Martin Jones is on an unprecedented run for the Kings. But given how every goalie flourishes in L.A. and that he’s a pending restricted free agent, is now the time to sell him high?
Los Angeles Kings backup goalie Martin Jones has quietly laid waste to the lackluster, easy hockey circuit that is the NHL. It’s glorified house league competition to him. In 29 career appearances, the young man has seven shutouts.
He’s the fastest player in history to reach that mark. He’s posted a donut in 24.1 percent of his appearances. The stat is actually more impressive than that considering Jones, 25, has only started 26 NHL games and was thus only eligible to record a shutout in 17 games. That gives him clean sheets in 26.9 percent of his career starts. O…M…G.
So trade him already, Dean Lombardi.
Wait – what?
Why on Earth would the Kings want to part with their positively dominant backup goaltender? Especially when they’ll want him to spell Jonathan Quick during the stretch run, and especially when they’ll need a safety net during the playoffs should the uber-athletic Quick’s acrobatic style catch up to him and his wonky back?
Because we can’t be sure Martin Jones is as good as he is. Well, no goalie is seven-shutouts-in-17-starts good forever, but you know what I mean. Two words should tell you all you need to know about how good life is for a Los Angeles Kings goaltender: Ben Scrivens. The Cornell grad was a world beater spelling an injured Quick last year. Then, after Quick returned, Lombardi dealt Scrivens to Edmonton and, lo and behold, Jones stepped in as a world beater, too.
We know the Kings have been Corsi darlings during coach Darryl Sutter’s tenure, regularly dominating possession and, more specifically, the number of shot attempts on opposing teams’ nets versus their own. The Kings do a great job limiting shots on goal, too, a.k.a. pucks their goalies must actually stop. They allow the sixth-fewest shots per game this season. Last year? The second-fewest. The year before? Third-fewest. Before that? Fifth-fewest. So the Kings under Sutter have never completed a season anything less than a top-five team at limiting their goalies’ workload.
Martin Jones’ save totals in his seven career shutouts: 16, 31, 24, 17, 28, 26, 19. He averages just 23 saves per shutout. Is the picture beginning to crystalize here?
Let’s look at some goalies’ numbers as Kings under Darryl Sutter versus the rest of their career stats.
With Sutter: 163 GP, 2.21 goals-against average, .916 save percentage, 16 shutouts, 26.1 shots against per 60 minutes
Without Sutter: 207 GP, 2.37 GAA, .914 SP, 34 SO, 27.5 shots against per 160 minutes
Quick’s numbers and workload are better across the board under Sutter, albeit not by a wide margin. That’s probably because Quick is legitimately really good. What about a couple other less accomplished stoppers with and without Sutter?
With Sutter: 23 GP, 1.82 GAA, .925 SP, 2 SO, 24.5 shots against per 60 minutes
Without Sutter: 94 GP, 2.68 GAA, .916 SP, 5 SO, 32.1 shots against per 60 minutes
Hmm, that’s a pretty pronounced difference with and without Sutter, especially in terms of shot workload. Here’s another netminder:
With Sutter: 19 GP, 1.97 GAA, .921 SP, 3 SO, 28.5 shots against per 60 minutes
Without Sutter: 387 GP, 2.97 GAA, .907 SP, 4 SO, 31.2 shots against per 60 minutes
Suddenly, Martin Jones’ numbers with the Kings don’t look quite so spectacular. It seems you can post half decent totals just by showing up. And while Bernier’s and Scrivens’ sample sizes are small, so is Jones’. He’s been outstanding, but he’s been as insulated as a goalie can possibly be, thanks to Sutter and the borderline dynasty Kings team in front of him.
Which brings us back to the trade possibility. Jones is a restricted free agent this summer and, because his numbers sparkle on paper, he’s due for a significant raise. Given what we know about how virtually every L.A. stopper performs under Sutter, however, is Jones worth it? And does it matter who backs up Quick at this point? Jean-Francois Berube is 19-4-2 with a 1.99 GAA and .923 SP with Manchester, the Kings’ AHL affiliate. He’s a year-and-a-half younger than Jones, he has a better draft pedigree (i.e. he was drafted and Jones was not) and he’s under contract an extra year.
Given the buzz Jones has created around the league, wouldn’t he generate some trade interest? Why not see if a goaltending-starved team like Minnesota might surrender a draft pick or a useful part for him?
At first glance, dealing Martin Jones in the middle of his unprecedented run seems like an insane idea. But the deeper numbers clearly show every goalie flourishes in the Kings’ system. And if Jones isn’t that special after all, now’s the time for Lombardi to sell high.
Update, 5:05 p.m. ET: The Wild just acquired Devan Dubnyk from Arizona, so they may not top the list of potential Martin Jones suitors anymore. Still, Minny isn’t the only team that could use a goalie like Jones.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin