Mike Keenan made a bold statement this week when he challenged his Calgary Flames to shave half-a-goal against from last season's average of 2.73 -- one that ranked the Flames 15th in the NHL.
Reducing that number by half-a-goal would represent a 20 per cent drop; 16 games worth of goals. That's a lot.
One glance at Miikka Kiprusoff
's numbers since he burst onto the scene in Calgary for the run to the Cup final in 2004, and it's clear that Iron Mike was staring right through to the back of Miikka's skull when he issued the challenge.
Shaving half-a-goal a game from Calgary's goals against average last season would drop the number to 2.20- - right into the range of Kiprusoff's numbers from three years ago when he was fresh off his run to the Cup final -- the stingiest and most dominant point of his career.
Since the 2005-06 season, Kiprusoff's numbers have steadily declined in every major goaltending category for three consecutive seasons. And the numbers have declined steadily and consistently on a team that has been consistenly deemed a contender to win the Stanley Cup.
His save percentage has dropped in three straight seasons, and so have his victories and shutouts (dramatically). At the same time, his goals against average and losses have slowley inched the other way, to the highest points of his Calgary Flame career.
Darryl Sutter has repeatedly defended the goaltender that he will pay $8.5 million this year, pointing to his win totals that are, although declining, consistently in the 40-win range. Let the record show that Andrew Raycroft
established a new Maple Leafs record for victories in a season two years ago when he won 37 games in Toronto and he was nowhere CLOSE to being one of the top goalies in team history. In fact, there are those who will remember Raycroft as one of the worst.
Another common defence of Kiprusoff is that he is a perenially slow starter, who plays his best hockey at the end of the season when it matters most. But wins are worth the same -- two points -- in October that they are in April. Nevermind the fact that $8.5-million goaltenders aren't paid to have their performance ebb and flow with the rest of the goaltending fraternity. At the end of the day, Kiprusoff's late-season play has not led the Flames past the first round of the playoffs in five years.
After all, $8.5-million goaltenders are paid to dominate each and every game they play, and Kiprusoff needs to pull up his striped socks and dominate like the money goaltender he is supposed to be. If he does that, the half-a-goal against will take care of itself.