Four’s A Crowd: Inside the Calgary Flames’ Crowded Crease

Miikka Kiprusoff's knee injury has caused some turmoil in Calgary's nets. (Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE)
Miikka Kiprusoff’s knee injury has caused some turmoil in Calgary’s nets. (Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE)

For the past decade, the Calgary Flames crease has been a model of stability, the undisputed home of former Vezina Trophy winner Miikka Kiprusoff. A knee injury suffered last week has led to a flurry of roster moves as the team scrambles to find wins without him.

A week ago, the Flames had two goaltenders in North America on NHL contracts. Now they have four. Here’s a quick rundown of how that happened.

  • December 4, 2011: Then-Flames back-up Henrik Karlsson suffers a knee injury in a 5-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. The team recalls 2006 first round pick Leland Irving to back-up Kiprusoff.
  • Remainder of the 2011-12 season (in the NHL): Irving goes 1-1-3 in Karlsson’s absence, impressing to the point where the Flames call him in from Abbotsford twice to start games and park Karlsson in the press box. Once healthy, Karlsson only plays in three games down the stretch.
  • Remainder of the 2011-12 season (in the AHL): With Irving gone to the bigs, the Flames brought in 25-year-old Danny Taylor on an AHL deal as a stop-gap measure. Surprisingly, Taylor is excellent in net and, due in part to Irving yo-yoing between the NHL and AHL during the winter (and his wife having a child), Taylor starts more often than Irving does.
  • The first half of the 2012-13 season (in the NHL): Karlsson doesn’t play at all due to the work stoppage.
  • The first half of the 2012-13 season (in the AHL): The Flames re-sign Taylor to an AHL deal and bring in Barry Brust on an AHL deal as well. Due to a quirk in the old CBA’s language, the team also signs Irving to an AHL deal, but he’s the odd man out and only plays in six games. Taylor emerges once more as the clear number-one goalie.
  • 2013 Flames training camp: Irving is invited into camp, on the auspices that he out-played Karlsson last NHL season and that Taylor doesn’t have an NHL contract. Once again, Irving out-duels Karlsson and the team trades him to Chicago before the regular season starts. The Flames are down to two goalies in North America with NHL contracts.
  • February 5, 2013: Miikka Kiprusoff suffers an MCL sprain during Calgary’s 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings.
  • February 6, 2013: With no other North American goaltending options internally, the Flames sign Danny Taylor to an NHL contract and recall him. The Flames are up to three goalies in North America with NHL contracts.
  • February 10, 2013: The Detroit Red Wings declare goalie Joey MacDonald medically cleared to play. MacDonald had last suited up on March 14, 2012. The Wings place MacDonald on waivers with the intention of sending him to the AHL.
  • February 11, 2013: The Flames claim MacDonald off of waivers. The Flames are up to four goalies in North America with NHL contracts.
  • February 12, 2013: The Flames place Danny Taylor on waivers with the intention of returning him to the AHL. The team also announces that Kiprusoff is expected to be out for another two weeks, as the MCL sprain originally believed to be a Grade 1 sprain is actually a Grade 2 sprain.

At a media availability on Tuesday morning, Flames general manager Jay Feaster indicated that no decision has been made regarding the future statuses of MacDonald and Irving, and that their play over the next two weeks will likely determine who will be the back-up to Miikka Kiprusoff when the starter returns.

Both Feaster and Flames head coach Bob Hartley expressed confidence in Irving’s abilities and praised his performance as the de facto number-one netminder during Kiprusoff’s injury. With four goalies under NHL deals (and Barry Brust performing well in the AHL), it appears possible that the Abbotsford Heat will once again soon have three goaltenders on their roster. Whether MacDonald or Irving will be the odd man out will be determined over the next two weeks.