The Calgary Flames have had a couple of great goalies during their history, but they have been few and far between. When you think of great Flames goaltenders of the past, guys like Mike Vernon and Miikka Kiprusoff are on the the top of that list. The Flames had trouble finding a replacement for Vernon and are still struggling to find one today for Kiprusoff.
They have tried every possible option when it comes to finding a goalie. They’ve drafted promising prospects, they’ve traded for established veterans, and they’ve also thrown lots of money at big name free agents. For the most part, they’ve had nothing to show for in the end.
History has shown they have given up on goalie prospects too soon. They decided to give up on certain goalies, only to see them flourish on other teams. A couple of goalies that they drafted in the first round, turned out to be huge busts. The Flames have also had more misses than hits when it comes to bringing in a goalie via a trade or free agency.
The Flames current goalie situation is worse than it has been in quite some time. Of the four goalies that started games for them during the 2015-16 season, only Joni Ortio is expected to be brought back. Calgary is still looking for a starting goalie and here’s hoping they have learned from their past mistakes.
Note: The Flames took Brent Krahn with the eighth overall pick in the 2000 Draft, but he won’t be on this list considering he never played a single game for Calgary and played only one NHL game in total.
Here are the top 15 worst goalies in Calgary Flames history.
15. Henrik Karlsson
The Flames acquired the 6’6″ Henrik Karlsson from the San Jose Sharks in 2010 for only a sixth round draft pick. The Flames thought they were getting a steal, as they quickly signed Karlsson to a one-way contract and all but assured him a backup role with the team. The Flames put a great deal of stock into a guy who wasn’t too far removed from playing second-division hockey in Sweden and had only learned to play goalie at the age of 21.
He played 17 games in his first season with Calgary behind Miikka Kiprusoff. He posted respectable numbers with a 2.58 GAA and .908 save percentage. Things were looking promising for Karlsson heading into the 2011-12 season, but unfortunately things wouldn’t turn out so great. He missed almost two months due to injury, but when he did play, his numbers were pretty poor. In nine games with Calagry, he had a goals against average above three and a .900 save percentage. Karlsson would be demoted to the AHL, where he continued to struggle. He would spend the entire 2012-13 season playing in the minors, before heading off to Europe.
14. Joey MacDonald
Joey MacDonald had a long road to the NHL as an undrafted player. He spent years in the minors before finally getting a shot with the Detroit Red Wings in the 2006-07 season. The Nova Scotia native has since gone to play for five different NHL teams, which included a two season stop with the Flames. Calgary claimed MacDonald off waivers from Detroit in 2013.
He split the time with Miikka Kiprusoff during the lockout shortened 2012-13 season. His numbers were actually better than Kiprusoff’s, although that wasn’t hard to do considering it was by far Kiprusoff’s worst year as a Flame. In his second and final season with the Calgary, MacDonald found himself pushed to third on the depth chart and ended up spending more time in the AHL than NHL. His final numbers with the Flames were a 13-13-2 record with a 2.88 GAA and sub .900 save percentage. Not the kind of numbers you want to see, even for a backup.
13. Jean-Sébastien Giguère
Jean-Sébastien Giguère won the 2003 Conn Smythe trophy as MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Anaheim Ducks. You probably wouldn’t have predicted he’d win such an award based on his rocky start to his NHL career. Giguère started his NHL as a teenager with the Hartford Whalers in 1996-97, struggling in eight appearances before being returned to junior. The Flames acquired Giguère in the summer of 1997 from the now Carolina Hurricanes.
Giguère would spend three seasons in the Calgary organization, finding minor league success, but his numbers with the big team showed he wasn’t quite ready for the NHL. In 22 games with the Flames, he posted a 7-10-2 record with a GAA of 3.08. The Flames felt he was expendable and traded him Anaheim in 2000, where Giguère would prove the Flames made a mistake by letting him go.
12. Reto Berra
Reto Berra was considered a significant piece coming to back to Calgary when the Flames traded Jay Bouwmeester to the St.Louis Blues. After being drafted by the Blues in 2006, Berra spent six seasons playing in his native home of Switzerland, before finally coming over to play for Calgary in 2013. In his first season in North America, he split time between the Flames and their AHL affiliate. It was bit of a rough season for Berra, as the Flames struggled and so did he, posting a record of 9-17-2 before he was shipped to the Avalanche for a second round pick. Berra has since split his time with Colorado and their AHL affiliate, with his NHL future becoming very unclear.
11. Dwayne Roloson
Dwayne Roloson signed with the Calgary Flames as a free agent in 1994 after four great years at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He played his first two professional seasons with Calgary’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s. He performed well in the AHL, leading the entire league in wins during the 1995-96 season with 33. Calgary felt Roloson was ready for a backup role for the 1996-97 season. In 31 games with the Flames, he compiled a 9-14-3-1 record, with a poor .897 save percentage. The Flames gave Roloson another shot the following season, but his numbers were equally bad.
Calgary let Roloson walk as a free agent, where signed with the Buffalo Sabres. Roloson would go on to have a more than serviceable NHL career. Perhaps if the Flames did not rush him to the NHL and gave him more time to develop in the minors, Roloson could have become a great eventual starter for them.
10. Dany Sabourin
Dany Sabourin has spent the majority of his career playing in the minors and in Europe. However, he did manage to play 57 career NHL games with Pittsburgh, Vancouver, and, of course, Calgary. Sabourin was an original Flames draft pick in 1998. During his time in the Flames organization, he split time between the ECHL and AHL. Due to injuries, Sabourin was able to get into four games with Calgary in 2003-04, where he went winless. The NHL was clearly too big of a step for him at that moment, as he posted a 3.55 GAA and an awful .848 save percentage. Sabourin signed with Pittsburgh in 2005, where he would have his most NHL success, playing in a career high 24 games in 2007-08.
