When it comes to examining the best goaltenders in each NHL club’s respective history, there are several factors that are looked at to make that determination.
Hockey writers, analysts and historians will often look at things such as number of Stanley Cups won, number of wins, number of seasons and games played with said club, number of shutouts, post-season performance, individual play and so on and so forth. For most NHL teams, it is easy to determine who the best goaltender in franchise history is.
With Calgary Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff announcing his retirement on Monday, the official debate of who the best goaltender in Calgary’s franchise history commences. If you are a Flames fan or one who follows the team closely, then you clearly know the debate is between Kipper and Mike Vernon.
Let’s take a deeper look into the two iconic Flames goaltenders.
Those who believe Vernon is the best goaltender in Flames history will point to the Stanley Cup he won in 1989 over the Montreal Canadiens and the other he almost delivered in 1986, also against the Habs.
The Flames were a solid team in the post-season with Vernon between the pipes in his first stint with the club from 1985-1994. In those nine years, Vernon got the team into the post-season eight times and put up decent numbers in doing so.
With the retirement of Kiprusoff, Vernon still remains the team leader in post-season games played (81) and wins (43). Based on the way the Flames franchise is right now, those numbers may stand the test of time.
One will also point out Vernon’s success in the regular season with the Flames. Vernon played in 526 games, had 262 career victories and played 29,649 minutes. While all those records have been broken since by Kiprusoff, these are still impressive numbers.
While with the Flames, Vernon was also one of the league’s best goaltenders. He was an NHL second team all-star in 1988-89 while also playing in the all-star game on five separate occasions (1988-1991 and 1993) while a member of the Flames.
It should also be noted that Vernon was the second player in franchise history to have his number retired by the Flames (first was Lanny McDonald).
In all, Vernon had a storied career in Calgary. He may not have been the biggest Flame at five-foot-nine but when in goal for the club, he played with a lot of heart and is the only goalie in franchise history to win a Cup.
In his nine years with the Flames, Kiprusoff accomplished just as much if not more than Vernon.
Kiprusoff broke just about every one of Vernon’s records. Kiprusoff is now the franchise leader in wins (305), shutouts (41) and games played (576), records that should stand for quite some time.
Kiprusoff also helped put the Flames back on the hockey map during the 2003-04 season. That year, his strong play led the Flames to their first Stanley Cup final since 1989 and to within one win of their second Cup in franchise history.
Speaking of the playoffs, the Flames made the post-season in five of the nine years that Kiprusoff was with the club (his first five). While they were mainly first-round exits, with the exception of 2004, Kiprusoff did what he could with the weak defence that was in front of him.
When it came to the regular season, Kiprusoff was on another level. While Vernon won at least 30 games four times as a member of the Flames, Kiprusoff accomplished that feat seven times in seven straight seasons (2006-2012) as he averaged 39 victories a year over that span.
Like Vernon, Kiprusoff also did well on an individual level. Here is what he accomplished:
- Vezina Trophy winner (2006)
- Vezina Trophy finalist (2004 and 2007)
- Hart Trophy finalist (2006)
- First Team NHL All-Star (2006)
- William M. Jennings Trophy (2006)
- NHL All-Star Game (2007)
In his nine years with the Flames, Kiprusoff was not only the team’s most consistent player, but perhaps the team’s most valuable year in and year out — without Kipper between the pipes, the Flames simply were not a good hockey club.
Who is it?
While Vernon and Kiprusoff both won a lot of games, took a team to a Stanley Cup final, played in all-star games and did well individually, this hockey scribe believes that Kiprusoff is the best goaltender in Flames history.
Kiprusoff may have never won a Cup for the Flames but he certainly did everything else and more for the franchise.