Why Martin Jones Rest Vital to San Jose Sharks Success

May 30, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones (31) makes a save against Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Phil Kessel (81) in the second period of game one of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports
May 30, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones (31) makes a save against Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Phil Kessel (81) in the second period of game one of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports /

The San Jose Sharks are overplaying their starting goalie. Following are several reasons they must find Martin Jones rest to win a Stanley Cup…

The San Jose Sharks sit atop the Pacific Division 33 games into the 2016-17 NHL season because they defend well. After starting 29 of those games, it is time to give Martin Jones rest.

Jones has started more games than any goalie but Cam Talbot (31) of the Edmonton Oilers. It is interesting to note they were the top backup goalies acquired to be starters in the summer of 2015.

This is not to say Jones is not playing well. He is 17-11-1 with a .920 save percentage (sv%) and 2.09 goals-against average (GAA). He is even excelling during the heaviest workload: Tuesday was his fifth start in eight days, during which his numbers are 4-1-0, .919 and 2.03.

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The Case for Giving Martin Jones Rest

The problem is that Jones is currently on pace to start 72 games by the end of the 2016-17 NHL season. Head coach Peter DeBoer told the Gackle Report Wednesday that he is not worried about overtaxing his goalie, but that kind of workload wears on anyone not named Martin Brodeur.

No other expansion-era goalie has started more than 83 percent of his team’s games and won the Stanley Cup that season. The Sharks have only three seasons with a goalie starting 70-plus. All saw a drop in performance from the regular season.

Arturs Irbe started 74 games in the 1993-94 NHL season. His numbers were 30-28-16 (the last figure being ties back then), .899 and 2.84 GAA. They dipped to 7-7, .875 and 3.72 in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Feb 11, 2015; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks retired goalie Evgeni Nabokov (20) waves to the crowd during a ceremony before the game against the Washington Capitals at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
Evgeni Nabokov is the best case study for giving Martin Jones rest. Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports /

Evgeni Nabokov used to say heavy workloads suited him, but numbers say otherwise. Unlike Jones, he was notably worse on the second game of back-to-back nights.

Not surprisingly, Nabokov had the other two seasons with 70-plus starts. He played in 77 games during 2007-08, going 46-21-8 with a .910 sv% and 2.14 GAA. He was 6-7, .907 and 2.18 during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Nabokov also started 71 games during the 2009-10 NHL season. He went 44-16-10 with a .922 sv% and 2.43 GAA. However, he was just 8-7, .907 and 2.56 in the postseason.

Similarly, Antti Niemi showed possible fatigue after the 2010-11 NHL season. He played in just 60 games overall (35-18-6, .920 and 2.38) but 36 of the last 37.

His numbers during that stretch were great: 27-5-4, .930 and 2.03. However, he was just 8-9 with an atrocious .896 sv% and 3.22 GAA in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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Countering the Counterexample

In the lockout-shortened 2013 NHL season, Niemi played 43 of 48 games for a 24-12-6 record, .924 sv% and 2.16 GAA. He did then go 11-7 with a .930 sv% and 1.87 GAA in two postseason rounds.

However, he not only played fewer games overall that season but also got rest during the Stanley Cup playoffs. A first-round sweep gave him a week between games, effectively giving him a fresh start. San Jose would be wise to rest Jones if it wants him fresh enough to win after Mother’s Day.

The Case for Playing Aaron Dell

May 23, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones (31) is congratulated by goalie James Reimer (34) after defeating the St. Louis Blues in game five of the Western Conference Final of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center. The Sharks won the game 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports
The impact James Reimer had last spring is evidence the San Jose Sharks should give Martin Jones rest. Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports /

The Sharks admitted last postseason that acquiring James Reimer to spell Jones was critical. That move was necessary because Alex Stalock was miserable for anything more than mop-up duty.

They are currently trying to put some space between them and their Pacific Division rivals. Their scoring has been missing until recently. One can understand head coach DeBoer leaning on Jones.

Moreover, backup Aaron Dell had only most of one season as an AHL primary starter. He had never seen more than preseason action prior to this 2016-17 NHL season.

However, Dell should not be on the roster if he cannot be trusted. So far, he has only been allowed to start against the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes. That is kind of a problem since San Jose is done with both.

What more can Dell do to earn starts but play well? He is 3-1-0 with a .932 sv% and 2.02 GAA in four starts. He had a save percentage above .900 all four times and never allowed more than three goals.

Even his relief appearance (.889, 3.07) against the Pittsburgh Penguins was much better than Jones did that day. At some point, DeBoer has to trust Dell against the Western Conference. The Sharks only have 13 games left against the Eastern Conference and four of them come on a single road trip.

San Jose Sharks
Perhaps the best case for the San Jose Sharks giving Martin Jones rest is Aaron Dell’s play. Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports /

Advance Planning Martin Jones Rest

There are some perfect dates to get Dell in net coming up. DeBoer can use him next in San Jose against the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday, Dec. 30.

That way he plays one night of a back-to-back set but still draws an Eastern Conference team. The same is true of the Tampa Bay Lightning visit Jan. 19.

If Dell does not make his Western Conference debut in the back-to-back Alberta trip Jan. 10 and 11, he should get it Jan. 23. A visit with the miserable Colorado Avalanche seems the perfect half of a back-to-back trip to start him. The Sharks then visit the Winnipeg Jets Jan. 24.

Dell could also start one of a back-to-back set in February at the Arizona Coyotes and home against the Boston Bruins. San Jose’s five days off afterwards might persuade DeBoer to put Jones out for both, but neither game should be critical.

The Pacific Division-rival Coyotes will be sellers at the 2016-17 NHL season trade deadline just days after the game. The Bruins are in the Eastern Conference.

There are also 16 games in March, including five sets on back-to-back days. There are two with more than 24 hours between puck-drop times, one of which has two days off both before and after the games.

Minimum Job Requirement

That means Dell must start three, should start four and would ideally start five March games. Jones can then take one of the four games in April off.

April’s docket is against the three Canadian Pacific Division rivals. All are hosted once. The Vancouver Canucks are the only team the Sharks play on the road and should be eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs before either game (April 2 and 4).

However, the 11 back-to-back sets left this 2016-17 NHL season are more crucial. Jones exceeds the 68-game threshold that only Brodeur has won a title with if he starts both games more than once.

An NHL backup has to be able to start more than a dozen games per season. If DeBoer does not feel Dell can do that despite early results, the Sharks need to find someone that can fast.