Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames continue to build on goaltending as an organizational strength

There’s been a lot of news surrounding the Calgary Flames lately. While a lot of that news has been negative, it’s important to remember that some key strengths from last year’s roster will still be with the team for the 2022–23 season.

One of them is the team’s goaltending. Not just at the NHL level, but throughout the organizational depth chart. In the NHL, Jacob Markstrom finished second in Vezina Trophy voting. In the AHL and USHL, Dustin Wolf and Arsenii Sergeev won goalie of the year in their respective leagues.

In the ECHL, Daniil Chechelev struggled, but in his first season in North America, an adjustment period is understandable.

While the NHL is clearly the most important, it’s promising to see that the future is bright between the pipes too. Almost every goalie had a career year, and can be expected to repeat them again in the future. Markstrom has had few opportunities on teams with strong defensive structure, and the rest of the goalies throughout the depth chart are young enough that they are likely to keep improving.

Goaltending is often called the most important position, and it makes sense why. Every mistake a goalie makes ends up on the scoreboard, but, on the other hand, a strong starting goalie can bring any team to the playoffs. The Flames have been lucky to have goalies who can steal games throughout their system recently.

Flames goaltending statistical breakdown

Each goalie’s stats live up to the recognition they received. Even Daniel Vladar, in limited ice time, showed very well in his first full NHL season. After posting impressive stats in junior and the AHL, his leap to the NHL was not only tremendously beneficial to last season’s Flames, it’s a promising sign for Dustin Wolf.

Jacob MarkstromCalgary Flames630.9222.22
Dan VladarCalgary Flames230.9062.75
Dustin WolfStockton Heat470.9242.35
Arseni SergeevTri-City410.9182.08
Daniil ChechelevKansas City300.8943.64

At the highest level, Markstrom’s second place finish in Vezina trophy voting is extremely impressive. To be the goalie with the second most votes for goalie of the year is always an accomplishment, but when the competition is a superstar like Igor Shesterkin, it’s that much more so.

Meanwhile in the AHL, Wolf won goalie of the year, proving doubters wrong despite his smaller stature. His playoff performance was also exceptional, leading his team to the Calder Cup Conference Finals. His days in the AHL are soon to be numbered, because if this performance keeps up, he’ll be in the NHL in no time.

In junior, Sergeev allowed barely over two goals a game, and stopped 91.8% of the shots he faced, the best in the league by a wide margin. The second highest save percentage in the league was only a 91.0%.

Although he faced some disciplinary issues, Sergeev proved he has real potential, following in the footsteps of Dustin Wolf as a seventh-round pick with high-level potential. When he wasn’t suspended, Sergeev was an important part of a dominant Tri-City Storm team.

Chechelev struggled on a mediocre Kansas City Mavericks team, but is still just 21 and has played only one professional season in North America. The adjustment to the smaller rink takes time, and Chechelev hadn’t even played any pro hockey in Russia before joining the team.

Compared to seasons past, the Flames organization’s goaltending—from the NHL throughout the feeder leagues—reached incredible heights. Below is each team’s save percentage season over season for the past three campaigns.

Team2019–20 SV%2020–21 SV%2021–22 SV%
Calgary Flames0.9060.8960.913
Stockton Heat0.8980.8980.910
Kansas City Mavericks0.8920.9010.899

The strong progression speaks to an organization focused on winning. And even with Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk‘s departures, there’s little reason to expect the trend to reverse from the net outward. Markstrom is a bonafide elite starting goalie, Vladar is a young up-and-comer, and there’s Wolf waiting in the woodwork.

Goaltending wins championships

Even after the major losses to start the offseason, the Flames’ goaltending is in a position to steal them games in 2022–23. Markstrom is returning, after the best season of his career to date. Behind him, Vladar should be just as strong as he was last year, with the added benefit of another year of experience.

The same is true for Wolf in the AHL, who took the starter’s crease and never let go in 2021–22. With Oscar Dansk now backing up, Wolf has a reliable AHLer as his backup, and Dansk is coming off a solid season in the KHL.

The combination of top-end talent puts the Flames in a strong position to steal at least a handful of games. These points will be extremely important if the team intends to remain contenders going forward.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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