The New Ed Belfour?

Jonathan Willis
April 09 2009 08:49AM

Belfour

Most of us probably remember the final few years of Ed Belfour, an incredibly good goaltender with a long career whose final two seasons were bad enough to force him to move to Leksands to play goal. Still, it doesn’t hurt to review those seasons:

2002-03: 2.26 GAA, .922 SV% 2003-04: 2.13 GAA, .918 SV% 2005-06: 3.29 GAA, .892 SV% 2006-07: 2.77 GAA, .902 SV% 2007-08: Leksands

Now I just know I’ve seen a four-season pattern like that somewhere – oh right, here it is:

2005-06: 2.07 GAA, .923 SV% 2006-07: 2.46 GAA, .917 SV% 2007-08: 2.69 GAA, .906 SV% 2008-09: 2.83 GAA, .903 SV% 2009-10: ???

Actually, those question marks aren’t deserved. After all, the player in question has five more seasons on a contract with an annual cap hit of 5.83MM per season, so he’s going to get paid no matter what he does from here on out. Still, people must be just about ready to run him out of town, given the combination of salary and performance, right?

Not so much. From the NHL’s official site:

[G]oaltenders Miikka Kiprusoff, Niklas Backstrom and Evgeni Nabokov have been the three most dominant players at their position in 2008-09, making them the three most-deserving [Vezina]finalists.

There’s more. From a media poll on the league’s best goaltender published at USA Today:

1. Tim Thomas - 47 2. Steve Mason - 40 3. Niklas Backstrom - 22 4. Evgeni Nabokov - 22 5. Miikka Kiprusoff – 13

But surely the Edmonton media are pointing to the mediocre performance of this Flames’ goaltender? Again, not so much:

Nabokov is one of the eight best goalies in the league, in my opinion. He's in that second tier below Brodeur, Luongo, Kiprusoff, Backstrom and Lundqvist.

With nine shutouts, and a goals-against average of 2.23, Mason should get some strong consideration for the Vezina Trophy as the best goalie, an award voted on by the NHL GM's, although the Bruins' acrobatic Tim Thomas (2.11 average, 931 save percentage), Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff (42 wins) and Wild's Nik Backstrom (2.37 average, seven shutouts, 62 games), also have legitimate shots.

But I suppose that really doesn’t matter. Miikka Kiprusoff, who debuted in Calgary midway through 2003-04 and led them to the Stanley Cup Finals, did it with a .933 SV%. His save percentage has dropped every year since that cup run, and now sits a full thirty points lower, at .903 SV%. Of the 47 goaltenders to play 25 or more games, that .903 ranks 33rd – tied with Joey MacDonald, a 29-year old journeyman playing his first NHL season as the starting goaltender for the New York Islanders. And despite the somewhat farcical Vezina consideration Kiprusoff is receiving, what really matters isn’t individual awards – it’s performance on the ice. The simple fact of the matter is that the Calgary Flames are not going to go anywhere in the playoffs this season unless Kiprusoff turns his season around – and a first round exit for the fourth consecutive year might finally get people wondering about the Finnish goaltender.

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#1 topshelf FMNF
April 09 2009, 08:56AM
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CALGARY SUCKS

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#2 Rob
April 09 2009, 08:58AM
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@ topshelf FMNF:

And yet they are in 3rd place in the west, we are in 11th and no playoffs. we suck.

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#3 shakey
April 09 2009, 09:02AM
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It's playoff time. Can't talk about our boys so it only makes sense to start ripping on the buck-tooth sister humpers from the south.

But who do we talk smack about after the 1st round?

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#4 topshelf FMNF
April 09 2009, 09:02AM
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@ Rob: No chance. I'd still rather be an Oilers fan than a Flamer any day of the week. Playoffs, 3rd place or not.

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#5 Ogden Brother
April 09 2009, 09:06AM
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He makes the spectacular save and that gets him overated. Same story with Garon... You still hear Oiler fans claiming Garon was better then Rollie.

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#6 Rob
April 09 2009, 09:06AM
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@ topshelf FMNF:

Don't get me wrong, I hate everything Calgary. I'm majorly jealous right now though. I got bad feelings about the oil this summer too, probably lose half the team again over the summer.

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#7 topshelf FMNF
April 09 2009, 09:08AM
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Good article JW I tend to agree with your assessment. I always believed that Kiprusoff's numbers were inflated by the great defensive game the Flames have played for the last few years. As the Flames have started to open it up more they expose their goalie more frequently and his numbers show it.

