The Florida Panthers had an opportunity to upgrade their goaltending situation over the past year, with several available options out on the trade market, as well as some names on the free agent market that would serve as capable backups, and potentially as guys that could handle a string of consecutive starts.
Rather than choose to upgrade their current tandem, the Panthers will roll with Jacob Markstrom and Scott Clemmensen between the pipes this season. That’s understandable, given the fact that Markstrom is a young goaltender with plenty of upside. But what if he’s unable to handle the starting job?
The Panthers obviously expected to be better in 2013-14. Let’s face it, it’s hard to get worse than finishing in the bottom of the league standings, in addition to finishing near the bottom in every statistical category. But if they don’t get consistent goaltending from Markstrom, will they be able to hang with their own division, let alone in contention for a playoff spot?
Markstrom showed flashes of being a very capable goaltender last year. The team in front of him will be healthy, which means they should be much better than they were in his first year. However, if he’s the type of guy who’s going to go out and give up three or four goals a night, the Cats could be in trouble.
What’s the contingency if that happens? Clemmensen is a career backup, and not necessarily a guy that you want taking a bulk of the starts in the vent that Markstrom can’t hack it. At least bringing in a backup who is capable of stepping into a larger role, even if they didn’t feel the need to go out and acquire someone like Roberto Luongo, would have made some sense.
It’ll be interesting to see how things shake out for Markstrom and the Panthers in goal this season. He was given a short term contract to prove his worth as a starter. No one is saying he won’t take advantage of that opportunity. But in the event that he does struggle, and prove that he might not be much more than a backup at this level, do the Panthers have a plan? Or will they watch the playoffs from home again next summer?