Flames Watch: Calgary must cap Kipper

I see the headlines the Flames are dismissing suggestions goalie Miikka Kiprusoff is overworked and tired. In every story, Kiprusoff is the first person quoted, saying stuff like he’s fine and used to the workload. Then coach Mike Keenan says all’s well and fine with Kipper. 

Problem is, I don’t see any doctors or statisticians quoted in these stories, so you’ll have to excuse me if I think they’re blowing smoke. 

Ask any trucker what he thinks of the regulations capping the amount of time he can spend on a highway and he’ll say it’s bogus. 

But the fact remains, the law says truckers can’t drive any longer than 14 hours in a shift or more than 60 hours in a seven-day period. Facts and studies have shown a trucker driving past these limits has a diminished sense of alertness and reaction time. 

Yet go ask any trucker if he’s capable of pushing his rig for 20 hours in a shift and he’ll tell you, yes, absolutely, if necessary. Probably done it many a time. 

So should we believe Kipper when he says he’s perfectly fine, that he appreciates the hectic workload and that he’s willing and able to play every game? 

We can believe he believes it, but we shouldn’t think it’s a true and accurate self-assessment. Nor should the Flames. The facts speak for themselves. 

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We know about all the goals Kiprusoff allowed on the seven-game road trip, but that could be a short-term blip.

Consider the long-term facts: In each of the past three seasons, playing 74, 74 and 76 games, Kiprusoff’s goals-against average went up and save percentage went down in the playoffs. And NHL scoring goes down in the post-season. 

There has to be a reason why Patrick Roy never played more than 68 regular season games a year. Dominik Hasek averaged 65 games all those years he won the Vezina. Even Martin Brodeur has longer playoff runs when he limits himself to the low 70s. 

So why are the Flames allowing Kiprusoff to play a pro-rated 76 games? Is it because a Kipper at 80 percent is better than a rusty Curtis McElhinney at 100 percent? 

Perhaps, but who’s going to be accountable if Kipper’s playoff numbers sag a fourth straight year?

This column also appears in the Calgary Metro newspaper.

Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to You can read his Top 10 list on Wednesdays and his blog each weekend.

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