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#8 shakey
April 09 2009, 09:09AM
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@ Rob: Our season of disappointment is over. The disappointment is only just starting for the Flamers.

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#9 Rival
April 09 2009, 09:11AM
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Rob wrote:

@ topshelf FMNF: Don’t get me wrong, I hate everything Calgary. I’m majorly jealous right now though. I got bad feelings about the oil this summer too, probably lose half the team again over the summer.

After the season we have had we can only hope we lose half the team.

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#10 topshelf FMNF
April 09 2009, 09:12AM
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@ shakey: And their expectations were higher than ours. I can't wait to witness their fall from grace. Hope it hurts.

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#11 Kent
April 09 2009, 09:16AM
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His ES SV% over the course of March was a ghastly .892. It was one of the major reasons the Flames faltered so badly.

But don't you dare go to a Flames messageboard and suggest that Kipper has been mediocre: a large segment of the fanship will argue - vehemently - that he is still amongst the top 5 in the league.

Hell, that hasn't been true of Kipper for 2 seasons now. At least. I'm beginning to wonder when reality will set in.

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#12 RossCreek
April 09 2009, 09:31AM
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WOW! Season's not even over yet, and you've moved on to bashing the PLAYOFF BOUND Flames. Typical. Kipper'll be alright. They've gpt bigger things to worry about (namely Reghyr's injury).

But I guess it's always fun to bash a playoff team, when yours hasn't made it since "the magical run" the Oil went on in 06. Oh it was fun... but it set this team back...BIG TIME.

Kipper may not be in the top 3, and he has been inconsistent at times, but he was also the reason they got on such a good roll there for a while. He'll make the spectacular save, but then let in a soft goal. But to suggest he is washed up or overrated is a little much... even for the "inferiority-complexed" Oiler fan.

*(But we won 5 Cups in the 80's - WE THE BEST)*

Ya.............riiiiiiiiiiight. And I scored 9 goals in a game once when I was 7.

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#13 Jonathan Willis
April 09 2009, 09:33AM
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Whoops.

I meant to post this article solely at FlamesNation; it wasn't my intention to provide Oilers fans a place to pile on the Flames so much as to provide Flames fans a place to discuss the implications of Kipper's performance and contract.

I'm going to fix it now.

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#14 topshelf FMNF
April 09 2009, 09:35AM
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RossCreek wrote:

But to suggest he is washed up or overrated is a little much…

JW has stated his numbers which show that he is overrated. With reference to goalies, it's not like there are different ways to measure their play other than their statistics. How can you argue that?

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#15 Harlie
April 09 2009, 09:37AM
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@ RossCreek:

Your right...in the 80's we WERE THE BEST. Now, not so much. And neither are the Flames. We'll see what happens in the post season. You guys have been known to lay a few eggs there. Good luck. I think your team will need it.

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#16 Klima85
April 09 2009, 09:43AM
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@ Ogden Brother:

Yes, Garon is a more skilled goalie then Roloson. I am a huge oiler fan, but roli was not, is not, and will not be good enough. He lets in too many soft goals at bad time. He has the compete level that i wish so many other players on the team had. a 4th line LW can get away with working hard to cover lack of talent, a goalie can not.

No other goalie had the opportunity to play enough here this season to show that they were as good if not better.

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#17 RossCreek
April 09 2009, 09:43AM
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@ topshelf FMNF: Alright, if you're arguing he's overrated and isn't in the top 5 but is in the top 10, I'll stand down. If you don't think there are 15-20 teams that would love to have him over their current guy, then you are wrong.

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#18 topshelf FMNF
April 09 2009, 10:12AM
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@ RossCreek: Kippers SV% is 33rd best in the NHL among goalies who have played 25 games or more this year. His GAA is 34th best among that same range. Saying all this, I agree with you that most teams in the NHL would welcome him with open arms but to say he is still in the top 10 is an overstatement.

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#19 Ogdenbrother
April 09 2009, 10:12AM
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Klima85 wrote:

@ Ogden Brother: Yes, Garon is a more skilled goalie then Roloson. I am a huge oiler fan, but roli was not, is not, and will not be good enough. He lets in too many soft goals at bad time. He has the compete level that i wish so many other players on the team had. a 4th line LW can get away with working hard to cover lack of talent, a goalie can not. No other goalie had the opportunity to play enough here this season to show that they were as good if not better.

