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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

CanucksArmy Roundtable: Thatcher Demko?

The Canucks entered their NHLPA mandated bye week running hot after a pair of road wins over the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild. The hope is that they can use that success as a launching point for a couple wins now going into the NHL All-Star break, too.

To do that, the Canucks are going to need to get better goaltending. Jacob Markstrom’s been playing well in 2018, but he’s yet to prove he can keep this type of play up. Anders Nilsson started the season off well enough, but he’s struggled from about late-November onward. As a tandem, Markstrom and Nilsson have the Canucks in the middle of the league by five-on-five save percentage and the bottom third in all-situations play.

It’s not the end of the world. Nobody expected the Canucks to compete for the playoffs this season, so goaltending isn’t robbing them of anything. I’d even go so far as to suggest many are all too happy to see a rebuilding team like the Canucks not fooling themselves into thinking they’re better than they are as a result of goaltending — it’s happened elsewhere.

Since the goal should be to build for a better tomorrow, many have suggested that the Canucks give their star prospect netminder Thatcher Demko a look at some point this season. I mean, why not, right? That’s what many have reasoned. I’m skeptical, so I’ve asked the CanucksArmy staff to give their take.

Always90Four

The demand to see the heir-apparent in net has come up since goal tending has been a sore spot lately. If Horvat and Sutter were in the lineup, this may not be a pressing issue but for myself, I would at some point when everyone is healthy, if that’s even possible, like to see Demko get a handful of starts. If he’s brought into a tire fire like it is right now, that won’t help anything. Give the guy a chance but not quite yet. Plus, why aren’t we talking about Brock Boeser more?

Cory Hergott

Personally, I would leave Demko in Utica. I would maybe give him a game or two down the stretch if one of Markstrom or Nilsson is banged up, but I wouldn’t bring him up to play behind this Canucks team as a starter, or to have him ride the pine and watch games. Thatcher is doing great work in Utica, but he is still growing his game. I see no need to rush him. Folks need to show some patience with prospects like Demko. There is a lot riding on him having a successful career with the Canucks, I’d rather not risk blowing his confidence by having him endure what will likely be a rough ride as the season winds down in Vancouver.

I feel like the Comets, if they get healthy, have a chance to be sneaky good if they happen to make the playoffs. I’d like to see Thatcher be a part of that, and I’m not sure they would have a chance without him.

Jackson McDonald

No

Vanessa Jang

Definitely not. There’s no sense in risking his development just for the sake of a “change” in goaltending. Markstrom and Nilsson are all too familiar with what being a starter (or 1A/1B) entails and they need to pull through the ups and the downs themselves. Demko is absolutely killing it in Utica and he’s the reason why they’re competitive. It’s already a tall order for him with all the struggles the team is facing, and the fact that he’s thriving is a great sign.

J.D. Burke

Canucks fans have long wanted a look at the future, and in a lot of ways, they’re getting that this season. It doesn’t feel like that’s the case in net. Markstrom hasn’t been terrible, though, he has been inconsistent. Nilsson has been all over the place, but has not been playing well for the last month-plus. Neither looks like the goalie of the Canucks future. Everything we hear about Thatcher Demko in Utica suggests he’s just the guy for the job. Goalies can take a while to develop though and Demko is still relatively young. Why put him into a tough situation unless you aboslutely have to or he’s proven beyond a shadow of doubt that he’s ready? Next season, Demko needs to get a shot for a game or two. This year, not so much.

  • Goon

    In 2009-2010 I think, Schneider was getting lots of starts in the AHL and was called up for a game or two when Luongo went down for injury. He played well, showed he was probably going to be ready for NHL duty soon, was sent back to the AHL when Lou returned, and was up for good the following season.

    I can see a similar thing happening here – if one of Markstrom or Nilsson is injured, call up Thatcher and give him a game or two. If they remain healthy for the whole season, leave him in the AHL and see if he can help carry the Comets to a playoff berth.

    • apr

      Pratt is also making the Schneider analogy with Demko, but what’s not discussed was how good of a team the Nucks were at that time. They had in their peak Edler, Ehrhoff, Mitchell, Bieksa, Salo, etc. So Schneider was fairly protected. If Tanev and Gudbrandson get traded, do you want to see Demko play behind Del Zotto, old Edler, Pouliot, Hutton, Holm, and Beiga. Its nice to see parallels between Demko and Schneider, but I don’t think its worth risking Demko losing his mojo getting ventilated with that D for the entertainment sake of seeing him play with the Nucks. Of course, a big part of me also wants to see him play.

      • Goon

        For two games as an injury replacement? Sure. If playing a game or two in less-than-ideal circumstances is enough to ruin your development, there was probably a serious problem there to begin with.

        • apr

          Emergency replacement – sure. But I don’t think very much of having him play in 6-8 games to mop up the season just to sell tickets, instead of a playoff run with Utica.

          • Goon

            Depends where Utica’s at. They’re a bubble team – if they’re eliminated with a handful of games left in the season, might be worth seeing how Demko handles himself. If they’re still in the hunt, though, better to give him the opportunity to carry the team to a playoff berth and get some pro-level playoff experience.

  • Blind Side

    One thing we can never accuse Canucks management of, is having too much patience. If I ever come into possession of a time machine, I am going to take fidget spinners and distribute them to every manager in the history of this club.

