Sunday, July 5, 2015

Two Miikka Kiprusoff Swatch Cards

Whether you see it as one franchise or separate the Atlanta Flames from the Calgary Flames, the greatest goalie to have ever worn a flaming letter on the front of his jersey is undoubtedly Miikka Kiprusoff. He had the best glove hand of his era (post-Patrick Roy), the best reflexes and agility after Dominik Hasek in his prime, and may have made the most ''paddle saves'' in the history of the NHL, as can be attested by this highlight reel:

That last sequence in the video is part of a three-minute ovation Flames fans gave him during his final game in Calgary, a 3-1 win against the Anaheim Ducks in which he stopped 32 of 33 shots, as usual. Kipper managed to win a well-deserved Vezina but also a Jennings trophy on what was arguably one of the worst teams in the league during his 10-year, 9-season tenure as a starting goalie.

He retired prior to the 2013-14 season as the franchise leader in wins (305) and shutouts (41).

He was my favourite goalie post-Roy, a position now held by Jaroslav Halak. Both also care about their fans enough to send them autographed cards, which has been my case.

Here he is in the Flames' red (home) uniform, in two cards from Panini's 2013-14 Titanium set (card #GG-MK of the Game-Worn Gear sub-set), with different-coloured swatches:
I could have easily ended this post here, but that would have been too easy. For too long, Kiprusoff's gone underrated, and I felt I needed to set the record straight about just how good he was, so I decided to analyse every goalie since the year I was born 1981-82 (when the Vezina stopped being awarded to the lowest GAA), and compare three things: who actually won the Vezina (and the runners-up), who I felt deserved to be named the best goalie, and the three best in the playoffs. If all goes well, I'll be able to separate the goalies as ''best of their eras'' afterwards:

1981-82: Vezina: Billy Smith; ahead of Grant Fuhr and Michel Dion.
               Best: Smith; ahead of Fuhr and Dan Bouchard.
               Playoffs: Smith; ahead of Richard Brodeur and Tony Esposito.

1982-83: Vezina: Pete Peeters; ahead of Roland Melanson and Murray Bannerman.
               Best: Peeters; ahead of Andy Moog and Billy Smith.
               Playoffs: Smith (Conn Smythe); ahead of Moog and Peeters.

1983-84: Vezina: Tom Barrasso; ahead of Réjean Lemelin and Pat Riggin.
               Best: Barrasso; ahead of Lemelin and Bouchard.
               Playoffs: Fuhr; ahead of Steve Penney and Smith.

1984-85: Vezina: Pelle Lindbergh; ahead of Barrasso and Lemelin.
               Best: Lindbergh; ahead of Barrasso and Riggin.
                Playoffs: Fuhr; ahead of Lindbergh and Smith.

1985-86: Vezina: John Vanbiesbrouck; ahead of Bob Froese and Fuhr.
               Best: Clint Malachuk; ahead of Froese and Vanbiesbrouck.
                Playoffs: Patrick Roy (Conn Smythe); ahead of Mike Vernon and Greg Millen.

1986-87: Vezina: Ron Hextall; ahead of Mike Liut and Fuhr.
               Best: Hextall; ahead of Liut and Eldon ''Pokey'' Reddick.
                Playoffs: Hextall (Conn Smythe); ahead of Brian Hayward and Fuhr.

1987-88: Vezina: Fuhr; ahead of Barrasso and Kelly Hrudey.
               Best: Fuhr; ahead of Vernon and Roy.
               Playoffs: Fuhr; ahead of Lemelin and Sean Burke.

1988-89: Vezina: Roy; ahead of Vernon and Kirk McLean.
               Best: Roy; ahead of Vernon and Peeters.
               Playoffs: Vernon; ahead of Roy and Hextall.

1989-90: Vezina: Roy; ahead of Daren Puppa and Moog.
               Best: Roy; ahead of Liut and Lemelin.
               Playoffs: Moog; ahead of Bill Ranford (Conn Smythe) and Don Beaupre.

1990-91: Vezina: Ed Belfour; ahead of Roy and Mike Richter.
               Best: Roy; ahead of Belfour and Beaupre.
               Playoffs: Barrasso; ahead of Jon Casey and Moog.

1991-92: Vezina: Roy; ahead of McLean and Bob Essensa.
               Best: Roy; ahead of Vanbiesbrouck and McLean.
               Playoffs: Barrasso; ahead of Belfour and Ranford.

