This goalie prospect has had an up-and-down career after being drafted in 2011. Now that he's recovered from knee surgery, can he re-establish himself in the high scoring QMJHL?
Chris Gibson (G, Chicoutimi Saguenéens) 8 GP, 3.19 GAA, .892 SV%
The Kings’ 2011 second-round draft pick has already established a reputation amongst the fanbase as a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. The young Finnish goalie back-stopped his national junior team to a bronze medal at the 2010 World U18 Championship, and had a solid 2010-11 season (2.42/.920 SV% in 37 starts) to justify his high draft selection, then sort of fell off of a cliff. His mediocre numbers in 2011-12 (2.97/0.893 SV% in 48 starts) raised some concerns, and many people were looking towards this season to provide some indicator of his true performance level.
Putting the numbers in context
On the surface, things clearly do not look good. But I’m telling you: don’t look at the numbers. Those who follow the QMJHL closely tell me that the free-wheeling offensive nature of the league and the stark lack of team-level parity make it very difficult to gauge goaltender performance based on these stats. The stingiest team in the league this season, the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, has a GAA of 2.40, while the most generous team, the Sherbrooke Phoenix, has a GAA of 4.75. Four-point-seven-five. We can only presume the lovechild of Vesa Toskala and Dan Cloutier tends net in Sherbrooke.
The unreliability of these numbers is particularly true for Gibson, who was out almost a month this season due to knee surgery, and therefore has a sample size of just 395:36 minutes played.
Just for fun, and also because I needed something to fill this space, I went through the first five games he’s played this season and broke them down:
- Game 1, Chicoutimi v Quebec: in the season opener, Gibson was pulled after allowing seven goals on 25 shots. Quebec is one of the best teams in the Q, but that’s pretty shaky.
- Game 2, Gatineau v Chicoutimi: 31-save shutout, baby. Of course, the Olympiques are not very good.
- Game 3, Victoriaville v Chicoutimi: three goals on 23 shots from the mediocre Tigres.
- Game 4, Baie-Comeau v Chicoutimi: no idea what’s going on here. Gibson is listed in the game summary as the back-up – he got sent in for 0:26, let in one of two shots, and ????
- Game 5, Chicoutimi v Baie-Comeau: in his first game back after knee surgery, Gibson came in as relief, and let in three goals on 16 shots against the high-scoring Drakkar.
He then went on to win his next three games, bringing him up to a .909 SV% for the month of November. This includes a solid performance in a 2-1 shootout win over the strong Quebec team that gave him so much trouble in his first outing, even turning aside a penalty shot in the process.
In short, it’s impossible to draw any useful, rational conclusions from such a scattershot and limited data set. Those who have watched him play note that Gibson has strong basic skills, and that the mechanics of his game are solid, despite his struggles with mental fortitude. At this point, the only thing to do with Gibson is hope that his health troubles are behind him and that he regains the trust of the Saguenéens coaching staff, and then wait to see how the rest of the season turns out.