Do you remember what goaltender Martin Jones was doing four months ago?
Jones ended the 2012-13 season on a somewhat high note, playing well in goal for the Manchester Monarchs as the team was knocked out in the first round. He was seen as a dark horse for the Kings' backup job pending the inevitable Jonathan Bernier trade, but that speculation ended with the arrival of Ben Scrivens. Faced with the knowledge that he probably wouldn't be cracking the NHL, the restricted free agent... held out for two months. Coincidentally, he signed on the same day we highlighted him in our Top 25 Under 25. Langluy ended her analysis a-like so:
The simple fact is that, while Jones might still have a bright NHL future ahead of him, it's looking like that future may not be with the Kings. I can't judge a player for wanting to get paid what he thinks he deserves, but I also can't judge the team for playing hardball with a replaceable commodity. Goalies might take longer to develop than skaters, but Jones isn't a prospect fresh from juniors anymore - he's starting to reach the time in his career where he has to show real progress, or it'll be time to turn to other young guys eager and ready to supplant him.
Well, consider real progress shown. He had a great start to the season in Manchester, posting nine wins and a .927 save percentage in 13 starts. When Jonathan Quick got injured, Jones got the call-up, didn't play for two weeks, and then... well, you know what happened. Before Monday's 5-2 loss to Dallas, Jones won eight straight starts and stopped at least 92% of shots in every single one. (For the sake of comparison, Quick only did this seven times in his sixteen starts this season.) Rather than break down how awesome he was, though, let's try and figure out what this means for some important people.
Ben Scrivens: A Ticket Out of Town?
How quickly we forget. A month ago, Scrivens was the fan favorite, the goaltending savior, the big topic of discussion, and the middle finger to Toronto. But after what Nick called "another solid effort" against the St. Louis Blues, Martin Jones spelled Scrivens for a game against Anaheim... and decided he liked starting in goal, thank you very much. Suddenly, with his contract up this summer, Scrivens looks like the odd man out.
The problem is that Scrivens is due for a raise. He followed up last year's .915 season in Toronto with some excellent performances here; though he's never carried the starter's workload, he's shown enough to earn a deal as either a well-paid backup/platoon goalie or a starter. With Jones staking his claim to the backup job, there's no reason to keep Scrivens, especially if Sutter isn't a fan of Scrivens. (Then again, that's just based on some vague comments.)
The question is whether the Kings are willing to trade Scrivens now, to make sure that they get something of value for him. Will they find a desperate trading partner who will dangle a draft pick or a useful forward? Seems unlikely, but if Quick comes back and stays healthy, the Kings will explore that option.
Jonathan Quick: Back to the Bernier Days?
Let's get this out of the way: nothing is going to change for Jonathan Quick right away. He's the starter, and he'll be the starter for the foreseeable future. That's what a Vezina Trophy runner-up finish, a Conn Smythe, and a Stanley Cup earns you. Although his starting position was never really in question with Jonathan Bernier in town, any prolonged stretch of poor play would immediately kick off speculation and debate as to whether Bernier ought to play more. That ended with the Bernier-Scrivens trade, and even with a below-average first month, there was no real pressure on Quick to perform better.
Now, Martin Jones is the backup that fans are going to call for in any times of struggle. There's no goaltending controversy, but if Jones continues to excel, Quick's going to be right back to holding off a younger prospect in goal as the fans scream his name.
Coaches and Management: More Credit!
Darryl Sutter: His unorthodox goaltending choices boosted Jones, motivated Scrivens, and will help Quick!
Dean Lombardi: Wait, Jones was undrafted?! Way to go, GM!
Bill Ranford: What a stable of goaltenders! Ranford brought the best out of them!
Those three came out of this whole thing looking pretty good, huh?
Martin Jones: Job Security! (Sort Of)
Quick is very close to returning, and he's traveling with the team on this upcoming road trip. This might spell the end of Martin Jones' time in Los Angeles, as he can go down to Manchester without consequence. Regardless of his immediate movement, though, he's shown enough to solidify his future in Los Angeles. Next October, it'll be a huge surprise not to see him on the Kings' Opening Night roster backing up Quick.
In the meantime, maybe he can take Manchester by storm.