1992-93: Vezina: Belfour; ahead of Barrasso and Curtis Joseph.
               Best: Félix Potvin; ahead of Belfour and Joseph.
               Playoffs: Roy (Conn Smythe); ahead of Potvin and Joseph.

1993-94: Vezina: Dominik Hasek; ahead of Vanbiesbrouck and Roy.
               Best: Roy; ahead of Hasek and Vanbiesbrouck.
               Playoffs: Richter; ahead of McLean and Martin Brodeur.

1994-95: Vezina: Hasek; ahead of Belfour and Jim Carey.
               Best: Hasek; ahead of Vanbiesbrouck and Carey.
               Playoffs: Brodeur; ahead of Vernon and Hextall.

1995-96: Vezina: Carey; ahead of Chris Osgood and Puppa.
               Best: Hextall; ahead of Guy Hebert and Carey.
               Playoffs: Roy; ahead of Vanbiesbrouck and Barrasso.

1996-97: Vezina: Hasek; ahead of Brodeur and Roy.
               Best: Roy; ahead of Hasek and Moog.
               Playoffs: Vernon (Conn Smythe); ahead of Roy and Garth Snow.

1997-98: Vezina: Hasek; ahead of Brodeur and Barrasso.
               Best: Hasek; ahead of Barrasso and Belfour.
                Playoffs: Olaf Kolzig; ahead of Osgood and Joseph.

1998-99: Vezina: Hasek; ahead of Joseph and Byron Dafoe.
               Best: Ron Tugnutt; ahead of Hebert and Arturs Irbe.
               Playoffs: Roy; ahead of Hasek and Belfour.

1999-00: Vezina: Kolzig; ahead of Roman Turek and Joseph.
               Best: Roy; ahead of Jeff Hackett and Kolzig.
               Playoffs: Belfour; ahead of Roy and Joseph.

2000-01: Vezina: Hasek; ahead of Roman Cechmanek and Brodeur.
               Best: Cechmanek; ahead of Burke and Hasek.
               Playoffs: Roy (Conn Smythe); ahead of Turek and Joseph.

2001-02: Vezina: José Theodore; ahead of Roy and Burke.
               Best: Theodore; ahead of Roy and Burke.
               Playoffs: Irbe; ahead of Roy and Patrick Lalime.

2002-03: Vezina: Brodeur; ahead of Marty Turco and Belfour.
               Best: Turco; ahead of Roy and Cechmanek.
               Playoffs: J.S. Giguère (Conn Smythe); ahead of Brodeur and Lalime.

2003-04: Vezina: Brodeur; ahead of Miikka Kiprusoff and Roberto Luongo.
               Best: Kiprusoff; ahead of Luongo and Theodore.
               Playoffs: Kiprusoff; ahead of Nikolai Khabibulin and Evgeni Nabokov.

2004-05: NHL lockout. Booooooooooooooo!

2005-06: Vezina: Kiprusoff; ahead of Brodeur and Henrik Lundqvist.
               Best: Kiprusoff; ahead of Lundqvist and Tomas Vokoun.
               Playoffs: Dwayne Roloson; ahead of Ilya Bryzgalov and Cam Ward (Conn Smythe).

2006-07: Vezina: Brodeur; ahead of Luongo and Kiprusoff.
               Best: Kiprusoff; ahead of Niklas Backstrom and Lundqvist.
               Playoffs: Luongo; ahead of Giguère and Turco.

2007-08: Vezina: Brodeur; ahead of Nabokov and Lundqvist.
               Best: Giguère; ahead of Backstrom and Kiprusoff.
               Playoffs: M.A. Fleury; ahead of Osgood and Lundqvist.

2008-09: Vezina: Tim Thomas; ahead of Steve Mason and Backstrom.
               Best: Thomas; ahead of Vokoun and Luongo.
               Playoffs: Fleury; ahead of Osgood and Jonas Hiller.

2009-10: Vezina: Ryan Miller; ahead of Bryzgalov and Brodeur.
               Best: Miller; ahead of Nabokov and Kiprusoff.
               Playoffs: Jaroslav Halak; ahead of Antti Niemi and Michael Leighton.

2010-11: Vezina: Thomas; ahead of Pekka Rinne and Luongo.
               Best: Thomas; ahead of Rinne and Luongo.
               Playoffs: Thomas (Conn Smythe); ahead of Jimmy Howard and Luongo.

