While it’s probably true Miikka Kiprusoff is having his weakest season since becoming a Calgary Flame in 2003-04, he’s still a top-notch goalie with plenty of outstanding performances left in him.
True, Kipper is going through a rough patch and his .901 save percentage ranks a lowly 37th among the most active 50 goalies in the NHL. True, he has let in more than his usual quota of softies. And true, he is trade fodder for a franchise desperately in need of a rebuild.
But unless acting GM Jay Feaster receives a trade offer he can’t turn down (like a blue chip prospect and first round draft pick) and unless Kiprusoff is willing to waive his no-trade clause, the 34-year-old Finn will remain the No. 1 man in Calgary’s crease.
Swedish rookie Henrik Karlsson has done an admirable job in limited starts mopping up for Kipper’s messes twice in the past four games, but it’s far too early to consider Karlsson the real deal. And in no way should the Flames think of Karlsson as a viable No. 1 man unless the team is really trying to tank it and go for early picks the next few drafts.
Karlsson, 27, is tall with long butterfly legs that cover a lot of low open space. But he is extremely susceptible to high shots, especially on the glove side and the rest of the league knows it.
With advance scouting the way it is in today’s game, not to mention chit-chat, text messages and emails among the league’s insiders, it wasn’t long after Karlsson’s 6-5 loss to Colorado Oct. 28 that word was out to go high glove on him. And that’s been the Swede’s Achilles heel ever since. When shooters have time and space, they go high glove because Karlsson’s first defensive move is to drop down into the butterfly and lurch his torso forward.
Whether or not Karlsson can correct this will determine his staying power in the NHL. In the meantime, Kiprusoff will surely get his mojo back. It’s highly unlikely to translate into a playoff spot for a team with far too many average performers, but it will keep the team competitive.
And if that means a real Stanley Cup contender comes calling with an offer for Kiprusoff that Feaster just can’t turn down, then the Flames should take the first step towards a brighter future.
This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.