Thursday, December 22, 2005

 

I hope this post is inconsequential

Jarome Iginla is my favourite Flames player. And yet when I read these little online or Sun polls that pick Jarome as the greatest Flame ever, I snort a bit: he's only played 9 full seasons, hasn't won a Cup yet, hasn't shown the longevity yet, etc. whatever.

At the same time, when I read a similar poll calling Miikka Kiprusoff the greatest Flames goalie ever, I give Mike Vernon a little courtesy nod, and then think, Yeah, I'd agree with that.

Before this season, Kipper had played a grand total of 64 games for the Flames.

I say all of this by way of a respectful, near-apologetic preamble, because now I'm going to talk about how the Flames can get along without him: and I believe they most certainly can.

I have a strong suspicion that there are factors that contribute to Kipper's goaltending success beyond awesome talent. And I'm not just talking about strong team D; I think the Flames' organization is presently a place that maximizes the likelihood of strong goaltending. Here's our goalie coach's bio, for starters:
David Marcoux returns for his third year with the Flames organization as the teams goaltending coach... Marcoux successfully introduced the concept of Mental Training (mental toughness, relaxation, concentration, confidence and goal setting) to the Flames goaltenders along with the Quebec technical style of goaltending.
[...]
Prior to joining the Flames, Marcoux spent the previous 12 years teaching goaltenders in a sports academy (Profil Hockey Cap-Jeunesse) in St-Jerome, Quebec. He also held the position of Goaltender Coach with the Hull Olympiques of the QJMHL from 1997 to 2001. During this period, the team made the league finals for two consecutive years.

Marcoux also works closely with Flames scouting staff and management in the areas of goaltender coaching and advising, pro scouting and in goaltender personnel decisions.

...[I]n 1990, Marcoux continued his education and in 1997 received his Masters Degree from the University of Montreal. His final thesis was The Development and Evaluation of Ice Hockey Goaltenders.

I'd be interested in seeing a copy of that. Regardless, you can take three things out of this:
  1. He spent a lot of time figuring out how to make goalies better before he was ever a team's goalie coach
  2. He spent a lot of time figuring out what kind of goaltending skills are most easily coached, and what skills a good goalie is essentially born with
  3. #2 was a factor in why the Flames picked up Philippe Sauve as their 2nd goalie
I've said before, although it might have been in the Comments somewhere else, that I think Darryl Sutter is probably a better GM than coach. And he stressed repeatedly, when they traded for Sauve, that he was the guy they wanted, not the guy who was available. (There were a lot of questions: the only time Flames fans had ever seen Sauve before was when they torched him for 7 goals in March 2004). There is very good reason to believe that the Flames acquired Sauve because they believed that his weaknesses were things that could be corrected, and that his strengths were things that can't be taught.

The evidence so far this season, in his limited performances, supports this. His GAA and SV% are virtually identical to Kipper's. He's played so rarely that I remember most of the goals he's allowed, and they weren't bad ones. On top of that, he's seemed improved every time he plays, and the numbers bear that out as well.

And for a bit more evidence that the Calgary Flames organization is a good place for goalies, you can look to Kipper's own actions. I think it's a safe assumption that his withdrawal from the Finnish Olympic team was not made lightly or happily (if you're skeptical, name one Finn who begged off a big int'l tourney on dubious grounds). He clearly feels like he owes the Flames something: his best possible performance.

He also signed a 3-year, $10M contract this past offseason. The guy has the lowest season GAA in the modern era--he probably could have driven a harder bargain (or negotiated a shorter contract). But he didn't, which shows me that he wants to play for the Flames. I suppose it could be because of all his buddies on the team, but I doubt it: I think it was because he thought this was where he had the best chance to succeed.

So....I think there's a pretty good chance that however much Flip Sauve is called on over the next 6 weeks, or the remainder of the season, he'll turn out to be at least average (by which I mean significantly better than, say, Jussi Markkanen), and that furthermore, the Flames will continue to be a very good team with Flip in the net. I totally reject the notion that Kipper has "carried" the Flames anywhere. He's excellent, but team success and goaltending success are pretty tough to separate. Yes, he's stolen them some games in his time, but show me a good team whose goalies haven't.

