in the past three years, he’s been one of the best goalies, if not the best goalie. I met with him last week. We had a great talk. He’s certainly challenging for No. 1.
“But the great part on my side is that I talked to Reto Berra and I talked to Joey MacDonald and they share the same goals.
“(Berra) was in Biel in the Swiss League. The year that I was there and last year talking to some of my friends in Switzerland, he was the MVP. I know my year he stood on his head and won games by himself. He’s a big-sized goalie.
“I think that it’s going to be fun for myself, my staff, the fans, you guys, because I think it’s going to be a great battle. The three guys have the same goal and there’s only one net.”
Still, no matter what you’re hitting in the minors, until you face major-league pitching, nothing is proven.
“That’s true,” Hartley conceded. “You can dominate at any level, but there’s only one National Hockey League.”
Auditions are now officially open.
Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH
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