Flames GM backs Kipper

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:29 PM ET

Jay Feaster has watched a franchise goalie leave town.

The Calgary Flames acting GM isn’t rushing to relive the experience.

The struggles of goalie Miikka Kiprusoff over the past couple of weeks, including twice being hooked in his last three starts, has created debate whether the Flames should trade away their No.-1 netminder and rebuild for the future, but Feaster has a strong reaction to that idea.

“I’ve lived in the desert because of never replacing an elite, world-class goaltender,” Feaster said Tuesday.

Go back to the post-lockout Tampa Bay Lightning a year after winning the 2004 Stanley Cup, and then-Bolts GM Feaster tried to re-sign Nikolai Khabibulin.

The Lightning had no chance under the salary cap of matching the four-year, US$27-million contract Khabibulin he received from the Chicago Blackhawks, and the team paid dearly.

“Here we are how many years later and the franchise is still trying to replace Khabibulin,” Feaster said. “I am not fully sold on the school of thought you don’t need an elite goalie to win a Stanley Cup. I’m not saying you have to have a goalie who has won the Cup before, but I’m not of that school kind right now that says you can win without an elite goaltender. If you don’t have an elite goaltender, you’d better have elite players at a lot of other positions.

“In Tampa, we had elite players at other positions. We had three of the best forwards in the game in (Vincent) Lacavalier, (Brad) Richards and (Martin) St. Louis. We had one of the best offensive defencemen in the game in Danny Boyle. And, yes, we made the playoffs after Khabibulin left, but we were eighth seed one year and seventh the other and out in the first round both times.

“Kiprusoff is an elite goaltender, one of the best in the game, so if you’re contemplating moving that player, you’d better be really sure about what you have to replace that player with.”

That’s why Kiprusoff is in Feaster’s core group and would likely only be traded if the situation dictated such a move. Therefore, Feaster believes the wisest course of action is to let Kiprusoff work through his rough patch.

“What makes it interesting is people just haven’t seen that from him. But I think every player goes through it at some point — every player slumps or struggles,” Feaster said. “With position players, it seems people expect they’ll have bad games or bad stretches and say that’s all it is. With Miikka, because it so rarely happens, it’s front page news.

“From the standpoint of the organization, from the standpoint of the coaching staff and management, we feel very, very confident he’s an elite, world-class goalie and will get his game righted.

“We’re not wringing our hands over it.”

HENRIK KARRLSON

11 GP, 3-3-4 record in Calgary

2.52 goals-against average and .907 save percentage

Other than two home-ice starts, Karlsson has been strong in his first NHL season after arriving as an unknown entity. Two of those extra-time losses came in relief. It’s a quirk he’s been part of five extra-time games.

LELAND IRVING

36 GP, 17-13-2 record in Abbotsford (AHL)

2.30 GAA and .911 save percentage

Has taken the No. 1 job in Abbotsford and gone through a long stretch with very few starts in which he’s allowed more than two goals. The onus on the 2006 first-rounder was to stand out in the minors this season, and he’s done it for the most part.

MATT KEETLEY

8 GP, 0-6-1 record in Abbotsford (AHL)

3.62 GAA and .858 save percentage

The fourth pro season has been a struggle for the Medicine Hat product drafted in the fifth round in 2005. Now he’s running the risk of losing his back-up status in Abbotsford.

JEAN-PHILIPPE LAMOUREAUX

19 GP, 10-7-1 record in Utah (ECHL)

2.58 GAA and .914 save percentage

n Lamoureaux has spent the bulk of the season in the ECHL, but has had a couple of stints with Abbotsford — he’s there currently — and fared well. In three games for Abbotsford, he’s posted a 2-0-1 record with a 2.21 goals-against average.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


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