Can’t help but think of the song Love The One You’re With when listening to Bob Hartley talk about Joni Ortio these days.
With Karri Ramo out with a season-ending knee injury, Jonas Hiller seemingly unable to stop pucks regularly, the Calgary Flames coach is left to pump the tires of Ortio in public in the hopes he gets good goaltending out of him the rest of the way. This after Hartley and the Flames had no confidence in Ortio at the start of the season.
What choice does Hartley have? He’s not interested in losing to get a better draft pick. He’s interested in wins to make his coaching record look good since there is no guarantee he’ll be around when the rebuild is completed (if it ever is).
It’s expected Ortio will get the start tonight against the San Jose Sharks and get the bulk of the remaining 17 regular season games, the next six of which are at the Saddledome.
Dumped in the minors before Christmas, Ortio is now the man in Calgary as the Flames grind it out to end a horrible season.
The 24-year-old Ortio began the year as the third man in the Flames puzzling three-man goaltending team and was demoted to Stockton of the American Hockey League in late November after allowing four and five goals in two starts. He cleared waivers on his way to California, proving that the rest of the league didn’t think much of him at the time either; and wasn’t recalled until Ramo got hurt on February 11.
Hartley was glowing in his praise of him after he picked up his first NHL win in more than a year on Saturday, making 29 stops in a 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“He is so proud and he is so competitive that you push for him,” Hartley said. “He always gives you a chance to win. He gets in net, he competes hard; he’s tracking the puck well.”
In his past five starts Ortio has looked like an NHL goalie by allowing 13 goals (2.60 per game) and posting a .914 save percentage. Ramo’s numbers in 37 games this year were 2.63 and .909.
Ramo’s injury could not have come at a better time for Ortio. He’s a restricted free agent at season’s end and needs a new deal to replace the one that is paying him $600,000 at the NHL level. Now he gets the chance to showcase himself for the Flames brass and build Hartley’s trust without Ramo getting in the way.