CALGARY, AB -- There were plenty of questions in the crease heading into the 2013-14 season for the Calgary Flames.
After seven months and 82 games, it turns out that Karri Ramo is the answer.
Ramo, who posted a 17-15-4 record with a 2.65 goals against average and .911 save percentage in 40 appearances this year, has done enough to return this September as Calgary’s top keeper in the eyes of Calgary’s president of hockey operations.
“I think Karri Ramo answered all the question marks, especially of late,” Brian Burke said following exit interviews on Monday. “I think that he had an excellent second half -- I was going to say very good but I don’t think that’s strong enough praise -- he had an excellent second half.
“I think Karri Ramo has established that he deserves to come back here as the number one goaltender. And we told [Joey MacDonald] this morning that we’ll figure out his situation and see if he’s the guy that will be back here backing-up because I don’t want [Joni] Ortio backing up, I want him playing somewhere.”
Ramo, the former Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender acquired from the Montreal Canadiens two years ago, entered September’s training camp as one of four candidates to tend twine in Calgary alongside the likes of MacDonald, Ortio and Reto Berra.
It took him until the final quarter of the season, but Ramo emerged the victor -- not that he's ready to dub himself one just yet.
"I don’t really think it even matters what anyone thinks,” Ramo said. “What matters is who stops the puck. That’s how I’m going to go into the season, that’s how I’m going to go into the summer . . . I’m going to be ready for next year."
Ramo’s attitude is very much inherited from coach Bob Hartley.
“Karri Ramo made some great steps, but in this business, there's always someone after your jersey and after your position,” Hartley said. “You have to learn to get better. You have to learn to survive.”
That’s a message received loud and clear from Ramo.
With just 88 career NHL games and 4,844 minutes under his belt, the 27-year-old puck stopper isn’t ready to rest on his laurels just yet.
And with a season already under his belt to get comfortable after a four-year retreat to play for Avangard Omsk of the KHL, Ramo has higher expectations on his mind for next season.
"Overall, the season had a lot of good and a lot of bad things,” he said. “From Day 1 to the end, I think I’ve progressed a lot. Then again, there’s still a lot more to improve.
"Now I know everybody from the organization, so it’s going to be a little different, But, overall, it’s going to be the same thing -- you have to be ready to battle from the first day for your job, for a spot on the team."
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