Comments:

When he was 20, Sauve put up a .914 save percentage in the AHL over 1163 shots, which was .8% better than the league average (very good). When he was 21, he put up a .928 save percentage in the AHL, which was 1.7% better than the league average over 1537 shots(which is awesome). When he was 22, he put up a .917 save percentage over 1617 shots in the AHL which .8% better than the league average (very good).

He got bombed in 03-04, sucking in limited sample in both leagues and then in limited sample in the ECHL in 04-05, he lit up the league.

His path is very similar to Kiprusoff's in terms of the extended track record of success. Kiprusoff had a similar history throughout the minors in terms of being one of the top goalies in terms of save percentage-when he was 23, he put up a .924 which was 1.9% better than league average and when he was 24 he put up a .926 which was 2.1% better than league average. His Finnish numbers, which I don't have at my fingertips but I think I posted at HF once, were excellent as well. I think you're confusing opportunity and causation in looking to Calgary as an explanation as to why he suddenly became a star.

As for Sauve's AWESOME SIX GAMES this year...ask Oilers fans what Morrison's numbers looked like through six games. Then ask them what they'd bet that he could win a game in the NHL at the moment.
 


I appreciate what you're saying about confusing opportunity and causation, but what I'm trying to say is that I believe that Yes, there are elements of causation there. Plainly, if Kiprusoff was playing for Craig Mactavish and Pete Peeters instead of Sutter and Marcoux, I don't believe he'd be as successful as he is.

Or put another way, I don't believe that Kipper was viewed as a can't miss prospect; if he was, we never would have acquired him for the price we did, if at all. Same with Sauve--if divisional rival Colorado thought he might be a #1 quality goalie or thereabouts, Sauve wouldn't be wearing a Flaming C right now.
 


...what I'm trying to say is that I believe that Yes, there are elements of causation there. Plainly, if Kiprusoff was playing for Craig Mactavish and Pete Peeters instead of Sutter and Marcoux, I don't believe he'd be as successful as he is.

How do you explain the magic working on Kipper but not on any of the other guys last year? It didn't work for Turek, McLennan...none of those guys. So far it's only worked for Kipper, who was the only one of them to have any kind of track record. Sauve probably has a better track record, although as I've said, he's played SIX games.

I see your theory about Marcoux fixing things other guys don't, but the fact is, there are a ton of guys out there right now who flat out understand goaltending. The Allaires spring to mind. I just have a hard time believing that Kipper somehow needs to have those guys close to guide him, like they're some sort of force that he can draw on that he'll lose if he wanders away.

I don't believe that Kipper was viewed as a can't miss prospect; if he was, we never would have acquired him for the price we did, if at all. Same with Sauve--if divisional rival Colorado thought he might be a #1 quality goalie or thereabouts, Sauve wouldn't be wearing a Flaming C right now.


I agree that Kipper was hardly viewed as a can't miss prospect but that doesn't mean that he wasn't a can't miss prospect. The ability of NHL GM's as a group to predict which goalies will be successful is pretty suspect. Good goalies come from all over the place in the draft, far more so than do forwards. Simply because Kipper hadn't proven himself at the NHL level does not mean that he wasn't simply a star waiting to happen.

To a certain extent, this is a chicken or an egg argument. I'll tell you what though-you'll have a damned hard time finding anyone with a track record like Kiprusoff who wasn't a very good NHL goaltender. Of course, you'll have a hard time finding anyone who put up the fifth best save percentage relative to the league in the past 20 years in the AHL at age 23 and repeated that feat at age 24 (min. 1000 shots).
 


Elements. Elements. I think the Flames have a comparative advantage over a lot of the other teams in the league in (A) how well they pick their goalies, and (B) how well they deal with their goalies.

(A) is a given at this point; San Jose gave Kipper up, and 28 other teams didn't trade for him. Maybe (B) is a load of crap, and all we've seen since Nov. 2003 is entirely due to Kipper's wicked gifts. We may find out, one way or another, over the remainder of the season.
 


I'd just like to remind everybody--we're talking about an organization that, not so long ago, gave away J.-S. Giguere for a bag of pucks because there was no room behind Freddie Brathwaite.
 


As Cosh points out, I think your A and B are a load of crap considering they are based on the experience of ONE goalie.
 


As an aside, WHEN would be a good time to fire Pete Peeters if everyone he's ever coached has consistency/confidence problems?

Conklin looked shakier than ever tonight, sometimes with his ass facing the puck. His glove hand is a huge problem, especially for rebounds.
 

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