Former Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom took his talents 680 miles east this offseason as he joined the Calgary Flames on a six-year deal worth $36 million. Last season, Markstrom played in 43 of the team’s 69 games, as he posted a career-best .918 SV% and a 2.75 GAA. With a smaller sample size, Demko, mentioned above, struggled during the regular season (.905 SV%, 3.06 GAA), General manager Jim Benning would have to decide if keeping Markstrom (pending UFA) made sense long term.
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Following the hiatus, the Vancouver Canucks impressed in the playoffs. They knocked off the Minnesota Wild in four games before they downed the defending champion, St. Louis Blues, in six games. After trailing three games to one against the Vegas Golden Knights, Markstrom was unable to play due to an undisclosed injury. In his absence, Demko shined, but ultimately the Canucks were eliminated in game six of the series. Demko was more than capable of being the guy in the pipes, as he posted a 0.64 GAA and a .985 SV% in his four appearances (three starts). Given the cap situation, Markstrom became expendable.
The Flames were in dire need of a true number one netminder. They’d been through the carousels of netminders with David Rittich, Cam Talbot, and Mike Smith over the last two seasons, and a strong presence in goal seemed to be that final piece this team needed to become a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. They threw money at the guy they believed could get the job done – Markstrom.
Unfortunately, as of March 24, the Flames have been a major disappointment. They sit in second-to-last place in the North Division, two points behind the Canucks. The 11-year veteran has put up his worst numbers in six years, with a .904 SV% and a 2.84 GAA in 24 games. His GSAA has taken a dramatic fall, from an 11.4 last season (career-high) to a -2.5. Markstrom has had four Really Bad Starts (Under .850 SV%) through 24 games, whereas last year he had five through 43 starts.
The season has been so bad that the Flames fired their head coach Geoff Ward and replaced him with two-time Stanley Cup winner Daryll Sutter back on March 4. Since then, Markstrom is 4-4-1, having shown little to no improvement. The blame should not be on Markstrom, as there were no signs that he would take another step at age 31. He was average last year, and the free-agent market was full of average netminders, so the plan seemed to be to get the best of the group. It was a chance they had to take to improve their team, but it has undoubtedly backfired, and now Flame fans need to look towards the future, as their 23-year old prospect, Tyler Parsons, waits in the wings.