The Home Stretch
With Miikka Kiprusoff suffering an injury last season the Calgary Flames were stuck.
Pictou’s Joey MacDonald provided the team, which was nowhere near a playoff contender, with a quick fix in goal. After posting strong numbers in the shortened season with an 8-9-1 record, .902 save percentage and 2.87 GAA, MacDonald was signed in the off-season to a one-year extension worth $925,000.
At that point it gave MacDonald job security for the fall, but whether that will be as a backup or the main man, like he was last season, has yet to be determined.
Having invested in MacDonald the Flames will definitely have him in one of the spots, but as it’s been made clear since the announcement on Monday that there’s going to be some healthy competition for the No. 1 spot.
Karri Ramo, 27 years old compared to MacDonald, 33, is being discussed as the man to become the next Kiprusoff in The Stampede City. Although Ramo hasn’t been playing the NHL for the past number of years, as he’s backstopped Avangard Omsk of the KHL, he’s no rookie to the NHL.
Drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, 191st overall, he played within their program until the 2008-09 season when he split time between the Lightning and their farm team in Norfolk. Back then his numbers weren’t stellar with a 4-10-7 record in the NHL and a 7-14-4 record in the AHL. His GAA was 3.78 (AHL) and 3.66 (NHL).
Since moving to the KHL his highest GAA has been 2.11 in 2009-10, with his lowest save percentage of 0.913 the same year. Will his success outside of the North American-based league mean anything come Oct. 3 when the Flames take on the Washington Capitals? I think only time will tell.
As many have said, the Flames hope he’s the next Kiprusoff, but you have a proven veteran in MacDonald. Although he hasn’t played a full season in a few years he showed last year that he’s at a point that he’s ready to battle for the No. 1 spot, rather than ride the pine with strong play off the bench. Although it’s not ideal, maybe Calgary will go with an Ottawa Senators approach from last year by just rotating through goalies and at the end of the season ride the one that’s the hottest.
I certainly hope not, but Calgary may rotate roles to start the season to see who’s going to run with it.
Although it’s almost a week later I should touch on what happened at the Weeks Crushers game between Garrett Holmes and Phillip Fife. I was at the game and watched Fife make a motion towards Garrett, which obviously was upsetting as he went after Fife for mocking him.
A lot has been discussed by fans, readers on our website and people on message boards about the entire issue. The MHL didn’t have enough conclusive evidence to suspend anyone, even though a number of people in stands and on the ice watched it. Again, it’s been discussed and they made their ruling so I won’t bore you with my frustrations over that because it won’t change the League’s mind.
I just have a few things left to say on it all. I was downstairs when the team was in the room and when the coaches came off the ice and I want to say to everyone in this community that the executive and coaching staff would do anything for their players. I understand Garrett is from here, but regardless of that they would stand up for someone on their roster.
There were a number of grown men who had teary eyes because they were so frustrated and hurt about what had happened to one of their players. That said a lot to me. I’ve seen them upset over a loss, but this was a completely different look.
I have to say thank-you to Garrett for talking to me about something that obviously wasn’t the easiest thing to discuss. He’s an outstanding young man and the community should be proud of what he had to say and the way in which he said it.
He is a definite role model for kids coming up through minor sports, not only hockey, but in general. As a community you should be proud to have him as someone who wears the Crushers jersey, representing the club wherever they play.
I know I don’t need to say his parents should be proud because I know they are. It takes a big man to deal with what he dealt with over the last five days and I don’t think he could’ve done so any better.
Christopher Cameron is the sports reporter for The News and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NGNewsChris.