Taylor-made: the rebirth of Heat goalie Danny Taylor

It has been stated that goaltenders take longer than other hockey players to develop. Moreover, every goaltender’s path is a little bit different, and each one has to endure some adversity in order to meet their potential.

Abbotsford Heat netminder Danny Taylor is a prime example of this credo.

Born in Plymouth, England and raised in Ottawa, Taylor raised some eyebrows with his performance in junior. A product of the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm, he was selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the 7th round (221st overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. After signing a contract and turning pro in the Kings organization in the 2006-07 campaign, Taylor began to bounce around the organization’s various teams.

While he did end up benefiting from the crease chaos the Kings were experiencing at the time – playing a period in relief on March 29, 2008 during a 7-2 drubbing at the hands of the Dallas Stars – he also amassed a lot of frequent flyer miles. Over the course of his entry-level deal with the Kings, he played for:

  • The Los Angeles Kings (NHL)
  • The Manchester Monarchs (AHL)
  • The Bakersfield Condors, Wheeling Nailers, Texas Wildcatters and Reading Royals (ECHL)

Despite posting respectable numbers with all of these clubs amidst this shuffling around, the Kings declined to qualify him following the 2008-09 season due to their glut of goaltenders and he became an unrestricted free agent. The next two and a half seasons saw Taylor split time between the ECHL (Gwinnett Gladiators and Cincinnati Cyclones), the AHL (Syracuse Crunch and Springfield Falcons) and Germany’s DEL (Hamburg Scorpions) before seemingly ending up in the right place at the right time.

Two days after being cut from Springfield after filling in for the first two months of the season with the Columbus Blue Jackets’ affiliate, Taylor signed a contract with the Abbotsford Heat. The Calgary Flames’ farm team required a third net-minder to spell off Leland Irving (who soon disappeared to the NHL when Henrik Karlsson was injured) and Joni Ortio (who soon disappeared back to Finland).

Almost a full year later, through 42 appearances with the Heat, Taylor boasts a 22-13-4 record, with a 2.08 goals against average and a .929 save percentage. His efforts have found him in the strange role as de facto number-one goalie in Abbotsford, despite the presence of 2006 first round pick Irving and AHL veteran Barry Brust on the Heat’s roster. While the prospect of an NHL contract may be tantalizing to many, Taylor remains focused on the daily task at hand.

“With the lockout coming in, it doesn’t really matter if you have an NHL contract or not,” noted Taylor, calling from the Heat’s trip to Texas. “But I think what we focus on every day is just the standard of play, and that’s what I’ve kind of focused on. I’m not worried about contracts. Obviously a call-up is what everyone dreams for, but it’s not the everyday goal. What these coaches have taught us is that it’s what we do on an everyday basis that really matters, and if you focus on that and do all the little things, all the other stuff will take care of itself.”

After falling victim to a log-jam of netminders during his time in Los Angeles and during his brief stint in the Blue Jackets organization with Springfield, you could forgive Taylor if he was a little bit cynical about his chances within the Flames crease. Nevertheless, the 26-year-old remains focused on improving his play. Some of the credit for his focus could be given to Flames general manager Jay Feaster, who pledged that the organization would be run via a “meritocracy” upon taking office, and Heat head coach Troy G. Ward, who has been very transparent in terms of who suits up for the team and who sits out.

“If you look around the league, there are very few organizations that play players on a merited basis,” said Taylor. “I find that Calgary, they don’t care about contract status or how highly you’re drafted or anything like that or all the hype. They just care about ‘does this player deserve it or not’… I’m very fortunate to be in an organization where that is the case.”

While veteran Miikka Kiprusoff rules the roost in Calgary, Taylor sits amongst an interesting group of goaltenders gathered behind him. Moreover, the contracts of two Flames goalies – Henrik Karlsson and Irving – expire following this season, potentially opening up several spots in the pecking order. For now, though, Taylor will continue to work to improve on and off the ice and let his play speak for itself.