The Vancouver Canucks’ goaltending trio has the potential to firmly be in the NHL’s top-10
Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
By Noah Strang2 months ago
Former NHL goalie Mike Mckenna recently released his ranking of every NHL team’s goalie tandem on Daily Faceoff. While the list will surely change a lot as the season progresses, this first edition has the Vancouver Canucks in the middle of the rankings in 16th place.
They fall directly ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins and just behind Jacob Markstrom and the Calgary Flames.
While it’s hard to argue with that ranking based on last season’s performance, there are lots of reasons to think that 16th may be too low.
The situation for the Canucks’ goaltenders entering this season is much different compared to last, and that should help them achieve very different results.
While it all starts with Thatcher Demko, who is 100% healthy as far as we know, the other goaltenders in the organization also have to step up their performance for the team’s tandem to be viewed as a top-ten unit league-wide. As we go through this article, we will see that there is good reason to believe that will happen in the 2023-24 NHL season.
Thatcher Demko’s return to form
Simply put, Thatcher Demko had a rough 2022-23 season.
While the Canucks did not make his life easy, Demko played well below his usual standard as he started the season 3-10-2 with a .883 save percentage before getting injured. That injury caused him to miss around three months during the middle of the season, a break that could have been a blessing in disguise.
“It [the time off due to injury] pretty quickly turned into me realizing that I had a lot of time to reflect and I had a lot of time to work on my physiology, my biology, the mental side of things, just the whole thing,” said Demko upon his return in the final part of last season.
While his final stats for the season will show career lows in save percentage and goals-against-average, Demko did bounce back after getting back to 100%.
He played 17 games from the middle of February onwards, recording a 0.918% save percentage and a 2.52 goals-against-average — both numbers that are much closer to what’s expected from the American goaltender.
Entering this year, Demko will be the most rested he’s been in a long time. Last season, he only started about half the games he would normally and all of this extra rest should help him start the 2023-24 season off on the right foot.
Will the backup goaltending hold-up?
Thatcher Demko is not the only component to helping the Canucks finish with a top-ten goaltending tandem. We must also consider the team’s backup goalie, no matter if that’s Spencer Martin or Arturs Silovs.
The Canucks will want to ensure that Demko does not have to start too many games after his injury last season. To make that happen, the team’s backup will need to be serviceable.
Martin is coming off of a terrible season where he appeared in 29 games for the Canucks. His 3.99 GAA and 0.871% save percentage were both well below league average, even for a backup but Martin will likely still get another chance to prove himself this season and start the season as the NHL backup. If he’s not up to standard, Silovs will be ready and likely very eager to jump in.
Silovs is one of the top goalie prospects across the league. He’s already become a Latvian hero after an MVP performance at the international level this past summer, and it seems like only a matter of time before he starts to replicate that success in the NHL.
The only question is if his development would be better served as the starter in the AHL.
In five NHL games, Silovs has looked like he could be a capable backup. While you hope that Martin can give you the occasional quality start and let the 22-year-old Silovs lead the Abbotsford Canucks, the Canucks do have a contingency plan ready where the Latvian could be called up on a moment’s notice. Silovs is still on his entry-level contract and that will give the organization a ton of flexibility with how they want to use the 22-year-old.
The other components to consider
Another aspect to consider when discussing the Canucks’ goaltending prospects this season is the new head coach. Former head coach Bruce Boudreau is known for playing a free-wheeling style that encourages a strong offensive attack. While this was entertaining to watch, it often left the Canucks exposed defensively, forcing goalies to defend against plenty of odd-man rushes and have to attempt highlight reel save attempts on passes to backdoor shots.
New head coach Rick Tocchet brought with him a commitment to being more defensively responsible. The results were obvious near the end of last season and that will surely continue into the 2023-24 NHL season, helping to reduce the workload demanded of the goalies.
In addition, the Canucks have revamped their defence corps. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is gone and instead the team went out and got some players with good defensive reputations such as Ian Cole and Carson Soucy. Those changes should also make life a bit easier for the Canucks’ goalies.
The Canucks have the talent in net to finish with a top-ten goaltending duo.
While last season they were among the worst in the league between the pipes, the fact that the systems and personnel have changed so much means that we can expect different results. Add in the largest factor of all — the fact that Demko is seemingly at 100% and has had plenty of rest over the last 12 months — and we can see a scenario where the Canucks skyrocket up this list at Daily Faceoff into the top ten.
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