9. Curtis McElhinney
Curtis McElhinney has managed to carve out a decent NHL career after being a late round draft pick by the Flames back in 2002. After a solid four year collegiate career at Colorado College, he would play parts of four seasons in the the Flames organization. In his 29 games with Calgary, McElhinney posted a 4-12- 1 record with a goals against average above three and a sub .900 save percentage. He was traded to Anaheim in 2010 for fellow goaltender Vesa Toskala.
McElhinney has since played for three other NHL teams, where he has had more bad seasons than good, but he still has managed to keep a backup role in the NHL.
8. Brian Boucher
Brian Boucher had a solid NHL career playing for seven different teams. One of those teams was the Calgary Flames, who he had a very brief stint with during the 2005-06 season. The Flames were looking for some better backup goaltending than they were currently getting with Philippe Sauve, so they acquired Boucher from the Phoenix Coyotes. Boucher only had to play three games behind workhorse Miikka Kiprusoff, but his numbers ended up being worse than Sauve. He had a 1-2 record, with a horrible 4.95 GAA, to go along with a .854 save percentage.
7. Leland Irving
The Flames took Leland Irving in the first round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, hoping he could be the eventual successor to Miikka Kiprusoff. Irving would spend four seasons playing for the Flames AHL affiliate, where he put up some solid numbers. He finally got his first taste of NHL action during the 2011-12 season, when he suited up for seven games. He struggled during his shot in the big leagues, posting an awful 3.20 GAA. The Flames gave him one more chance during 2012-13 season, letting Irving appear in six games. His numbers ended up being worse than the season prior. He was able to record one more win, but his goals against average rose to 3.33 and he had a very low .883 save percentage. That was all the chances that Calgary were willing to give Irving, as he would sign with a Finnish team in 2013.
6. Andrei Trefilov
Andrei Trefilov spent time developing in Russia before making his North American debut during the 1992-93 season. Trefilov had two different stints with Calgary and played parts of four seasons with the Flames. He found himself stuck in the minors for the majority of his time, but when he did get a chance at the NHL level, he was less than impressive to say the least. In 22 career games with the Flames, he complied a dismal record of 3-10-3 with a 3.20 GAA, alongside a .896 save percentage. Trefilov would not find any NHL success elsewhere and ended up finishing his career in Germany.
5. Jonas Hiller
The Flames signed Jonas Hiller in 2014 to a two year contract worth $9 million, hoping he would provide them solid veteran goaltending. Hiller’s first season with Calgary was fairly good. He helped the underdog Flames make it to the playoffs with a 26- 19-4 record to go with a decent 2.36 GAA and .918 save percentage. His second and final season with the team was just plain ugly. His 3.51 GAA and .879 save percentage ranked worst in the league among goalies who played at least twenty games. Hiller’s 2015-16 season most likely killed his NHL career. He signed a three year deal with EHC Biel of the Swiss League, with a return to the NHL seeming highly unlikely.
4. Jason Muzzatti
Jason Muzzatti was selected by the Flames with the 21st overall pick in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft. He would go on to play a grand total of two games with Calgary, but one of those games was memorable for all the wrong reasons. In his first and only career start with the Flames, Muzzatti allowed eight goals on thirty-five shots, for a downright ugly .771 save percentage. He would make one more relief appearance with the Flames in 1994-95, before being claimed on waivers by the Hartford Whalers. Muzzatti didn’t let his awful time in Calgary faze him and would still go on to play 62 career NHL games with Hartford, San Jose, and the New York Rangers.
3. Tyrone Garner
Tyrone Garner was still playing for the Oshawa Generals of the OHL when the Flames called him up on an emergency basis in 1999. He would appear in three games with Calgary and his play in the net showed that he was clearly not ready for the NHL. He went winless with a 5.18 GAA and a .838 save percentage. Garner would never make another appearance in the NHL and would instead be nothing more than a minor league goaltender. Due to a serious groin injury, he would actually finish his professional career playing forward, so you can’t say Garner wasn’t a gifted athlete.
2. Tim Bernhardt
Tim Bernhardt was originally drafted by the Atlanta Flames, 47th overall in the 1978 NHL Draft, after an outstanding junior career with the Cornwall Royals of the QMJHL. When the Flames relocated to Calgary, Bernhardt went with them. He would’t make his first NHL appearance with the Flames until the 1982-83 season. In six appearances, he had an 0-5 record with a poor 4.50 GAA and a .857 save percentage. The Flames had seen enough of Bernhardt to know he wasn’t in their future plans and did not sign him to a new contract. Bernhardt would go to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he didn’t fair much better, before ending his career in the minors.
1. Grant Fuhr
Prior to joining the Flames ahead of the the 1999-00 season, Grant Fuhr had a Hall of Fame career. The best time of his career came during his ten years with the Flames’ rivals, the Edmonton Oilers. He helped the Oilers win a total of five Stanley Cups. The Flames were hoping the thirty-seven year old could provide experience and leadership behind their starter, Fred Brathwaite.
By the end of the season, it was clear that age and past injuries had caught up to Fuhr. He compiled a record of 5-13-2, with a terrible 3.83 GAA, and a very low .856 save percentage. Fuhr ended up playing two games for the Flames minor league affiliate, where his numbers were even worse. The 1999-00 season would be Fuhr’s last, as he decided to retire from the game and his abysmal numbers proved he made the right decision.
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