CALGARY, AB – Calgary Flames general manager Jay Feaster identified it as organizational need.
With Miikka Kiprusoff’s status in doubt and the ability to acquire an experienced goaltender as a potential fit in Calgary without sacrificing an asset in return, Feaster saw an opportunity to strengthen the team’s depth between the pipes in MacDonald.
“MacDonald is someone that our scouts have identified for some time as an acquire-in-trade as we call it in our scouting system,” Feaster admitted. “He was a player that we had talked about as recently as the start of training camp with our mid-winter pro scouting meetings. We made the decision because he’s a guy with 101 games of NHL experience that he was a player that we wanted to add to the mix.”
With that experience, MacDonald is the perfect foil for Irving, who has but 11 games of National Hockey League experience under his belt. And with the club facing an additional two additional weeks without Kiprusoff, that experience could prove to be invaluable in helping the team move forward.
But make no mistake, the crease – at least for the time being – belongs to Irving.
The former first round pick has played well in place of Kiprusoff, posting a 1-1-1 record with a 2.62 goals against average and a .900 save percentage. Irving’s also given Calgary the opportunity to win, instilling assurance in the team playing in front of him, according to coach Bob Hartley.
“Leland is playing great,” he said. “We’re going to keep riding Leland. He’s obviously playing very well for us and he’s building confidence.”
If the 24-year-old continues to do so in the eight games the Flames will play in the next two weeks, the picture becomes crystal clear by the time Kiprusoff is ready to return to action.
“The fact of the matter is for the next two weeks we’re not going to have Kipper and so now we have Leland Irving who is trying to demonstrate that he wants to be a No. 1 in the National Hockey League and can be, and we also have a 33-year-old backup who has 101 games of experience on his resume,” Feaster said.
“In terms of Leland, keep doing what you’re doing and put us in a situation where two weeks from now, the answer is obvious.”
In other words, Irving’s play will dictate Irving’s future.
“When Kipper is ready to go, then we’ll determine who is going to be the backup goaltender on this team,” Feaster said. “That’s not something that’s written in stone, that’s not something that’s been pre-determined or pre-ordained.
“What have you done for me lately? That’s the business we’re in. That’s how we’re all judged from me right on through and I think Leland Irving thus far has acquitted himself very, very well.”
Which means it’s up to Irving to keep the crease clear of controversy when a third goaltender returns to the fold.
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