The Vancouver Canucks took a gamble when they signed goaltender Anders Nilsson to a multi year deal this past summer, bringing him on board as a replacement for Ryan Miller alongside Jacob Markstrom.
At best, he was expected to put up similar stats to his 2016-17 season with the Buffalo Sabres, where he was good for a .923 save percentage in 26 games behind Robin Lehner. At worst, they hoped he would be a decent tandem pairing for Markstrom, filling the void until Thatcher Demko was ready for full-time NHL action without placing too much pressure on Markstrom alone.
Instead, as the season quickly descended into a free-fall, Nilsson struggled as much as any other player on the team. Where he had been a bright spot on a poor Sabres roster the year prior, he was unfortunately as much a part of the problem as anyone else during his 2017-18 campaign—and now, the team will have to decide if that’s worth the $2.5 million he’ll cost them next year instead of dealing him out.
Anders Nilsson Career Numbers
For a guy as large as Nilsson, there’s little need to come way out and challenge at the top of his crease; despite this, the Swedish-born net minder found himself reverting to a more European-friendly style of goaltending by the end of the year with aggressive positioning that left his net exposed too often.
That being said, there was little about Nilsson’s game that screamed total incompetence, but rather seemed to more imply that he, like the rest of the team, had lost his grip on the season by the end.
A .901 save percentage in 27 games is a steep drop-off after the year prior, and it was an ultimate disappointment after Nilsson started the year potentially challenging Markstrom for the starting job.
Part of the problem over his career as a whole, though, has been a noted lack of consistency from game to game. In a 105 game sample-size, the 27-year-old Lulea, Sweden native has just a .418 Quality Start percentage, including a fairly abysmal .333 QS% during this past season. After posting five quality starts in his first seven games – including two shutouts and a minimum .926 save percentage in those five games – he would only post four quality starts in the next 13 games, and wouldn’t put up another quality performance until his final appearance of the year on April 7th.
When the Canucks passed through Arizona just before the end of the season, Markstrom was frank in his analysis of the team.
They hadn’t checked out, he said. They all knew that everyone was auditioning for a role come next season. Not everyone, he suggested, would be back, and the entire team was aware of it.
In the case of guys like Nilsson, it looked a lot like he was trying too hard to pull his stats out of their free-fall, so it’s possible he’ll bounce back next year.
Given the way his numbers have trended in North America every year aside from his stint in Buffalo, though, it’s hard to be overly confident in this outcome.