    If Demko, or any other young player, is doing well in the AHL, and is growing, that is exactly when they should be left there to continue developing. It’s when they start to show signs of needing more of a challenge that you look to get them time in the NHL. From what I have read, Demko looks like he is on a roll in the AHL. Leave him alone!

    We don’t need any more screw ups with young players. Cough, cough. Jake Virtanen. Cough, cough

  • Killer Marmot

    There’s a theory out there that if you throw a player into the deep end too soon, you could harm his development.

    I don’t think that’s a concern so long as the club shows some common sense. There’s no harm in bringing a prospect up to the NHL for a month or two. Both the player and the club will see where the he is in his development, and what he needs to work on. It might also inspire the player to work harder, having had a taste of the big time.

    And who knows? Maybe the Canucks will find that Demko is NHL-ready now.

    • Rodeobill

      Not only this, but the “fragile confidence” thought process, while applicable to some probably doesn’t apply to him as much. His major is in sports psychology, and should at the very least be able to cope with loss and mistakes. Also, no one considers the opposite… what if he rocks it, and it actually builds his confidence!? He goes back down feeling more assertive and develops even better. Just sayin’, if we are discussing ‘what ifs.’
      Regardless, like his history suggests that even if he bombs, he will learn from it and do what it takes to move on (I remember a rough game or two in preseason/young starts and the beginning of this season in Utica).

      Giving him his coffee is good for other prospects, as it shows hard work is rewarded, and I’m not worrying about breaking him. Regardless of whether he succeeds it should only help his development.

      • Killer Marmot

        A goalie that is emotionally fragile isn’t cut out for the NHL anyway. When they have a poor game — and they all do from time to time — there’s no hiding it.

  • Dirty30

    Isn’t this what happened with Miller? Management thought this team was better than reality eventually revealed?

    Not every team gets stellar goaltending and yet remains competitive on other attributes … right now this team has Brock Boeser and a lot of duct tape, pilons and bags of pucks.

    After the trade deadline it might be okay to bring Demko up for a few games just to get some exposure to the game at a different level.

    Otherwise, this team has more issues to address than just goaltending.

    • Goon

      Not really – Miller’s worst year with the Canucks was his first. He was well below league average that season, and was at or above league average in the two years that followed.

  • Cory Schneider said AHL shooters are high volume, low quality, with scrambly play. NHL shooters are low volume, high quality, with structured play. Since Demko is performing quite well at the AHL level, it wouldn’t hurt to start him in one or two games with no expectation of victory. For management, it lets them gauge his level of readiness and for Demko, it’s an opportunity to experience NHL play and identify new development goals.

  • myshkin

    if there’s an injury, bring him up. green has coached him in utica and now green’s coaching in the nhl so travis green is the guy who should make the decision, not the lame duck gm or the teflon president.

  • Bure Fan

    I’m not buying into the Demko over-hype whatsoever. His AHL numbers are nowhere near the level of Matt Murray’s during his tenure in the A and there are far better young goalies already delivering in the NHL like Jarry, Saros and Subban.

    Canucks dreamers really need to get a grip on reality – Thatcher Demko is NOT the next Patrick Roy or Marc Andre Fleury!

    • Kneedroptalbot

      Demko’s numbers have not been great in the AHL this year. Stick with the Twin Towers for the final half of this season, maybe give Demko a callup for the last 2-3 games this year. It will help him in the long run to play a lot this year ( in AHL), and also know that he’s close to the NHL once his game (sv %/gaa) develops.

    • Killer Marmot

      Demko has a .928 save percentage this year. Murray was .931 in his last year in the AHL. That seems pretty close.

      Nor do I recall anyone saying he was the next Roy or Fleury.

  • BlazerFan

    Bringing a prospect, especially one still on their ELC, who is playing well up from the AHL is also a type of financial bonus.
    Playing hockey is their job and financial recognition is a valid incentive.

  • truthseeker

    It’s pretty simple. If he’s earned it, then he should get it. Getting a game here or there near the end of the year should be a positive reinforcement motivator for him. He’s not an egg. He’s not going to crack and be ruined by a bad game in the NHL.

    If he’s done his job, shown his ability, and is judged by his coaches to have the confidence and all that other stuff…then not bringing him up for a reward like that is even worse for his confidence.

    (As mentioned by others…all other factors being accounted for like Utica’s playoffs etc…)

  • Cageyvet

    I’m not terribly concerned with this decision one way or the other, good points have been made on both sides of the debate.
    I tend to think that if there is no plan for him to be the backup next year, then there’s no rush to bring him up this season, barring injury.
    I’m not worried about his confidence or motivation either way. He’s going to get his chance soon enough and I’m sure he knows it. I think the factor that clinches it for me to leave him in Utica is the massive overreaction that the media and fan base will attach to his performance, good or bad. I don’t think he’d see more than a few games here, and I’d rather him be judged on a larger sample size. I don’t relish an offseason full of angst or hype based on a couple of meaningless games at the end of the season.

  • Silverback

    If the comets are in a playoff hunt, absolutely not. If the Canucks are a tire fire near the end of the sesson, leave him in Utica. Do not subject him to this kind of “reward”. Leave him with the guys he has bonded with for the full season. Let him help them pursue their goals. The only circumstances I would bring him up would be the end of the comets season. Otherwise, training camp is the obvious time for us to see him and perhaps have him start a few games with the Canucks.