Disappointing, frustrating and bittersweet.
Danny Taylor alternated those adjectives on Wednesday as he reflected on his exit from the Calgary Flames/Abbotsford Heat organization.
Anyone who watched Taylor play for the Heat over the past two seasons might add “surprising” to the adjective pile.
Taylor, the de facto No. 1 goalie in Abbotsford the past two seasons, signed with Färjestad BK of the Swedish Elite League on Tuesday. It’s a two-year contract with an NHL out clause after the first season.
“I wanted to be back with Calgary, but there was no opportunity there, to be honest,” Taylor told The News.
“When we talked about a deal with them, they said they couldn’t do anything right now. It’s kind of disappointing after the year I had.”
Depending on which stats you choose to ponder, the Flames’ decision to cut ties with Taylor is either baffling or coherent.
It’s hard to find fault with Taylor’s play since he signed with the Heat as a free agent in December 2011.
In 2011-12, his goals against average (2.29) and save percentage (.924) both ranked eighth-best in the AHL. In 2012-13, he trimmed the goal against average even further to 2.05, second-best in the league, and his .922 save percentage ranked eighth.
He also fared well in terms of competition – he beat out former first-round pick Leland Irving for the No. 1 job heading into the 2012 playoffs, and he wrestled the bulk of the playing time away from Irving and Barry Brust last season.
When the Flames were beset by injuries in the crease this past spring, the 27-year-old inked a two-way NHL contract and made two starts in Calgary silks, picking up his first big-league win vs. Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks on March 2.
The stat that didn’t work in Taylor’s favour was five – as in the number of goalies that Calgary is expected to have in training camp next fall. That group includes:
• Incumbent Flames backup Joey MacDonald
• Karri Ramo, the former Tampa Bay Lightning keeper who starred in recent years with Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League
• Reto Berra, a 26-year-old Swiss netminder obtained from the St. Louis Blues in the Jay Bouwmeester trade
• Joni Ortio, the 22-year-old Finn who struggled in Abbotsford in 2011-12 but played well for HIFK Helsinki last season
• Laurent Brossoit, a 20-year-old Surrey native who starred for the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings.
The above list doesn’t include longtime Flames starter Miikka Kiprusoff, who is expected to retire, or free-agents-to-be Irving and Brust, who are likely to depart as well.
“It’s so frustrating,” Taylor said. “It’s like, what else do I have to do to be back in the organization?
“You can’t force an opportunity with words, you can only do it with play, and I thought I did that. They just decided to go a different direction.”
Taylor’s frustration aside, he expressed deep gratitude to the Heat coaching staff led by Troy Ward, and to the Flames for the NHL opportunity this year.
Ultimately, 2012-13 is a season Taylor will look back at fondly. In addition to his on-ice milestones, he and wife Danielle welcomed their first child, son Hudson, into the world on New Year’s Day.
“It was incredible, really awesome,” Taylor said. “I feel it’s really starting to change my life now that hockey’s been over, since I’ve been able to spend more time with Hudson. Since he’s gotten older, you can really interact with him.”
As for playing at Färjestad, Taylor noted that goalies like Jonas Gustafsson, Henrik Karlsson and Cristopher Nilstorp have used the Swedish club as a springboard to North America in recent years.
“Guys go right from that league into the NHL and KHL, and they obviously have a history of doing that,” he noted.
“I’ve had three or four seasons where I’m waiting around (for a contract) and it’s August, and I’m pulling my nails out of my fingers wondering where I’m going to go. This (Färjestad offer) was on the table, a two-year deal, and it’s twice as much money as I’ve ever made in a hockey season. So I wasn’t going to wait around.”