With the long term signings of power forward Evander Kane, utility center Logan Couture, the return of a healthy, albeit older Joe Thornton, and improved youngsters the likes of Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc, there’s plenty to like at the Shark Tank in 2018-19. You’ll hear a bevy of names when the team is discussed, yet it always seems that starting goaltender Martin Jones is only chastised if and when he actually comes up. Why is this, I have always asked, for a guy who has done nothing but be a reliable workhorse between the pipes since his acquisition. By the way if you are not familiar with the deal that brought Jones to the Sharks, please look into it, as it is absolute savagery on the part of the Boston Bruins. Nonetheless, let’s delve into one of my favorite netminders across the league that should be held in a higher light by fantasy managers.
Let me start by saying there is no denying the fact that 2017-18 was Jones’ worst campaign thus far in San Jose. Even so, if I am looking at the output overall I am really not that displeased. Sure, the goals against average can certainly be better but the save percentage is nothing out of the ordinary for what he’s done in San Jose. If it were but 0.005% higher, nobody would say a word about it. Five fewer starts than the customary 65 of the prior two campaigns, he still managed to win exactly half of them, while providing 34 quality starts in comparison to 35 in each prior year respectively.
What I am driving at here is that fantasy owners need to relish his consistency more. While I am not stating Jones is the greatest goaltender in all the land, I certainly have issue with NHL.com not even so much as considering him as a top ten option between the pipes. When averaging out his three years as the starter for the Sharks, his stat line looks like the following:
34 W, 22 L, 5 OTL, 4 SO, 146 GA, 2.40 GAA, .915 SV%, 34 QUAL, 54.8 QUAL %
Though as stated earlier, the goals against average is higher than any of us would like but looking at the whole spread, one cannot gripe about what Jones provides for his owners. I have retained him as a keeper all the years of his San Jose tenure and I’ve made it to the title round each time. Not to say he is the sole reason for this but his consistency is certainly playing its part in my repeat appearances year in and year out. To put into perspective, my other keeper goalie is Matt Murray and he’s far more volatile on a nightly basis. Like any goalie, there will be peaks and valleys with Jones performance. In 2017-18 there were indeed dreadful stretches with him giving up three or more goals for weeks on end only to be rectified by lengthy runs of stellar goaltending. No goalie is immune to bad stretches; in the end the good outweighed the bad. I am not proclaiming Jones to be in the echelon of Andrei Vasilevskiy, Connor Hellebuyck, and Braden Holtby, though you should have no qualms with him being your number one option in net if you decide to wait a little in the draft.
Looking at the probable lineup in front of him this coming campaign, one cannot say Jones is in for a rough go like poor Carey Price. With arguably one of the deepest top nines across the league coupled with a not exciting but very solid defensive corps, a fourth straight 30-win season should be in the cards. The third line of Joonas Donskoi, Chris Tierney, and Kevin Labanc, is one of the best in the league in my opinion. Both Labanc and Tierney quietly put up 40 points in a limited role, with Donskoi crossing the 30-point plateau, speaking to the offensive capabilities of the bottom six. With the return of a healthy Joe Thornton, this forward corps is that much more threatening, especially if he creates chemistry with Evander Kane like Joe Pavelski did in 2017-18. The Sharks will be a dark horse contender for the Stanley Cup in my book if this occurs. While they’ve done nothing but disappoint in this regard for over a decade, the window isn’t closed just yet and Jones will be relied upon heavily once again to be the workhorse.
Only 28 years of age and in the middle of his prime, Martin Jones needs to be on your draft radar. Aaron Dell, though a respectable, solid backup goaltender, will never, I repeat never steal away Jones’s job completely. This especially with Jones set to be paid the highest mark of his new deal in 2018-19/2019-20 at 6.75 million dollars respectively. Yes, there are more compelling options but targeting him at what will surely be a lesser draft price than the likes of Sergei Bobrovsky will allow you to load up on elite forwards and top end defenders. Jones, coupled with a solid number two (Henrik Lundqvist, Antti Raanta, Cam Talbot, etc.), can make for a potent enough duo to compliment the rest of your unit. Add in a third wildcard at goaltender, perhaps the likes of Jusse Saros, Carter Hutton, or Philipp Grubauer, and you’ve got a stable between the pipes that can provide necessary minimum starts while surviving inevitable injuries.
Do not sleep on the Sharks if Evander Kane reproduces the play we saw after he was dealt out west. He alone changes the dynamic in great fashion making them that much more threatening offensively. Oh yeah, not once have I really mentioned blue line freak Brent Burns and his ability to single handedly dominate game play despite his advancing age. Joe Thornton may be eligible for AARP soon enough but not many dish the biscuit at the elite level he does to generate goals. This squad’s overall hunger for a championship after so many letdowns is uncontested across the league. Now that the Washington Capitals have finally attained their glory, you’d think this team would be using that as motivation to bring forth their own tale of success. Entering year one of his six-year deal, expect Martin Jones to show the team brass he’s the guy in net to help lead them to the top of the heap.
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