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InGoal 2015-16 Preview: Pacific Division

InGoal 2015-16 Preview: Pacific Division

Pacific

It’s October, which means a new NHL season is beginning. To prepare, the InGoal staff took a deep look at every team’s goaltending situation, from starters to backups to the minors and more. Taking into account both statistical and observational evaluations, we give you a look into what might happen for each team.

The statistics in this series are drawn from War-on-Ice.com. Because every goaltender sees a different amount of time on the power play and penalty kill, we are using 5-on-5 stats only. All save percentage figures are for the 2014-15 season only. Age and contract data are for 2015-16 and beyond.

For those unfamiliar with these stats, Adjusted Save Percentage accounts for some differences in the kinds of shots each goaltender faces, mostly location but also some rebounds and rush chances. High Danger Save percentage includes only shots from the slot. This is the part of adjusted save percentage that appears to predict future performance best and thus may tell us the most about individual goaltenders. More information is available here.

Also check out the season previews for the AtlanticCentral, and Metropolitan divisions.

Anaheim DucksAnaheim_Ducks

Frederik Andersen

Age: 26
Contract Status: $1.15M until 2016
Games Played: 54
Save %: 92.09
Adjusted Save %: 91.90
High Danger Save %: 83.00

Even though the Anaheim Ducks came within one win of reaching the Stanley Cup final, Frederik Andersen has plenty of critics. Failing to get the job done on a team with aspirations of winning the Stanley Cup will do that, but the team certainly didn’t fall short because of Andersen.

Heading into his age 26 season, Andersen has a career save percentage of .918 in 82 games, which is respectable enough to comfortably land him the starting job. When he is on his game, he can act as a calming influence on the Ducks. His teammates make his job easier as a result.

With the tight defensive system in front of him, Andersen’s adjusted save percentage struggles – but his high danger save percentage was around league average last season. He may not be a statistically elite goaltender, but teams have won with less, and Andersen should be hitting his stride in the middle of his prime.

Anton Khudobin

Age: 29
Contract Status: $2.25M until 2016
Games Played: 34
Save %: 90.30
Adjusted Save %: 91.02
High Danger Save %: 77.43

With the Ducks clearly looking to keep John Gibson in the minors for more seasoning, they reached out and acquired Anton Khudobin from the Carolina Hurricanes in an under-the-radar move. The trade will give the team some veteran stability if Andersen falters. They attempted to do the same thing with Jason LaBarbera and Ilya Bryzgalov last season, but both goaltenders failed to meet expectations.

Stylistically, you cannot find two goaltenders on separate sides of the ledger than Khudobin and Andersen. Khudobin is an undersized, rhythm-based goaltender that lives and dies by his ability to move around the crease on his skates. Andersen likes to play much deeper, and uses his size to his advantage with economical movements in the butterfly. It could be a challenge for the Ducks’ defence to have to change their playing style based on which goaltender is in the net.

Other Options

The future of the organization remains John Gibson, who is still only 22 years old. He’s not as far off as some people think he is – after all, he matched Andersen’s .914 save percentage in the regular season last year in 23 games. Matt Hackett, a former highly touted prospect, will likely split time with Gibson in San Diego of the AHL.

Off-season Changes

The biggest change was the acquisition of Anton Khudobin, which allows the team to continue developing John Gibson at the AHL level. Gibson was later inked to a three-year contract extension that will keep him with the organization until he is 25.

Outlook

The Ducks are set to make another run at Lord Stanley with a tweaked and revamped roster. They will ride the play of Frederik Andersen as much as they can, and have a veteran backup in Anton Khudobin that can step in and hold his own at the NHL level. Don’t expect this to be the year that John Gibson takes over at the number one. In fact, he may even play fewer NHL games in 2015-2016.