2011-12: Vezina: Lundqvist; ahead of Jonathan Quick and Rinne.
               Best: Lundqvist; ahead of Halak and Brian Elliott.
               Playoffs: Quick (Conn Smythe); ahead of Lundqvist and Mike Smith.

2012-13: Vezina: Sergei Bobrovsky; ahead of Lundqvist and Niemi.
               Best: Bobrovsky; ahead of Craig Anderson and Lundqvist.
               Playoffs: Corey Crawford; ahead of Quick and Tuukka Rask.

2013-14: Vezina: Rask; ahead of Semyon Varlamov and Ben Bishop.
               Best: Rask; ahead of Bishop and Lundqvist.
               Playoffs: Quick; ahead of Lundqvist and Rask.

2014-15: Vezina: Carey Price; ahead of Rinne and Devan Dubnyk.
               Best: Dubnyk; ahead of Price and Fleury.
               Playoffs: Crawford; ahead of Bishop and Lundqvist.

Honestly, before starting with this exercise, I thought the one-hit wonders would be more numerous and would help determine which one goalie stood out in an era, with two to five sub-contenders per, but a far cry behind. For example, when Patrick Roy had his coming out party in the 1986 playoffs, I was under the impression that he relegated Grant Fuhr and Mike Vernon to second-tier status - which he did - but the podium didn't just have two spots, as John Vanbiesbrouck, Tom Barrasso, Réjean Lemelin and Andy Moog also put in a good number of strong seasons, well into the 1990s for all except Lemelin.

And let's be honest: while I did my best to ignore Ed Belfour's milestones and achievements while he was playing, he was a definite top-10 goalie most times, and could have runs where he was top-5. Same thing for Dominik Hasek; there were years when the Buffalo Sabres' system protected him so well his job was almost too easy, but there are others where he was leading the elite by too wide a margin to ignore.

And while many claim the same about Martin Brodeur, this was a worthwhile exercise to show that GMs (who vote for the Vezina) can and do make mistakes, as can be attested by his run of 1998-02 where his save percentage was .906 three of four years and still he finished in the top-5 for voting, on a team so well defended that he saw less than 25 shots per game, none of them from the slot. That was followed by 4 Vezinas in 5 years and a runner-up in the middle, usually with a save percentage 15 points below that of the league leader.

Which leads, using 5 points for a first place, 3 for second and one for third, plus 5 for extra NHL Awards not counted here, to the following aggregated results of 29 goalies with over 10 points:

Patrick Roy: 117 points
Dominik Hasek: 60 points
Martin Brodeur: 40 points
Tom Barrasso: 37 points
Grant Fuhr: 34 points
Ed Belfour: 32 points
Miikka Kiprusoff: 31 points
Mike Vernon: 30 points
Tim Thomas: 30 points
Henrik Lundqvist: 29 points
Billy Smith: 28 points
Ron Hextall: 27 points
Jonathan Quick: 21 points
John Vanbiesbrouck: 19 points
Jean-Sébastien Giguère: 18 points
Carey Price: 18 points
José Theodore: 16 points
Andy Moog: 16 points
Roberto Luongo: 16 points
Corey Crawford: 15 points
Pelle Lindbergh: 13 points
Pete Peeters: 12 points
Chris Osgood: 12 points
Tuukka Rask: 12 points
Olaf Kolzig: 11 points
Réjean Lemelin: 11 points
Curtis Joseph: 11 points
Marc-André Fleury: 11 points
Devan Dubnyk: 11 points

I guess it's safe and fair to say anyone with over 30 has had ''their era'' (damn you, Brodeur!), and that Lundqvist and Quick will likely get there as well. Crawford, Rask and Price could, although Price will need to repeat his 2014-15 many times for that to happen.

What I get from this is that Billy Smith and Fuhr owned the early-to-mid 1980s, that Barrasso almost had the mid-80s were it not for Roy, whose success was constant from 1988 until 2003, though he had to share the glory with Hasek, mostly, from the mid-1990s on, with Brodeur often the third wheel, but far behind.

Tim Thomas had an almost unprecedented level of success in a three-year run, but the early-to-mid-00s saw a Kipper dominance, and Lundqvist has held the mantle almost alone since, save for Quick in the playoffs and Rinne as this generation's third wheel.

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