SAN JOSE – Martin Jones was the single biggest risk the Sharks took headed into last season. He was a goalie with some nice credentials, putting up impressive numbers in junior and the AHL, but he came to San Jose as the presumable number one with hardly any NHL experience.
It was a gamble that paid off. Jones was a rock for the Sharks, particularly in the second half, and he gave the club a goaltending performance that they simply had never had in the 25-year history of the franchise.
There is a natural inclination among the fan base now to believe that Jones is the next franchise goalie. And while that may prove to be the case, a few former longtime NHL goalies pumped the breaks a bit on the 26-year-old.
Sure, he had a great 2015-16 campaign, but he hasn’t yet reached that level of some of the elites in his field.
“He’s a legitimate number one starter, but I don’t know if he’s elite just yet,” said NBC NHL analyst Brian Boucher. “I need a little bit more time to see. But, he’s a legitimate number one. We’ll see if he’s elite and can put together two or three seasons together like he did last year.”
Martin Biron played 17 seasons in net in the NHL, and is now an NHL analyst for TSN and RDS in Canada, and the NHL Network.
“Is he a top 10 goalie, for me? Yes. But, I need to see more out of him,” Biron said. “Maybe that’s not fair because when you’re not a flashy goalie, you tend to not have the big highlight reel saves and then it doesn’t look like you’re the same caliber as everybody else.”
Biron mentioned guys like Carey Price, Ben Bishop and Cory Schneider as being the goalies that are at the “top of my list,” and that “Martin Jones comes in right after him. It’s not a knock on him, it’s just the fact that I’m being cautious.”
NBC NHL analyst Keith Jones pointed out that the list of flash-in-the-pan goalies is a lengthy one, but he likes Martin Jones’ style.
“There’s been a lot of goaltenders that have come out and played well and earned a number one spot on the team, but that doesn’t necessarily hold strong if they don’t come back and repeat that type of performance the next year,” Jones said.
“I liked everything I saw about him and about his game last year. Now, it will just be a matter of him staying consistent. It looks like with his style that’s not going to be an issue. He’s not all over the place and looks like he’s pretty methodical about the way he approaches the position.”
Boucher doesn’t expect a drop off from Jones, suggesting it’s only a matter of time before he joins that list of elite, franchise NHL goalies.
“Judging by talks I’ve had with him and talking to teammates, this guy really is as cool as a cucumber and doesn’t seem to get phased by much of anything,” Boucher said.
“I think he’s a legitimate number one, but we need more time to see if he’s truly elite. That would be two and three seasons of fantastic play. But, Sharks fans have to be encouraged by what they saw last year. I suspect that he’ll be just as good as he was last year.”