Arizona CoyotesArizona_Coyotes

Mike Smith

Age: 33
Contract Status: $5.66M until 2019
Games Played: 62
Save %: 91.21
Adjusted Save %: 91.24
High Danger Save %: 81.09

After an awful start in 2014-2015, Smith was quickly usurped from the starter’s role by Devan Dubnyk. Due to a lengthy contract extension, the Coyotes decided to flip Dubnyk to the Minnesota Wild. That’s not an ideal reason for getting the job back, but Smith will take it, and Dubnyk is flourishing in Minnesota.

Smith heads into this season with a lot to prove, and must continue the level of play from the end of last year if Arizona is going to have any type of success this season. His final 15 games of 2014-2015 saw him post a .930 save percentage – a number that he would replicate at the World Championships shortly after. His high-danger save percentage also jumped to .897 in the final 15 games, good for second-best in the NHL, and his adjusted save percentage was .955, which would have led the league if he kept it up for the entire season.

Anders Lindback

Age: 27
Contract Status: $875K until 2016
Games Played: 26
Save %: 91.37
Adjusted Save %: 90.84
High Danger Save %: 78.85

Everyone assumed that the Buffalo Sabres were throwing in the towel when they acquired Anders Lindback in exchange for Jhonas Enroth last season, but that move may have saved Lindback’s career. A .924 save percentage in 16 games with the dreadful Sabres was enough to convince the Coyotes to offer him the backup job.

Talent and size has never been an issue for Lindback, but will this be the year that he puts it all together? Time is running out for the 27-year-old, who will be working with newcomer John Elkin for the first time. He’ll be Lindback’s fifth new goaltending coach in five seasons.

Other Options

After allowing “goalie of the future” Mark Visentin to walk as a free agent this offseason, the Coyotes set their sights on bringing back Louis Domingue – who played well during a brief stint with the squad at the end of last season. They were shocked to find out that he was looking at options overseas, but he eventually relented and signed a new deal.

WHL-grad Marek Langhamer will be getting his first taste of professional hockey, and the under-the-radar signing of German-born Niklas Treutle (pronounced TROIT-leh) could prove to be a very crucial move to shore up the team’s goaltending depth.

Off-season Changes

Only time will tell if parting ways with Sean Burke as the goaltending coach and bringing in John Elkin as his replacement was a good move. Corey Schwab also joined the organization in a developmental role. Bringing in Lindback should be a fun experiment, and thankfully they were able to retain Louis Domingue, who now boasts some positive NHL experience.

Outlook

Even with Mike Smith primed for a bounce-back season, things look bleak for the Arizona Coyotes. During the best of times, Smith was used to facing a high amount of shots every night. Next season should be no different, with the Coyotes set to ice their youngest and most inexperienced lineup in years.

Calgary FlamesCalgary Flames

Karri Ramo

Age: 29
Contract Status: $3.8M until 2016
Games Played: 34
Save %: 91.85
Adjusted Save %: 92.24
High Danger Save %: 84.38

In a bit of a surprising move, Karri Ramo was brought back for another year in Calgary and named the opening day starter. His aggressive playing style allows him to be exceptional in one game, but dreadful the next. More consistency is necessary if Ramo plans on securing the starting role.

Head Coach Bob Hartley wasn’t afraid to use Ramo in crucial moments during the season, or in the playoffs, but with Joni Ortio hungrier than ever, making NHL money in the minors, expect there to be a lot of competition in the Calgary crease this season.

Jonas Hiller

Age: 33
Contract Status: $4.5M until 2016
Games Played: 52
Save %: 92.71
Adjusted Save %: 92.66
High Danger Save %: 85.31

Despite playing in 52 games and posting his best save percentage since 2010-2011, Jonas Hiller once again found himself in a battle for the starter’s job. He’s the most experienced goaltender on the Flames’ roster, but will still have to battle for ice time this season with Karri Ramo and Joni Ortio.

Calgary’s struggles with possession numbers have been well documented, but Hiller has proven that he can thrive in that type of environment. He seals the ice well, shuts down anything along the ice, and benefits from a large amount of blocked shots in front of him. All signs pointed to him being the starter, but coach Hartley likes to go with the hot hand and has decided to start the season with Ramo as the #1. Don’t be surprised if he is contained to the bench for long stretches at a time during the season.

