Two weeks ago, the Florida Panthers made a decision to send struggling young goaltender Jacob Markstrom to the AHL. The move was meant to be one that would allow Markstrom to get his confidence back more than one designed to be a slap in the face, and so far it seems to be working. The Panthers have gone 3-2-1 since sending Markstrom down, as Tim Thomas is starting to find his game again. Markstrom was hit with a 3-2 loss in his first game for the San Antonio Rampage but has since gone on to win three consecutive games while posting a sub-2.00 goals-against average during that time. The Panthers may not be quite ready to bring him back up just yet, but they have to be pretty happy with what they have seen so far.
Letting Markstrom play in San Antonio makes sense for numerous reasons. Although it was assumed the starting job in Florida was his this season, the Panthers had a chance at Thomas and they went with him instead. Thomas is signed only for this seasons, and the other goaltender in the mix (Scott Clemmensen) will also be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. This is also the last season in which Markstrom is on a two-way contract, so he either starts for the Panthers or will be moved elsewhere. The Panthers’ offense hasn’t done much this season (27th in the league in goals per game), and their defense has been downright horrible (26th in the league in goals-against). Playing under those circumstances wasn’t doing much for Markstrom’s confidence, and now he still has a great opportunity if he can be patient. The Panthers are on track for a high draft pick for a second consecutive season, and if they can start turning things around with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau leading a group of talented young players they won’t be at the bottom of the standings much longer.