Last season, the San Jose Sharks were the forgotten disappointment. At one point in December, they were 19-10-4 and looking more and more like a true contender. They moved past the drama from the offseason involving the front office and some of their veterans, like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. It seemed like everyone was finally on the same page.
It didn’t take long after that for everything to fall apart. Their collapse couldn’t even get proper coverage thanks to the collapses of the Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs. Even as a disappointment, the Sharks couldn’t be the best.
The reason for the downfall of the Sharks had a lot to do with the man in net. Whether it was Antti Niemi or Alex Stalock, neither could really carry the team during points where they needed them to. The team as a whole ranked 28th in goals against, letting in 2.8 goals per game. No team is going to make the playoffs allowing that many goals.
The Sharks knew they were going to move on from Niemi this offseason. He was a free agent, and there was a mutual decision that they did not want to re-sign him. They traded his rights to the Dallas Stars, and they could be moving on faster than first thought. The Sharks knew there was one unstable prize on the free agency market in Devan Dubnyk, and the next best option was then Niemi, but the front office had something else in mind.
Martin Jones would have never been available if he were still on the Kings. There was no way they would send him to a division rival. Luckily for San Jose, the Kings sent him to the Bruins in the Milan Lucic trade.
Jones could be the best goalie in the league if everything falls the right way. He has that much upside. He wasn’t perfect last season, but with Jonathan Quick healthy, he was only able to play once every three weeks. That kind of work load is counter-active for a goalie’s growth. He was cold during almost all of his games. He was inconsistent, but when he was on, he was great. He had three shutouts in 11 starts. His numbers would have been much better if you take out one six-goal drubbing at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens. The year before, when he was given the starting job during Quick’s injury, he put up Vezina-like numbers. In 19 games, he had a 1.81 GAA and a .934 save percentage.
The Sharks have not had a guy who can carry the firepower that is their offense. They get into the playoffs, where everyone has a very good offense, and they collapse. Most notably, they blew a 3-0 lead to the Kings on their way to their second Stanley Cup. Jones was in that Kings locker room. He knows what it means to never give up.
This may have been the best move of the offseason. Everyone is talking about Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins or Brandon Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Jones to the Sharks fixes the team’s biggest problem by far. They needed a guy to take the reigns in net. They thought Stalock could be that guy, but they were wrong. Jones is that guy, and he can take them to a place they’ve never been. They are under the radar right now, but by mid-season, they will be true contenders.