Since they were just a few points out of eighth place and the last playoff spot, general manager Jay Feaster should stay the course because the Flames will be back on track and should be able to make a strong run at the playoffs this year. Right?
That's one way to look at it, but it would be the wrong way to view this team. The Flames have missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons. And they haven't won a playoff series since the 2003-04 season when they got to the Stanley Cup Finals before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the seventh game.
The goaltender for the Flames in those heady times was Miikka Kiprusoff. The goaltender during these depressing times is still Kiprusoff.
Kiprusoff, 35, is not the problem. He is still one of the better goalies in the NHL, and there are a number of contending teams that could benefit from having him. The Chicago Blackhawks, who have struggled with their goaltending in each of the last two playoffs, are one of those teams.
The Flames are not one of those teams. Kiprusoff is a solid goalie who has nights where his play is stellar. But the Flames have a dearth of young and talented players. Keeping a goaltender like Kiprusoff on the roster is not going to help the Flames get to the point where they can make the playoffs and then win in the postseason.
The Flames would be better off if they could trade Kiprusoff for a package of young and talented players. By depending on Kiprusoff last year, the Flames had a seemingly respectable 37-29-16 record for 90 points. They were six points behind the San Jose Sharks, five behind the Kings, one point ahead of the Dallas Stars and two points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche.
But looking further into the numbers, the Flames scored 202 goals last season and gave up 226. Only two teams in the Western Conference scored fewer goals than the Flames. They scored the same amount as the Columbus Blue Jackets, the worst team in hockey last season.
As presently constituted, the Flames simply aren't good enough to be a serious contender for the length of a season. While the Flames signed Jiri Hudler away from the Wings to give the offense a boost, they lost Olli Jokinen to the Winnipeg Jets. Those transactions basically cancel each other out.
The presence of Kiprusoff masks just how much help this team needs. Kiprusoff had a 35-22-11 record with a 2.35 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. He also had four shutouts. Instead of working with his teammates to earn victories for the Flames, Kiprusoff was stealing those wins by standing on his head and keeping his team in the game.
Former Flames captain and hockey legend Lanny McDonald appeared on radio station Sportsnet 960 after the season ended and advocated exploring the trade possibilities for both Kiprusoff and veteran superstar winger Jarome Iginla.
McDonald said the team may think it's close to a playoff spot, but that it is fooling itself if it maintains that belief. "Miikka Kiprusoff masks everything that is wrong with the Flames right now," McDonald said during the radio interview (reported on Sportsnet.Ca website). "If you put Kipper on any other team, whether it was even Edmonton, they may have finished ahead of the Flames."
Trading Kiprusoff (and Iginla) would help the Flames get younger, faster, stronger and more aggressive. Instead of finishing five points out of the playoffs in 2012-13, it might leave the Flames 10-to-15 points out of a playoff spot.
But the following season, the Flames would no longer be the dull and predictable team they have become. Sometimes you have to tear down the house and then build a new one. It's not enough to give the walls a new coat of paint.
Additionally, a trade would give Kiprusoff a chance to write a nice finishing chapter to his career. Move him to a team that has a chance to contend so he can win a cup.
That would be beneficial to a player who has given the team consistency in the net since the 2003-04 season.
It's time for Feaster to look in the mirror and make the proper long-term decisions to make the Flames a major NHL factor for the first time in many years.
It's time to trade Kiprusoff.
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