Remember yesterday when the Vancouver Canucks said that Ryan Miller wasn’t injured enough to miss out on Tuesday’s game?
Markstrom starts vs. Lightning; Miller should be fine, #Canucks will not recall anyone. Maintenance day for Higgins.
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) December 21, 2015
Yeah, they may have spoken a little bit too soon…
#Canucks recalling Joe Cannata, Ryan Miller will not back-up tonight, says coach.
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) December 22, 2015
If you’ve been a Canucks fan for a long time (which I’m assuming most of you reading have been), you’ve noticed a theme with this team.
They seem to have no trouble getting good, young, talent in net. From the early years of Roberto Luongo to Corey Schneider, Jacob Markstrom to Eddie Lack, the Vancouver Canucks have never had their shortage of high hopes when it comes to netminders in the system.
Their problem, of course, is that they trade all the good young talent away. That leaves the club with guys like 35 year old Ryan Miller, who is inked to an albatross of a contract in what can kindly be called the waning hours of his heyday and can not-so-kindly be called his ‘decline period’, instead of Schneider. Or Lack. Or even Luongo, whose decline seems to be happening at a much slower rate than Miller’s.
In any case, Miller has been in and out of the lineup since getting inked to his three year deal, battling various injuries that leave the club scrambling to tandem their ‘next chance’ prospects with whomever is second in command at the time.
Right now, that’s going to be prospect Joe Cannata and backup Jacob Markstrom.
Who is Joe Cannata?
Drafted by the Canucks in the sixth round (173rd overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Cannata is a Massachusetts-born goaltender who spent his formative years in the NAHL and the NCAA.
A four year starter for Hockey East’s Merrimack College, Cannata spent his first post-grad year as a pro split between seeing limited starts with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves and getting some ice time with the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings.
From there, it looks like he took a step backwards; although his 2013-2014 season was spent exclusively with the Utica Comets, Cannata started for the ECHL’s Ontario Reign last year and only saw AHL ice in five games. His numbers have been consistently good – the 25 year old netminder has never posted a yearly average below a .900 at any level of play higher than the NAHL – but a drop to the ECHL is often viewed as the kiss of death for prospects by fans and media alike.
Cannata’s situation is somewhat unique, though.
Like Cory Schneider, Cannata (who, incidentally, trained under Schneider’s goalie coach in Massachusetts as well) went the NCAA route and then fed into his club’s system; he arrived as an older prospect than one who opts for the CHL or comes post-draft from overseas, so it looks like he’s been around forever. To many, that reads ‘bust’.
The Canucks had a weirdly distributed depth chart in their last few seasons, though. The club brought in both Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom around the same time that Cannata would have been moving to the top of Vancouver’s depth chart, instead relegating Markstrom to the AHL and pushing Cannata back down to the ECHL. Where Cannata probably could have played AHL hockey last year – and ultimately held his own in a recall or two – he sat behind Markstrom in the depth chart. Rather than limiting his starts, the club gave him a full workload in Ontario; smart, but tough on his chances of seeing NHL ice.
This year, that’s changing. Eddie Lack is in Carolina, Markstrom is in the NHL, and Ryan Miller is still getting hurt. Cannata finally has his call-up, and it’s been a long time coming.
Cannata boasts a .907 raw save percentage this year at the AHL level over 16 starts, going 9-5-2 in that time and earning both his first AHL shutout and one of the strongest starts to the season earlier in the fall.
College hockey fans were frustrated by Cannata, because he often kept his team in games that they had no business being in; he’s a calm-demeanored netminder with a relatively conservative style, playing off technique rather than pure reflex and athleticism, and it’s served him well over time. He has a few standout seasons fans could point to as reasons he could succeed if thrown in net for Markstrom at some point this winter, but the best argument is that he’s consistent; while every goaltender has bad games, Cannata has few (if any) bad seasons.
The hope, obviously, is that $6 million dollar man Ryan Miller is healthy again before Cannata really needs to do anything. It’s curious, though that the Canucks have recalled him over Bachman, though, who got the nod last time a goaltender went down; teams all operate differently, but this could be either good or bad news for Cannata.
It could mean that the Canucks don’t see a need to waste Bachman on a game call-up, which doesn’t bode well for Cannata’s standings with management. It could also mean, though, that the club wants to see if he’s capable of succeeding if he needs to stand in for Markstrom at all – and if he does well, this could be his ‘in’ to stick around for more than just this year.
The Canucks will see the puck drop tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning, heading to Florida for a 7:30 PM EST game start time. This is their last game before the Christmas break.