Our countdown to the 2016-17 season continues, with 31 days to go...
Okay, we all understand that the playoffs outweigh anything else when it comes to a goaltender’s performance, right? So anything we say here is going to be overshadowed by what happened in the 2015-16 postseason. The San Jose Sharks beat the Los Angeles Kings, Martin Jones beat Jonathan Quick, and immediately the chatter started: did LA get rid of the wrong guy? It got a lot louder around June 9, when Jones put up a brilliant 44-save performance in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. #31 had arrived.
The argument that Jonathan Quick should have been traded instead of Martin Jones is a reasonable one, though it’s probably a waste of time to discuss; even though Quick is older and has had more injuries in recent years, and even though Quick would have fetched a king’s ransom, it was never going to happen. The more immediate conversation after the Kings were eliminated was: if Jones had been in the LA net instead of Quick, would they have done better?
If we’re just talking about last season... no. The two ‘tenders put up remarkably similar statlines during the regular season. Quick stopped 91.81% of all shots he faced; Jones stopped 91.75%. Jones had six shutouts to Quick’s five. Quick went 40-23-5; Jones went 37-23-4. Quick played 250 more minutes over the course of the season, but the two were otherwise equal in almost every regard. And unfortunately, that just doesn’t make for an interesting debate over who’s better. Quick struggled in the first round last year compared to Jones, but given the way San Jose played, I’m not sure it mattered.
Even more eerie: the Kings’ backup, Jhonas Enroth, and the Sharks’ backup, James Reimer, each posted .922 save percentages in 2015-16. So by season’s end, both Jones and Quick were equally outperformed by their understudies. No one was arguing for either of them to take the full-time gig, though; after all, Jones put up a .934 save percentage playing behind Quick and his .915 save percentage in 2013-14, but the following season, Jones plummeted to a .906. It’s a good thing Jones only played in 15 games... LA could’ve easily missed the playoffs if he’d gotten a larger share of the workload.
(Wait, they missed the playoffs anyway? You’re kidding!)
Anyway. Sharks fans should be thrilled with the postseason campaign Jones had, even if his .923 save percentage in the playoffs didn’t touch Quick’s performances in 2011-12 and 2012-13. (Jones did outplay 2013-14 Jonathan Quick, but no one’s harping on that, and why would they?) He showed flashes of being a great goaltender. On the balance of last season, though, you simply can’t say that the Kings missed Martin Jones. Jonathan Quick’s been a very consistent goaltender over the last three seasons, and Jones has been the exact opposite; the jury is still out on whether Jones can back up last season’s breakout playoff performance.