SUN Hockey Pool

Happy anniversary

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

When the deal came over the transaction wire, nobody could have guessed its vast impact on the Flames and the city of Calgary.

It was Nov. 16, 2003, and Flames GM/head coach Darryl Sutter needed to find a goaltender with starter Roman Turek on the shelf for a prolonged spell and backup Jamie McLennan perceived incapable of carrying the load.

So Sutter made what turned out to be his most significant move as Calgary's GM, acquiring San Jose third-stringer Miikka Kiprusoff for a second-round draft choice.

Kiprusoff made his Calgary debut in the 18th game of the 2003-04 season, a 2-1 win over the visiting Montreal Canadiens.

On the eve of the Flames' 18th game of the current season, tonight against the Coyotes in Phoenix (7 p.m., Sportsnet), Sutter revealed Kiprusoff wasn't his only option.

"We made a list of seven or eight guys and I didn't like five or six of them, so I made my own list and there were two," Sutter recalled. "One was making about eight times more than (Kiprusoff), so that narrowed it down to one. That's the truth.

"I won't say who he is but the other guy has done really well. He's an older goalie and makes a lot of money."

That other candidate was likely Curtis Joseph, then of the Detroit Red Wings, but hindsight confirms Sutter made the right choice.

Asked to guess his team's record since Kipper's debut, winger Shean Donovan answered: "I know it's pretty good. It's probably over-shooting but I'd guess 50-30," Donovan said.

Told the answer -- 43-29-10 with ties and extra-time losses combined -- Donovan replied: "Yeah, not bad, eh?"

Not bad at all.

Kiprusoff's personal record comes with an even better winning percentage, 32-15-7.

When the deal came down, Donovan contacted close ties in the Sharks organization and was optimistic about what Kiprusoff would do for the Flames.

Still, even he couldn't have imagined what was forthcoming.

"It's hard to believe a guy like that was hiding," said Donovan, a former Shark. "I know San Jose has great goaltending with Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala, so it was hard for (Kiprusoff) to show himself but they knew he was a good goalie.

"Thank God we got him."

Kiprusoff's all-time Flames marks include seven shutouts, a 1.89 goals-against average and .930 save percentage.

And who can forget his stellar playoff performance (a 15-11 record, 1.85 GAA with five shutouts) that backstopped the Flames to the seventh game of the Stanley Cup final?

Darren McCarty sure can't, being part of the Detroit Red Wings squad the Flames eliminated thanks to Kiprusoff's heroics, which included back-to-back shutouts to close it out.

"A lot of times playing against that Detroit team, young guys found it intimidating. A lot of guys have fallen to it but with him you wonder if he has a pulse sometimes because he doesn't show emotion," McCarty said.

"He could let in five goals or six goals and he's the same all the time. He lets in a goal, the helmet goes up and the water goes down because he's got a great mentality."

That even-keel mentality paid dividends early in the season when thing were going poorly for Kiprusoff. Going into this year, there were plenty of people wondering if he was a one-year wonder and, when his goals-against average hit 4.95 after the opening road trip, those detractors had plenty of ammunition.

Now Kiprusoff is among the league leaders in wins, average and shutouts.

Donovan is not surprised.

"When we were losing, some of those games there was nothing he can do," he said. "But he's awesome. Look in practice, he's hard to score against. I know I can't figure him out. He's not doing anything for my confidence."


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