The fifth significant prediction of August for the 2016-17 San Jose Sharks concerns the performance of starting goalie Martin Jones…
The San Jose Sharks have the full range of possibilities before them as camp lies over six weeks away. The starting point and rules for the August predictions were laid out in the first piece of the series addressing the backup goalie. The fifth prediction examines starter Martin Jones.
Jones decisively answered those viewing him as San Jose’s biggest question mark as a first-year starter going into the 2015-16 NHL season. How will he fare the season after playing 89 games over eight-plus months?
Jones was brilliant during the postseason outside of one game: 14-10, .923 save percentage (sv%) and 2.16 goals-against average (GAA) overall. However, he had a winter slump that left him with fairly modest final numbers for the 2015-16 NHL season (37-23-4, .918 sv%, 2.27 GAA) and he has not proven he is a starter for the long haul yet.
Prediction No. 5: Martin Jones will prove that last year was not an aberration. To do this, he must exceed his numbers from last season (except perhaps starts, though he may exceed those as well because there is no proven backup behind him). Expect him to hit the 40-win mark with better than a .920 sv% and lower than a 2.20 GAA.
He will also have to perform in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He does not have to be a Conn Smythe contender like he was last spring, but he has to perform to standards that are at least more or less in line with his expected performance during the 2016-17 NHL season.
There is every reason to believe in him. The arc of his career has been rising and this was his first chance at playing frequently for more than spurts. He should continue to get better after having gone through a season of full-time action.
That does not mean it is a given. The number of goalies that wandered off the track after a good start to their careers is beyond quantifying.
Jones will be able to handle it. Neither stating that nor declaring he will not peak yet in the 2016-17 NHL season are not especially bold predictions.
Thus we go a step further: Jones is not even going to be a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the season’s best goalie. Hopefully establishing a ceiling and floor on his performance makes the prediction narrow enough to be worthwhile.
Fortunately, he does not have to carry San Jose. He can lean on the world’s best blue line and one of the deepest forward units to carry the load.
That support and solid goaltending is enough for the Sharks to play deep into May. The only thing left is to watch it happen.
Jones is young enough to expertly backstop San Jose into the next decade. He also has enough young skaters to sustain contender status. The only thing left to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.