The battle to replace Miikka Kiprusoff over the next few weeks—the longtime Calgary Flames netminder is rehabbing an injured medial collateral ligament in his knee—is getting interesting.
Leland Irving was able to wrestle away the backup position from incumbent Henrik Karlsson during training camp in January, but was unable to cash in when handed the reigns as a starter. With Kipper down for at least two weeks, the Flames were hoping that Irving could show that he was the goaltender of the future. Instead, they join the ranks of several teams facing a “goaltender controversy” until Kiprusoff returns.
Even then, his absence may stir up more questions than answers.
After giving up two goals on four shots to the St. Louis Blues on Friday, Calgary demoted Irving to the Abbotsford Heat and recalled Danny Taylor. Taylor, of course, is backup to the freshly snatched-off-waivers Joey MacDonald. The Flames appear content to roll with Joey Mac until Kiprusoff returns, but fans of the team have to be mildly nervous moving forward.
A handful of soft goals isn’t the end of the world for Irving and Calgary has been grooming him as the goaltender of the future since they drafted him in the first round back in 2006. He’s been solid for the Heat so far in 2013, posting a 22-13-2 record while a .902 save percentage and a 2.67 GAA. Yet the Flames didn’t give him much of a leash for the guy that’s supposed to be the future of the franchise in goal.
The team now sports Kiprusoff, Irving, Karlsson and MacDonald in a suddenly crowded crease situation and the line between AHL starter and NHL backup is getting more blurry by the day.
Long term however, who does Calgary consider the guy moving forward? Again, the team didn’t show much confidence in Irving after he was shelled by a pretty potent offense in the Blues. I get that you can’t win a lot of hockey games while letting in two goals on four shots, but everyone has a bad game.
Bad timing on Irving’s part? You bet. Bit of a mishandling by the Flames? It seems like it.