The Calgary Flames' goaltending situation this season is bleak. They are one of the few teams who don't currently have a Vezina nominee manning the nets, and both of their regulars, Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo, have been disappointing, leading head coach Bob Hartley to use Joni Ortio last game and, though he played well, the results were the same - a 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders.
Of course, losing the best goalie of his generation (Mikka Kiprusoff) to retirement leaves a huge gaping hole, and neither of his two understudies (Henrik Karlsson and Leland Irving) are still with the team.
But Life has a sense of irony, and after two years in Europe - the first an extremely successful run with the Finnish League's Helsinki Jokerit in 2013-14 that saw him post a 23-18-12 record with a 2.14 GAA and .922 save percentage with 3 shutouts in 55 games, and a less successful run with the KHL's Ufa Salavat Yulayev (3.35 GAA and .883 save percentage in 20 games), Irving's back in North America, having signed on with the Iowa Wild after the Minnesota Wild invited him to their training camp on a PTO.
His statistics in the AHL so far? Oh, just a 2-0-1 record with a 1.60 GAA and .951 save percentage with one shutout in three games.
At 27 years of age, Irving's entering the prime of his career, and is possibly ready to live up to having been the Flames' first-round pick (26th overall) in 2006, the year before he won gold with Team Canada at the World Juniors backing up Carey Price, who also finally seems ready to live up to his promising talent.
I realize Ortio's the guy the Flames want to bet the farm on, but maybe a call to Minnesota to inquire about the cost of bringing Irving - a semi-local boy from Barrhead just outside of Edmonton - in to back him up wouldn't hurt. Just a thought.
In the meantime, here's how he looked with a flaming ''C'' on his mask, from Panini's 2013-14 Crown Royale set (Card #SO-LI of the Sovereign Sigs sub-set):