When expected starter Martin Jones mans the crease on Thursday against the Oilers, he will be making his 42nd start out of 50 games for the Sharks.
It’s been a heavy workload for Jones this season, who is second in the league in ice time with 2419 minutes, trailing only the Oilers’ Cam Talbot (2588 minutes). If he continues at his current pace, Jones will start 68-69 games before the playoffs arrive in April.
That’s too many, according to NBCSN analyst and former Sharks goalie Brian Boucher.
“It is too much,” Boucher told CSN. “If they lessen his load going forward and end up at 62 games then it's fine, but to keep that pace is tough, because then you need him to play every game in playoffs.
“If they don't have faith in [Aaron] Dell then it is what it is, but I don't think it's a recipe for a [Stanley Cup] to play a guy 70-plus.”
Another former goalie, Martin Biron, currently an analyst with TSN, RDS and the NHL Network, isn’t quite as worried about the Sharks’ number one netminder, who is 25-14-2 with a 2.23 goals-against average and .917 save percentage this season and headed to his first career All-Star Game this weekend.
“I think a heavy workload was to be expected for Jones this year,” Biron said. “With a first-year NHL goalie as a backup, he probably trained and prepared to play a ton.”
Biron pointed out that Jones played in 65 games last season, and that number should be fine.
“I think around  is good for him again,” Biron said.
If Jones is to play 65 or fewer games, though, it means Dell will have to get more work than he’s been getting. If Jones starts 23 more games post-All-Star break, getting him to 65, that leaves nine starts over the final 32 games for Dell. He’ll have started just eight out of 50 after Thursday.
The Sharks have seven back-to-backs left on their schedule. Even if Dell starts at least one game in each of those, it still means Jones will make 67 starts, which could be risky for a team that expects to make a deep postseason run.
The trend around the league in recent years has been to reduce their primary goalie’s workload. Back on Oct. 17 in New York, before the Sharks-Rangers game, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said he would prefer it if his number one goalie – in this case, Henrik Lundqvist – would get fewer than 60 starts.
“In an ideal world the goaltenders that seem to be having playoff success are ones that are below 60 [games], or in the 55 range – in an ideal world,” Vigneault said.
The Sharks were in agreement with that philosophy last season when they acquired James Reimer from Toronto, although, to be fair, Dell has been much more reliable than previous backup Alex Stalock was last season.
Still, Reimer started eight out of 19 games down the stretch for San Jose, and the Sharks mentioned that the added rest for Jones helped him in the postseason.
The messaging has changed this season, though. DeBoer has frequently brushed off any suggestion that Jones might be playing too much.
After Dell beat the Flyers on Dec. 30 and the coach was asked if Dell might be earning more playing time, DeBoer said: “You guys must be his agent, or related to him somehow (laughs). We’ve got two good goalies, and we’ll decide every night who’s going.”
There was recent report that the Sharks are still seeking another goaltender, though. According to Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman, the Winnipeg Jets, who recently recalled Ondrej Pavalec from the AHL, feared losing goalie Michael Hutchinson on waivers “particularly to San Jose.” Hutchinson remains with the Jets, who are carrying three goalies.