Let’s talk about the Vancouver Canucks’ goaltending situation
Photo credit:© Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
2 months ago
Entering this offseason, there was a degree of uncertainty surrounding the Vancouver Canucks’ goaltending situation.
There were essentially two schools of thought. One camp believed that the Canucks needed to go out and sign a veteran backup goaltender to solidify the NHL goaltending battery alongside Thatcher Demko.
The other camp — and ultimately the one the Canucks’ management group is in — believed that Spencer Martin is a capable NHL backup who was perhaps a little too in over his head when he was asked to start games behind a lacklustre Canucks defence group after Thatcher Demko went down with an injury at the start of December.
That camp also has a certain level of belief in young Arturs Silovs, who before shocking the world by leading Latvia to its first bronze medal at any IIHF event ever en route to picking up World Championship MVP, looked increasingly more comfortable and capable through each of his five NHL starts last season.
Silovs didn’t look out of place at the NHL level, and would have gotten a longer run of games had it not been for the return of Thatcher Demko pushing Silovs back down to the AHL.
So with all this in mind, how will the Canucks’ goaltending situation look next season? We’d anticipate something like this.
NHL tandem: Thatcher Demko and Spencer Martin, but maybe Arturs Silovs
There’s no doubt that Thatcher Demko is going to be the Canucks’ starter at the NHL level, so we won’t waste any more words talking about it.
Where there are some arguments to be made is at the NHL backup position, where Spencer Martin — who was one year remaining on his two-year one-way contract remaining — looks poised to step in and prove to people once again that he is a capable NHL backup. Right on his heels is the aforementioned Silovs, who, at 22 years old, is set to continue to show why Ian Clark and the Canucks’ organization have been high on him for so long.
The most important thing for any young goaltender is to play games though, so we’d expect that to begin the year, the still-developing Silovs will start the year as Abbotsford’s number one option in the crease.
The reason we wrote but maybe Arturs Silovs in this heading is because if Martin proves to be subpar and is costing the Canucks games on nights they try to rest Demko, the club won’t hesitate to call Silovs up for spot duty, as the young Latvian netminder is still on an entry-level contract and thus won’t have to pass through waivers to come back and forth from the Abbotsford Centre down Highway 1.
AHL tandem: Arturs Silovs, Zach Sawchenko, and Nikita Tolopilo
Yes, we know what a tandem is, and we know that three goaltenders aren’t really a tandem.
But let’s not forget what we’ve learned over the past two years about how the Canucks’ goaltending department manages new incoming goaltenders to the organization. If you have forgotten, allow us to remind you.
In 2021-22, the Canucks carried three goaltenders on the farm, with Michael DiPietro and Arturs Silovs splitting starts while Spencer Martin served as the third-string goaltender. During this time, Martin worked in practice with Curtis Sanford to learn the different techniques and movements that Ian Clark preaches. That paid off big time for Martin, who had earned himself a two-year extension that guaranteed him NHL money by the end of the season after showing well during a six-game NHL stint.
With this in mind, the question for this upcoming season becomes: Who is going to back up Arturs Silovs most often, and who is going to be sheltered and given a chance to work on his game in practice?
There’s no sure-fire answer, either, since Sawchenko and Tolopilo will both need some time to learn their new style of goaltending. The Canucks could also choose to loan the young Tolopilo to the ECHL so that he can get plenty of playing time in, but they may also want him splitting starts with Silovs while the 25-year-old Sawchenko — who signed with the club as a free agent — gets the same teaching and treatment that Martin did at 26 years old.
It will be interesting to see how the Canucks’ pro goaltending depth chart looks by the end of the season compared to now.
For now, a few things are clear with how the Canucks have positioned themselves in the crease as an organization.
For starters, they believe in Martin’s ability to be an NHL backup after an up-and-down season last year that saw him finish out the year in the AHL. They also clearly believe in Arturs Silovs’ ability to potentially play some NHL games if either Martin or Demko need a replacement at the NHL level. The Canucks also likely view Sawchenko is a nice depth option who they hope can maybe pull a Spencer Martin and challenge for an NHL backup job after getting some reps down in Abbotsford with Marko Torenius.
How confident are you in the path the Canucks have chosen to take? Let us know in the comments section below!
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