Leland Irving had a golden opportunity to prove he was ready to be the franchise goaltender of the Calgary Flames. With Miikka Kiprusoff injured, the Calgary Flames slumping, and the season slowly slipping away, the top goaltending prospect of the Calgary Flames had a chance to emerge as NHL ready. Unfortunately, Leland Irving has squandered his opportunity.
Just four shots into Friday’s start against the stumbling St. Louis Blues, Leland Irving had already allowed two goals and was pulled in favor of Joey MacDonald.
Including Friday’s brief outing, Leland Irving has allowed fifteen goals in five starts since Kiprusoff’s injury. The first round pick of the 2006 draft has a respectable 2-2-1 record, but the Flames offense has been responsible for a large portion of his relative success. Under pressure, and with the chance to take over the starting goaltending job for the Calgary Flames in the foreseeable future, Irving stumbled.
When Kiprusoff returns from his injury, talk of trading the veteran goaltender and launching a full-scale rebuilding effort should end until Irving proves himself to be a remotely capable replacement. Irving is not ready to be the next Flames goaltender, and the Flames defense is too weak to support a young goaltender as he develops.
Proof of Kiprusoff’s value to the Flames has come in his absence. Though players like Jarome Iginla are drawing interest from contenders in this lockout-shortened season, the Flames must hold on to Kiprusoff if they want to be relatively competitive going forward. They can still rebuild, but moving their long-time starting goaltender would be a mistake at this point in Irving’s young career. The Flames have been embarrassed defensively without Kipper.