Due to uncertainty, the Vancouver Canucks tandem of Thatcher Demko and very likely Spencer Martin actually slips a bit as it relates to all-important Pacific Division goaltending comparisons. ‘All-important’ because it’s the most crucial position on the ice and head-to-head results can make the difference between a playoff or non-playoff season.
Love him or leave him, Jaroslav Halak was a much more reliable entity when entering the picture last summer. That the team failed him the first half of the season and the fact that he had a couple of weak performances after New Year’s shouldn’t affect comparisons between then and now.
Money doesn’t enter into this poll, it doesn’t matter if a team is spending $3-million or $13-million on their goalies, this is based on the talent and the potential performance between the pipes. And of course the other obvious caveat: barring injury.
Last summer and fall we did just the number-one’s, amazing the difference a year makes just on basic rosters.
1) Jacob Markstrom – Dan Vladar – Calgary Flames — Markström’s numbers in the postseason weren’t nearly as good as his regular season statistics and he and the Flames got bounced in the second round. It’s not all on him, that’s for sure. Plus it’s tough to compare this former Vancouver Canucks netminder with the current one considering the Canucks didn’t make the playoffs. The 24-year-old from Planet Vladar was a pretty solid back-up; only getting better, as they say.
2) Philipp Grubauer – Martin Jones – Seattle Kraken — Grubauer should be a heck of a lot better with an improved roster in front of him. I’m not sure he responds well to adversity. By the way, Chris Driedger who underwent off-season knee surgery and will take seven months to recover is still on the roster. The club just signed North Vancouver native Jones 12 days ago, a 32-year-old who’s had a solid career mostly during the first part of his six-season run in San Jose.
3) Thatcher Demko – Spencer Martin – Vancouver Canucks — We’re well aware of the capabilities of the big fella, we’re not all that aware of the capabilities of the back-up. Be confident and optimistic Canucks fans, but nine career NHL games as a 27-year-old does not a sample size make.
4) Robin Lehner – Laurent Brossoit (?) – Vegas Golden Knights — The question mark means were not completely sure if Brossoit will be ready to start training camp following off-season surgery. If not, it would appear that 25-year-old Logan Thompson would be the number-two netminder to start the season. We had Lehner ranked number-one in the Pacific Division before last season when rating just the starters. He’s slipped a bit since then and this back-up situation doesn’t stir confidence. Port Alberni native Brossoit has had an inconsistent career. This line-up could change. Oh, Michael Hutchinson is also around. Alrightee then.
5) Cal Petersen – Jonathan Quick – Los Angeles Kings — Based on last season and the brief playoffs I should probably put Quick’s name first. They essentially split last season with the former two-time Stanley Cup champion emerging at the end. Very good combo for an improving team. Toss up here with the SoCal pair listed just below.
6) John Gibson – Anthony Stolarz – Anaheim Ducks — ‘Gibby’ can be very, very good. Gibby may be a bit complacent. Big bucks for another five seasons. He’ll need to snap out of it because this team’s rebuild has apparently gone a little more quickly than expected. Stolarz, the forever Flyers prospect who has a grand total of 62 career NHL games, was actually pretty good in 28 of them last season.
7) Jack Campbell – Stuart Skinner – Edmonton Oilers — You know that awful look that Connor McDavid gets on his face when things aren’t going so well. Yeah, you’re going to see it semi-regularly and if this goaltending tandem stays as is into the playoffs, you’re gonna see that look at the most inopportune time for the Oilers. Am I suggesting “Soupy’s” not the answer? Yes, yes I am. By the way, in case you forgot, barring a small miracle, Mike Smith’s career has ended. Calvin Pickard is hanging around the minors.
8) Kaapo Kähkönen – James Reimer – New San Jose Sharks General Manager Mike Grier gets to figure out what to do with Adin Hill, a third NHL netminder under contract. Or maybe it’s what to do with 34-year-old, injury prone Reimer. All three are getting paid salaries that start with $2-million, again not that it matters, but it’ll actually make decision making a little easier. I’m not brimming with confidence here. Kaapo has shown signs, but has played a grand total of 65 NHL games while Reimer is Reimer.
Honestly, I’m not blown away by the netminding in the Pacific Division as it relates to tandems, and based on Demko and Demko alone, the Vancouver Canucks presently hang at number-three. Martin killing it would be a bonus.