Other Options

Joni Ortio and first year pro Jon Gillies will likely split time with Stockton of the AHL, unless the Flames decide to carry three goaltenders on their roster, or lose Ortio to waivers. Gillies isn’t expected to see any NHL action this season, but after a tremendous NCAA career and YoungStars tournament, stranger things have happened.

Off-season Changes

Aside from the two big additions of Michael Frolik and Dougie Hamilton, the only change in Calgary’s crease this offseason was a brand new one-year, $3.8M contract for Karri Ramo.

Outlook

GM Brad Treliving has done a great job of improving his team’s roster, but a regression is still expected after the team defied the odds in 2014-2015. How far the Flames go may rely on how much they are able to get out of their goaltending. If they ride Hiller, expect to see the Flames back in the playoff picture once again.

Edmonton OilersEdmonton_Oilers

Cam Talbot

Age: 28
Contract Status: $1.45M until 2016
Games Played: 36
Save %: 93.04
Adjusted Save %: 92.99
High Danger Save %: 86.17

Renewed optimism thanks to Connor McDavid, and a new regime led by Pater Chiarelli meant that the Edmonton Oilers also needed to fix perhaps their most glaring hole – in net. Is Cam Talbot finally the answer for a team that has struggled so much over the last ten years? A danger zone study of each of the goaltenders available this offseason concluded that Talbot was probably the best choice that they could have made, but he is certainly not a sure thing.

At 28-years-old, it was finally time for Talbot to lead a franchise. Unfortunately, if Edmonton’s defence is anything like last year, it will not be an easy task for the newcomer. The difference for the Oilers this season won’t be Connor McDavid, it will be how well Talbot fits in with his new team.

Anders Nilsson

Age: 25
Contract Status: $1M until 2016
Games Played: –
Save %: –
Adjusted Save %: –
High Danger Save %: –

Anders Nilsson was acquired to bring some competitiveness to the Oilers’ crease, and that’s exactly what he has done. He won the backup job because of a strong preseason, and convinced the Oilers to place last year’s starter Ben Scrivens on waivers.

His first stint in the NHL with the New York Islanders didn’t go very well, so he signed in the KHL for one season. Employing his knowledge of head trajectory, he has turned his game around and was phenomenal in the KHL last year. The Oilers are hoping that he has really turned the corner in his career.

Other Options

As previously mentioned, Ben Scrivens was placed on waivers for the purpose of being re-assigned to Bakersfield of the AHL. An .890 save percentage unfortunately doesn’t cut it at the NHL level. A change of situation may help Scrivens return to the level that he knows he can play at.

Laurent Broissoit, the 29th ranked goaltending prospect, should see a lot of action in Bakersfield as well. He’s an exciting young talent that had a cup of coffee with the big club at the end of last season, and did not look out of place. Eetu Laurikainen, a WHL grad that tore up the SM-Liiga in Finland last year, will provide added depth.

Off-season Changes

Cam Talbot will try to finally make things work for Edmonton after he was acquired in a trade from the New York Rangers. It’s no small task, and every move will be heavily scrutinized by Oilers fans. Acquiring Anders Nilsson remains an intriguing move, and he should play well enough to keep Cam Talbot on his toes.

Outlook

Things should improve under Cam Talbot. The Oilers still won’t be a playoff team, but he will make up for a lot of the team’s defensive deficiencies. Hopefully they will be able to score some goals under Todd McLellan and his not-so-secret weapon: Connor McDavid.

Los Angeles KingsLos_Angeles_Kings

Jonathan Quick

Age: 29
Contract Status: $5.8M until 2023
Games Played: 72
Save %: 92.78
Adjusted Save %: 92.51
High Danger Save %: 84.31

There is no question about who the man between the pipes will be in Los Angeles. Jonathan Quick will return for his eighth year as the starter, but will still face many questions heading into the season. After winning his first Stanley Cup in 2012, Quick has had one poor season, and two average seasons.

