In the game of hockey one of the most important aspects of how a team performs is based on how well their goaltender plays for them. If we look back through NHL history, we notice that all great NHL dynasty teams have had great goaltending.
From 1975-1979 The Montreal Canadiens won 4 straight Stanley Cups on the back of none other than their netminder, Ken Dryden.
From 1979-1983 the New York Islanders matched that feat thanks to their their own goaltender Billy Smith.
Then from 1983-1990 the Edmonton Oilers were victorious in 5 of 7 seasons once again with their own goaltending duo of Andy Moog and Grant Fuhr.
Sure the teams at that time were bolstered with high paid players with great skill, but the fact of the matter is, the team was built around great goaltending.
Fast-forward to today’s NHL, you see the same process being done by teams trying to build their own Stanley Cup winners. Most recently, the Boston Bruins who were led to the holy grail courtesy of Tim Thomas.
After years of great goaltenders entering and leaving Florida, the team finally decided to make a big splash, and roll the dice in 2008 when they selected Jacob Markstrom from Galve, Sweden, 31st overall in the NHL Entry Draft. Many questions were considered such as how would this Swedish goaltender perform on the big stage of the NHL spotlight, or could he be the guy to lead the Panthers out of the cellar basement once and for all.
While in Sweden during the 2009-2010 Season, Markstrom played great for Brynas appearing in 43 of the 55 clubs’ games, posting 5 shutouts and a .927 save percentage and a 2.01 GAA. It was numbers like these which caught the eyes of the Panthers’ organization, and Markstrom found himself on his way to North America where his new squad would need him.
Jacob played the 2010-11 season, his first in North America with the Florida Panthers’ AHL affiliate the Rochester Americans where he went 16-20-1, but posted a .907 save percentage and a 2.98GAA. Proving that while the club might not be the strongest, he was prepared to work night in and night out, and as Tomas Vokoun’s contract began to wind down with the Panthers, fans were beginning to become anxious to see their rookie phenom play.
Fast forward to this season, it appears as though Markstrom will spend most of the season in the AHL, despite a solid preseason, Florida already had Scott Clemmensen and Jose Theodore ready to go, but at the last minute, a glimmer of hope arose as Clemmensen was injured, and Markstrom made the cut.
On October 18th, Markstrom saw his first action of the season, against Tomas Vokoun and his new club, the Washington Capitals. Markstrom put on a beautiful display making 29 saves on 31 shots, but took the 3-0 loss as his club failed to provide any offense for him. His next game would be against the New York Islanders where he stopped all 18 shots in relief of Jose Theodore for his first victory with the club.
Willing to prove himself, he started the next game against the Montreal Canadiens, and stopped 40 of 41 shots in a 2-1 victory. His next two starts would result in a 4-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators and a 3-2 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. After which Markstrom was sent to San Antonio of the AHL since Clemmensen was healthy and ready to return.
Markstrom would get lucky again as Clemmensen went down to injury again, and would see action November 26th against the Lightning in a 5-0 loss. After the loss, Markstrom was once again sent down to San Antonio.
Many disgruntled fans are left scratching their heads, wondering when they would get to see this goaltender return to his high caliber play, or if he would get the chance to even do it again, after 3 straight losses with the Panthers. It also leaves many to wonder if sending a guy with so much potential down to the AHL is the right move.
This is part one of a two part series featuring Jacob Markstrom. Part two will feature if the organization is handling the situation in the right way, and what might be some factors influencing his current playing situation.