It was something of a surprise not just that the Blues traded Brian Elliot to Calgary, they’ve always wanted to give the job to Jay Gallon, but just how aggressively they did. A 2nd and a 3rd for a goalie that had just been to the conference final and whose five years in Meth County had seen a combined SV% of .925 (somewhat boosted by his ridiculous .940 in half the starts in ’11-’12, but still) seemed a tad on the low side, even if conceding for Elliot’s over-30 age. While three starts is hardly enough of a sample, what Elliot might be finding out soon enough is that he needed the Blues more than they needed him.
As we know, whatever our criticisms of the Blues are, they’ve been one of the more solid defensive units in the league under Ken Hitchcock. In his five years there, Elliot never saw the Blues give up more than 28 shots per 60 at even-strength, when adjusted for score.
Digging further, when looking at the amount of high-danger shots Elliot is seeing, it’s not much prettier. In St. Louis, Elliot saw no more than four-five high danger shots per game. So far in Calgary he’s seeing about seven per game, and he isn’t stopping any of them. His high-danger save-percentage is .719. In St. Louis it was generally 100 points higher or more. So he’s seeing more shots, more of them from close, and he’s stopping less. Again, three games doesn’t mean anything but you could see where this is a trend given the makeups of the team.
If he’s looking for it to get better, the trends aren’t good. The Flames were in the bottom-third of the league last year in giving up scoring chances last year, and it’s not like the makeup is too much different. Ok, there’s no Kris Russell so that helps. But Giordano is a year older, Engelland sucks, and Jokipakka has a long way to go.
Elliot is also going to have to get better on the PK, which he’ll find no sympathy for around these parts at the moment. He has a .764 SV% shorthanded so far this year. And again, he’s not making tough saves so far. His high-danger save-percentage on the kill is .571. At least encouragingly for Elliot, the Flames gave up just about the same number of shots on the kill as the Blues did last year, as well as the same number of prime chances.
Some of this is of course just adjusting to a new team and city, and figuring out where his new teammates are going to be and where they aren’t. It won’t be this bad for very much longer, or they’d better hope not.
Then again, Elliot has a lot of incentive to get it going this season. He’s a free agent after the year, and the market could be somewhat more full for goalies than we’re used to seeing. Ben Bishop is going to be a free agent. Marc-Andre Fleury is available for trade. Steve Mason will be a free agent. Elliot will only be 32 and if he can replicate any Blues-like season in Alberta, you can be sure some GM will be in a hurry to throw a lot of money at him. Especially if things go balls-up this year in Dallas or Anaheim or Brooklyn with their goalies for teams that really should be going somewhere. Or hey, look at this, Toronto will need a goalie too. Not like they have any money or anything.