Rollie is far better positionally then Garon, Rollie doesn't make the spectacular save because he doesn't have to. Acrobatic goalies like Kipper/Garon make the routine save look like an acrobatic save because of all their flopping around

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#20 442Junkie
April 09 2009, 10:19AM
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@ RossCreek: So is it OK to make the playoffs (barely last year) but not do anything? Be another teams stepping stone to the second round? Or would you rather have one magical run to hang onto and remind you of the better times to get you through some very dark times?

You guys have a chance if you get Columbus but there's no way you're beating Chicago.

And BTW the Oilers only won 4 cups in the 80s, and one in the '90s. Not to mention they've played more rounds in the playoffs than the Flames since the lockout.

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#21 Brad
April 09 2009, 11:20AM
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The tough thing to quantify with Kipper is that it's tough to reconcile his stats with his performance in the games himself.

Belfour, in his last seasons, was clearly costing the team games that they would have otherwise won.

Kipper on the otherhand has had lots of bad games with soft goals - but rarely in games that the flames were reasonably in.

By the same token, he will still singe-handedly win a game or two, or at the least keep Calgary in games they otherwise have no business in (not nearly as much as in '04 - but on occasion)

That doesn't excuse the troubling downward trend in the stats themselves, but it does explain why an angry mob with torches and pitchforks has yet to gather in Olympic Plaza.

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#22 Jonathan Willis
April 09 2009, 11:47AM
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Brad wrote:

Belfour, in his last seasons, was clearly costing the team games that they would have otherwise won.

IIRC, Belfour actually outplayed the starter (Alex Auld) and took over the main job.

Kipper on the otherhand has had lots of bad games with soft goals - but rarely in games that the flames were reasonably in.

I don't know - I don't watch every Flames game, but that last game against Detroit stands out as an example where he almost single-handedly cost the team an important game.

I think blame just tends to get deflected elsewhere when Kipper has a bad game; much like the Stars were doing with Turco over the first half of the season. That's just my opinion, though.

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#23 topshelf FMNF
April 09 2009, 12:02PM
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@ Brad: The reason he isn't costing them games is because finally the Flames are starting to score more. Back when he used to be leaned on heavily to win them games, the Flames were only scoring 2 or maybe 3 goals so they needed him to stop all but maybe 1 or 2. I can't remember a time the Flames won as many games with a score like 6-5 as they have this year.

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#24 humantorch
April 09 2009, 04:50PM
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If I were a Flames fan, which thank the baby Jesus I'm not, I'd be very concerned about the future of our goaltending. Kipper's stats have gotten worse every single year for nearly the last half-decade, and he's not getting any younger.

Though, to be fair, it could be much worse. Kipper's not into his 40's and at the end of his contract yet.

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#25 drunk broadcaster
April 09 2009, 05:51PM
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It like baby J-dub just looked at the stats and hasn't seen Kipper play this year.

SV% AND GAA DON'T SPEAK TO QUALITY OF CHANCES.

Goaltending can't measured strictly by GAA or SV%.

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#26 Jonathan Willis
April 09 2009, 10:05PM
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drunk broadcaster wrote:

It like baby J-dub just looked at the stats and hasn’t seen Kipper play this year. SV% AND GAA DON’T SPEAK TO QUALITY OF CHANCES. Goaltending can’t measured strictly by GAA or SV%.

Oh, absolutely. I was completely converted by Quain's response to me when I mentioned this a week or so ago:

"Look, let me break it down for you Jonathan, because I know you've never played professional hockey like I have.

Kipper is easily a Vezina candidate this year because he makes the BIG save. Nobody cares that Smith was making little saves in losing efforts. He wasn't making saves that were going to win the team the game, because he's a poor goaltender. If he were a good goaltender, he'd make the BIG saves and prevent HUGE goals. His team would have confidence in front of him to make BIG plays and SCORE BIG goals.

Kipper, on the other hand, makes HUGE saves. Like, last night: Sure, he was given a 4-1 lead and nearly blew it by giving up two goals, but what happened when it was 4-3 and Detroit was knocking? HE MADE THE BIG SAVES. Sure, he had the save percentage of an AHL goaltender last night, but he WON the GAME with BIG saves at THE right MOMENT. All that matters is BIG SAVES, not being laying flat on your belly while Datsyuk rips one from the sideboards above you. BIG SAVES.

AND THAT'S WHY KIPPER IS A MONSTER!

Sometimes, I have days where I like to be facetious. I wonder if that's how talking heads are every day, or if they just don't want to explain anything to their coworkers when they go out for drinks after the show. BIG DRINKS. With umbrellas. BIG ONES."

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#27 Jack Bauer
April 11 2009, 03:15PM
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Point-Willis

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