The San Jose Sharks were hoping Martin Jones would bounce back after having his worst NHL season in 2018-19. Through two games, that doesn’t appear to be the case. What can the Sharks do?
It’s remarkable the San Jose Sharks picked up 101 points during the 2018-19 season. They did so despite getting the NHL’s worst goaltending. Their tandem of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell combined for a .889% save percentage during the regular season, which was dead last in the league.
Even in the postseason, the Sharks struggle. Their .892% save percentage during all situations was the second-lowest, trailing only the Tampa Bay Lighting. Even at five-on-five, the Sharks had the fourth-lowest save percentage in the postseason.
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Instead of fixing their problem in the summer, San Jose decided to gamble on their goalies bouncing back. The Sharks could have (and should have) signed a more capable backup than Aaron Dell. Someone like Cam Talbot or Curtis McElhinney would have made sense. The former could push Jones while the latter could have at least given them about 30 games of strong goaltending, which is about 30 more games of strong goaltending than they got last season.
It’s usually not wise to make judgments based on the first two games of the season, but so far, Jones has not bounced back as the Sharks had hoped. In consecutive losses to the Vegas Golden Knights, he has allowed eight goals in five periods. Jones’ save percentage thus far is .862%, which is even worse than it was last season.
Through two games, the Sharks have allowed three shorthanded goals. Obviously, Jones isn’t the one to blame for those three goals, but he’s certainly one of the biggest reasons for them. In each of the Sharks’ first two games, he has allowed at least one goal within the first 302 seconds of the game.
As the sample size gets larger, it’s becoming clear the Sharks need to do something about their goaltending. Heck, they should have done something about it this summer. Now the Sharks are stuck with an even bigger goaltending problem than the one they had last season.
San Jose’s skaters were good enough to overcome their subpar goaltending during the 2018-19 season. However, without Joe Pavelski, the Sharks are struggling early. They did nothing externally to help replace his production or his leadership either.
The Sharks are a contending team. They have invested a lot of assets in creating a roster capable of winning the Stanley Cup. This makes their refusal to do something about their goaltending this summer baffling. And unless things change, the Sharks are going to have to do something about it.
What Can They Do?
If the Sharks want to shake things up, the best way would be through a trade. The free-agent options available are uninspiring at best. Dell has done nothing in the past two seasons to warrant consideration for more playing time.
Teams rarely trade for a goaltender as a rental, but the Sharks have done it before. Back in 2016, they traded for James Reimer of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He helped the Sharks rest Jones down the stretch of the regular season. It helped, as they made a run to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.
Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks would be an intriguing trade candidate. He has postseason experience, though his health is a huge question mark at this point. Robin Lehner, a Vezina Trophy finalist last season, could be available as well if the Blackhawks decide to sell at the trade deadline.
If the Vancouver Canucks fall out of contention, Jacob Markstrom could become available. The Arizona Coyotes might be willing to listen to offers for Antti Raanta. Thomas Greiss could become available if the New York Islanders decide to become sellers. There are a plethora of options out there for the Sharks.
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Albert Einstein, a scientist most famous for his theory of relativity, is credited with an infamous quote – “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. A season after poor goaltending cost them in their pursuit of the Stanley Cup, the Sharks are doing the same thing. It would be insane for San Jose to not address the pink elephant in the room.