Quick’s mission will be to prove that he is still an elite goaltender at the NHL level. Time is working against him, as he turns 30 in January. After surgeries to his back and wrist, there will be concerns about if he can keep playing his aggressive, in-your-face style as he gets older. Time will tell if the Kings can rely on Quick to play as many games as he has in the past.

Jhonas Enroth

Age: 27
Contract Status: $1.125M until 2016
Games Played: 50
Save %: 91.51
Adjusted Save %: 91.64
High Danger Save %: 81.14

After splitting last season with the Buffalo Sabres and Dallas Stars, Jhonas Enroth decided to head to the west coast for his next challenge: Backing up Jonathan Quick.

Playing for two teams that gave up a lot of chances in Buffalo and Dallas did not do Enroth’s statistics many favours. He held his own, and impressed the Kings enough to sign him in the offseason. As one of the smaller goaltenders in the league, Enroth is required to play aggressively – something that the Kings D-core is already used to with Quick.

Other Options

The Kings don’t likely have plans to use any other goaltenders on their depth chart, but injuries do happen, and they have a few guys in the minors waiting to jump at an opportunity. J-F Berube and Patrik Bartosak won the Calder Cup with the Manchester Monarchs last season, the AHL affiliate for the Kings. This year they have relocated and will attempt to repeat in Ontario, California.

UPDATE: In an attempt to assign J-F Berube to Ontario of the AHL, he was claimed on waivers by the New York Islanders.

Off-season Changes

The Los Angeles Kings decided to make some changes among their forward group, acquiring Milan Lucic in a deal that saw youngster Martin Jones leave town. To fill the void of Jones leaving, the Kings signed Jhonas Enroth to a one-year, $1.25M contract.

Outlook

If Jonathan Quick cannot return to his elite level of play, expect the Kings to miss the playoffs once again. As their core ages, the reliance on Quick will only increase – he must be the difference maker if they plan on making any noise this season. It is crucial that he stays healthy.

San Jose SharksSanJoseSharks

Martin Jones

Age: 25
Contract Status: $3M until 2018
Games Played: 15
Save %: 91.57
Adjusted Save %: 91.53
High Danger Save %: 82.81

The Sharks are prepared to go into the season with Martin Jones as their starting goaltender. It may seem like a tall task to go from being undrafted to starting goalie in the NHL at 25, but Jones has paid his dues. He spent three years seasoning in the minors, split one additional year between the minors and LA, then one season as the full time backup to Jonathan Quick.

Although his NHL experience is limited to 34 games, he has plenty of pro experience. He has only made 29 NHL starts in his career, but of those 29 starts, 7 have resulted in a shutout. That stat could just be an oddity, but it does seem as if Jones is ready for the next step in his career. San Jose will be a great opportunity for him, and it adds another wrinkle to the Kings/Sharks rivalry.

Alex Stalock

Age: 28
Contract Status: $1.6M until 2016
Games Played: 22
Save %: 91.03
Adjusted Save %: 91.54
High Danger Save %: 78.99

The backup to start the year will once again be Alex Stalock. Injuries and inconsistent play have prevented him from developing into the goaltender that the Sharks had in mind. After a tremendous season in 2013-2014. Stalock took a step back last year. With a smaller-than-average frame, and a style that is heavily reliant on rhythm, it’s almost expected that his development would be a roller coaster ride.

The Sharks are still a team that emphasis skating ability with their goaltenders, and Stalock definitely fits their mould. With the acquisition of Martin Jones, it was obvious that they were disappointed in his performance, and were not comfortable handing him the reigns as the starter this season. At 28, he isn’t a young prospect anymore. He’ll have to fight for every second of playing time early on in the season.

