The San Jose Sharks should be worried about possible exhaustion for starting goalie Martin Jones. In a league of such parity as the NHL, the small details like this can often be the difference between winning or losing
Martin Jones Is Being Overworked By the San Jose Sharks
So far this season Jones has started 42 out of the Sharks 50 games. Backup Aaron Dell has taken care of the other eight and relieved Jones in one game. Jones is second in goalie ice time (2478:21) and number of games started. Over the last two seasons including playoffs, Jones has started a combined 131 games, by far the most in the league. The closest two goalies are Pekka Rinne and Braden Holtby with 117 and 116 games respectively. For a young goalie who, despite a great playoff run last year, is still relatively unproven, the number of games he’s starting could be cause for concern.
For Jones, in his second year as a starting goalie, this comes as no surprise. Last year he started 65 games and there was worry that the young netminder would burn out by the start of the playoffs. That of course was not the case as Jones, through stellar play, helped the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Final. However, it seems like there was a reason for his high number of starts.
For the first 60 games of the 2015-16 season Jones was backed up by Alex Stalock. In those games Stalock played in 13 and started only nine. By game 61 Stalock had been traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for James Reimer who went on to start eight of the remaining 22 games. So Jones received a lot of rest down the stretch leading into the playoffs. Reimer was integral in allowing the Sharks to comfortably give Jones that rest.
Stalock had been the Sharks backup for two seasons and despite posting a great .932 save percentage in his rookie year his save percentage plummeted to .902 the following year. In his last year it was even worse as he posted a .884; second worst among goalies with at least seven games played. It was clear that Peter DeBoer and his staff had little faith in him. They acquired Reimer, a goalie with solid numbers coming from a terrible Toronto Maple Leafs team at the time. They finally had a goalie who could relieve Jones with no dip in quality.
Dell or Trade
This year, with Reimer gone in free agency, the Sharks had to sign a backup or look within their organization. They went with the latter and Dell became the new backup. 50 games later Dell has started eight, nearly identical to Stalock. The difference however is that in those games Dell has been stellar posting a .930 save percentage. It seems like the coaching staff isn’t convinced though. Perhaps they fear a regression similar to the one Stalock went through after his first season as a backup. An argument could be made, however, that such a regression is less likely to happen with Dell. In the AHL, Stalock posted a .910 save percentage to Dell’s .924. Those numbers could suggest that Dell’s future in the NHL is much brighter than Stalock’s. In either case the Sharks won’t know until they give him more starts to prove himself.
Another possibility could be that the coaching staff is looking to copy last season’s formula that worked well for Jones. Giving him a heavy workload to start the season and then give him some extended breaks down the stretch leading into the playoffs was the method last year. That could bring Jones to around 60-65 starts, similar to last year’s total. With the trade deadline looming about a month away, the question is if General Manager Doug Wilson will make a move for a more experienced backup or if he will put his trust in Dell to get it done.
Either way, the Sharks must not burn out Jones, especially with the heavy lifting that he needed to do to get the team to the pinnacle last season. Though the defense in front of Jones has been very impressive allowing the third-fewest shots against per game (27.1), the spring is an entire different animal. Having Dell increase his experience in case of injury or acquiring a goalie would be in the team’s best interest to make sure he’s ready for another run.