While other teams have been reacting to the draft and free agency with the urgency of an arsonist fleeing the building they set on fire (read as: the Boston Bruins), the San Jose Sharks have quietly been building up an impressive roster and number of future picks to use in trade or the Draft.
Since the offseason began the Sharks have made a number of moves, a few of which stick out.
- The Sharks sent Antti Niemi away to weigh the Stars down in goal in a slick move, eliminating the competition from within their own net
- San Jose traded for and signed Martin Jones as their probable starting goaltender
- They signed defenseman Paul Martin to their blue line
The Sharks have done an admirable job in reinventing their back end in just two moves. And while Martin is a fantastic defender, the more interesting move is the signing of Jones.
Martin is an established defender, and at 34 he’s on his way out of the league. It’s doubtful we’ll see him play past 40; even those in amazing shape and dedicated to the game find themselves clocking out right around there.
Jones, on the other hand, is just beginning the starter phase of his NHL career. At 25, he’s good to play for the next ten years, maybe more if luck is on his side.
The Sharks signed Jones to a contract worth almost twice that of Alex Stalock’s, indicating that Jones will likely take the starting role, even with Stalock’s strong numbers from the 2014-2015 season.
While Jones’s most recent season showed depressed numbers it is unsurprising when he was defended by the L.A. Kings who, for the 2014-2015 season, underwhelmed fans and analysts alike. Oftentimes their defense was similar to Swiss cheese in that it was flat, full of holes, and slightly sour-smelling.
Below is a video of a save Jones made on a Benoit Pouliot poke (not quite a shot, really) that should never have happened in the first place.
That Jonathan Quick posted even a .918 was a testament to how good a goaltender he is. However, Jones was stuck behind Quick on the Kings, and as good as he is, he’s not as practiced or as skilled as someone four years his senior.
San Jose will be the opportunity Jones needs to prove that he is capable of being the go-to player on the NHL level.
Jones is a large goaltender, standing at 6’4″. Once in his skates and pads he takes up even more of the net leaving nary an opening for players. He likes to come further out than others, cutting down on angles and is almost always ready to send a puck out for a quick redirect.
Not only is Jones fast and athletic, but more importantly, he’s steady in net. He makes the first and second saves, keeping cool through the third, not flopping or backing down when an opposing forward gets in his face and starts poking and jamming at the puck.
Another save from the same Oilers game as above demonstrates his ability to keep his calm.
Jones is a great goalie, but he has his flaws as well: flaws that might affect his starting position in San Jose.
First and foremost, his stamina needs work and for all his height, he comes in at under 190 pounds. Adding a little bulk to his frame would go a long way in helping him survive the regular season. As of now, Jones has never started more than 20 games at the NHL level, which is quite a bump up from the AHL.
But with those hurdles cleared after a summer of eating well, sleeping and building muscle, the Sharks will have a starting goaltender who can take them into the postseason and past the Kings, who eliminated them the last two times they made the playoffs.
He made the AHL’s postseason three years in a row on the Manchester Monarchs, posting combined save %s of .928 over the Monarchs’s postseason runs. He’s the all-time leader in wins for the Monarchs, 84 spread over four seasons. Even better, he tied an NHL record with eight consecutive victories to start a career and was the first goaltender in league history to give up an average of fewer than one goal in his first eight games, all done during the 2013-14 season.
Small wonder San Jose had their eye on Jones.
“Martin was at the top of our list of players that we had targeted,” Sharks GM Doug Wilson said in a press release. “We’re extremely excited to have him on board.”
We’ll see as the season develops if Jones knows how to do anything other than win. It won’t be wise to bet against him.