In an article written in mid-December, Harman Dayal of The Athletic quoted Vancouver Canucks’ general manager Jim Benning as saying about the team’s number one goalie Jacob Markstrom:
“We brought him up and worked with him every year and watched him grow into a No. 1 goalie. He’s an important guy for us and we’re gonna do our best to figure out a deal that works for him and works for us.” (from What a Jacob Markstrom extension could look like and how it affects the Canucks’ oncoming goalie dilemma, Harman Dayal, The Athletic, 12/12/2019)
That sentiment is a good one because Markstrom’s been good for the organization and the organization, in return, has been good for Markstrom. I believe it’s time to solidify the relationship by signing Markstrom to another term.
It hasn’t been the easiest season for the 29-year-old, Swedish goalie. His father passed away earlier this season and Markstrom took some time away from the game when he was granted a leave of absence to attend his father’s memorial service.
There’s no doubt that Markstrom has had peaks and valleys in the crease this year, but as far as I could see he never let his own personal problems concerning his father’s death affect his play. That, for anyone, would be difficult. The organization was gracious in response to Markstrom’s needs, which is exactly how it should be.
The Canucks Are Building a Sense of Family and Community
I can’t know this for certain, but I’m seeing a sense of family and community around the team this season. Certainly, Alexander Edler – who’s been cited for his community service – is a leader in that respect. But I must make the team a more-comfortable place to play and Vancouver a nice place to call home. It is, to my taste, one of the great cities in North America in which to live.
Edler says it well when he spoke about living in Vancouver and playing for the Canucks. “Maybe I’m just a loyal guy who wants to play here and wants to live here and win here,” he said. “I know that doesn’t always happen because the business doesn’t work out all the time. I understand that. But I’ve been treated well by this organization and city, and I’ve had some special moments here. Going through some tough years, that’s never fun. But the future looks better, and it would be pretty special to be part of that.”
The Impact of Ian Clark on Markstrom’s Play
Jacob Markstrom was acquired in March 2014 in exchange for Canucks’ all-time leader in wins, Roberto Luongo. However, Markstrom only became a true number-one goaltender during the 2018-19 season. He’d always shown flashes of greatness as a professional, but he had never found the consistency he needed to become a successful starting goaltender in the NHL. Even with the Canucks, at times Markstrom would steal games and at times he’d have a game that was less than stellar.
Although all goalies have ups and downs, the inconsistency changed during the 2018-19 season, when Markstrom began to play more consistently game-after-game. In fact, the Canucks went much deeper into the season playing meaningful games than anyone ever expected the team could go. That success was on Markstrom. Many contend that Markstrom’s new-found consistency comes from his success working with goaltending coach Ian Clark who many suggest is the best goaltending coach in the NHL. (from “How Ian Clark reinvented Jacob Markstrom, and why people believe it’s sustainable,” by Jason Botchford, The Athletic, 04/24/19)
Clark, who’s from Vancouver, has had two stints with the team. He first came as a goaltending coach with the Canucks during the 2002-03 season and held that position until 2009-10 when he moved to the Columbus Blue Jackets. During the time he worked with the Canucks, his main student was Roberto Luongo. When Clark moved to the Blue Jackets as – where he stayed for seven years – his main student was Sergei Bobrovsky. And Bobrovsky turned into the elite goalie who’s won the Vezina Trophy two times.
Clark is now the goalie coach for both Markstrom and backup Thatcher Demko. Markstrom has discussed how important Clark has been to his success. And, indeed, the difference in Markstrom’s play has been noticeable. He’s simply a good goalie.
Markstrom Performs Game After Game
On January 14, the Canucks play the Arizona Coyotes at home. Not surprisingly, Markstrom is getting the start. He was a bit shaky two days ago against the Winnipeg Jets, as the team lost an unfortunate game 4-0 on the Jets’ home ice. But then the Jets have had the Canucks’ number for quite a while now and it was their 10th loss in a row to the central-Canadian team.
However, that poor game was a bit of an aberration in two ways. First, the team gave Markstrom no offensive support at all, and that’s unusual for this Canucks team. Second, Markstrom’s been steady in net for quite a stretch now. However, in the Coyotes, he faces a team that’s really been good on the road and sports a 14-8-3 record in 25 road games.
Markstrom’s had consistent offensive support the past few weeks, but against the Jets – nada. He’s started four straight on the road but, even away from home, he’s played well – only losing twice in his last 10 games. Now, he looks forward to playing two games at home against the Coyotes and the San Jose Sharks.
To show how strong Markstrom’s played, he’s had 17 wins in his first 32 games. But, he’s been even better recently with eight wins in his last 10 starts. He might even win 30 games for the first time in his career. He’s been solid all season.
However, it isn’t his recent play – although it’s been good – that’s the issue. He’s there and he’s a big part of the team.
Where the Canucks Currently Are
There have been some pretty bad Canucks teams over the past several years. But, that’s no longer true. As noted, last season the team had a chance to make the playoffs later in the season than anyone expected. This season, they have a far better team and are holding their own as the season moves deeper into the second half.
The goalie situation – including the Clark as the coach – is part of the reason the team’s doing so well. During December this season, Markstrom put it all together and showed that he could be a viable starter. Why change that picture now.
I believe it’s a no brainer. Markstrom should be signed to a contract extension with the Canucks.
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