Other Options

Troy Grosenick and Aaron Dell are the two men that will see most of the action for San Jose’s new AHL team, the Barracuda. Grosenick had a cup of coffee last season and picked up a shutout in his first NHL game. Dell is a late bloomer that has slowly made his way from the Central Hockey League, to the East Coast Hockey League, and now the AHL, where he enjoyed a solid season in 2014-2015. San Jose’s goaltending depth won’t jump off the page to most people, but it is there.

Off-season Changes

With Antti Niemi’s departure to Dallas, a new era of Sharks goaltending will hopefully be ushered in by Martin Jones. With a new three-year, $9M contract in hand – he looks to be their goalie of the future.

Outlook

The future is not as bleak as it may seem for San Jose. While the main core of their roster is older, some younger players look to step into larger roles this season. If Martin Jones can carry the load and give the Sharks average-to-slightly-above-average goaltending, expect them to be in the playoff picture.

Vancouver CanucksVancouver_Canucks

Ryan Miller

Age: 35
Contract Status: $6M until 2017
Games Played: 45
Save %: 91.41
Adjusted Save %: 91.28
High Danger Save %: 85.88

Vancouver’s Ryan Miller stands to be the second-oldest starting goaltender in the NHL when the season opens. That’s a bit of a weird choice, as the Canucks are a team in transition with no realistic chance of going on a deep playoff run. That being said, Miller brings a lot of experience to the club, and a strong stretch before being injured last season proved that he can still play.

Miller has proven that he can succeed in tough environments, based on his last few years in Buffalo. He doesn’t want to be labelled as a goalie that plays well on terrible teams, but his style tends to make people believe that. Working with Rollie Melanson, he has reeled his game back – but his true strength is in his ability to read plays, and aggressively shut forwards down. Don’t write him off completely this season.

Jacob Markstrom

Age: 25
Contract Status: $1.55M until 2017
Games Played: 3
Save %: 87.10
Adjusted Save %: 90.68
High Danger Save %: 66.67

After spending most of last year in the AHL, Jacob Markstrom will try to finally stay on an NHL roster for an entire season. His previous NHL endeavours in Florida, and briefly with the Canucks have been disastrous. The Canucks are hoping that his continued work with Dan Cloutier and Rollie Melanson have helped him figure out why he had such a hard time jumping from the ‘A’ to the big leagues.

Some of those issues, they think, stemmed from his overreliance on athleticism to make saves. He reluctantly started playing a bit deeper, removing some of the guess work from his game. This all comes with the hope that he can harness his 6-foot-6 frame, and finally stop having to reach to make saves. It looks like the hard work has paid off, after leading Utica to the Calder Cup final last season – and he has also been impressive so far in the preseason.

Other Options

Richard Bachman and Joe Cannata will provide the goaltending depth for the Canucks this year. With top pick Thatcher Demko remaining at school, Bachman and Cannata are simply there to provide some level of comfort in case an injury occurs to either Miller or Markstrom. Bachman has some NHL experience, and would likely be the first one called up.

Off-season Changes

GM Jim Benning angered a lot people in Vancouver by sending Eddie Lack to the Carolina Hurricanes in the offseason. For various reasons, he felt that it was the best move to make, otherwise the team would be forced to risk losing (the increasingly impatient) Jacob Markstrom on waivers again. The Canucks were also sad to see Joacim Eriksson leave for Europe in the offseason.

Outlook

The Canucks are not expected to make a lot of noise this season, but it won’t be a fault of their goaltending. Miller and Markstrom should be able to hold the fort most of the time, but the Canucks’ inability to score goals will inevitability be the cause of their demise.

About The Author

Greg Balloch

Greg Balloch is a Vancouver-based writer for InGoal Magazine, broadcaster for Sportsnet 650, and goaltending coach. His career began in Hamilton, Ontario with the Junior 'A' Hamilton Red Wings, before moving to Vancouver to cover the Canucks on the radio and work with the Surrey Eagles of the BCHL. A lifelong goaltender, he has been teaching the position for over a decade.