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.
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?
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.
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.
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.