Canucks Reality Check
No one should never be surprised by goaltending struggles. It’s a reality, often an inevitability of the position, and the turmoil has arrived for Thatcher Demko of the Vancouver Canucks.
The question quickly becomes; is it physical, is it mental, or is it both?
Confidence is 90-percent of any equation, so it’s probably safe to start there.
Is Demko overthinking technique, thinking too much, instead of just playing?
Having asked around the goaltending community, as he’s known to do, that’s one of the inklings or theories picked up by Kevin Woodley of NHL.com and InGoal Magazine.
Demko’s record is 1-7-and-2 with a goals against average just above four and a save percentage of .874.
Those should be listed as Canucks team numbers.
By the way; hips, a hip, or the hip, isn’t the problem.
“The Canucks are not playing that great in front of him and he’s supposed to bail them out and he’s not,” Woodley said Thursday. “He’s got one of the toughest environments in the league, I think I did the math today and he has the 10th lowest expected save percentage in the league … it’s a really bad environment, and after outperforming it significantly last year, he’s actually under-performing it this year.”
“Tough environment” is a fancy way of saying your team’s defensive play sucks. Bad environment equals bad ‘D’.
History Suggests We Shouldn’t be Surprised
In a July 2021 article, we presented this warning:
For all the hand-wringing around the market lately about the Vancouver Canucks re-construction of their roster while staying under the salary cap, and the related reaction to the $50-million dollars still owed new defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson over the next six years, I think there’s a basic reality about this squad that might be overlooked.
The Vancouver Canucks have hitched their full-time wagon to a 25-year-old goalie with 72 games of NHL regular season experience and four playoff appearances. No hand-wringing? Hmmm.
Maybe the Canucks constituency is just fed up with the ongoing goaltender-situation hijinks. Remember that dude that was still here ten months ago, Jacob Markström? ($6-million a year for five more in Calgary). Which franchise is better off in the long run? Go ahead and play the Jeopardy music, I’ll wait.
Thatcher Demko inked a five-year deal this past March for $5-million dollars per season. At the time, the hopes were still relatively high that the tidy tandem of Braden Holtby and Demko would easily handle carrying the load for two seasons, the length of Holtby’s deal, while Demko was nurtured into a full-time guy. That day has not-so-suddenly arrived.
This is not to suggest the current early-season rut is permanent, just that a rut should not have been unexpected. Fulltime saviours are rare.
“I think Demko is top ten, top five in the league, but what makes Andrei Vasilevskiy the best in the world is his ability to do it year after year, and until you’ve done it, you haven’t done it,” Woodley stated.
In Vasilevskiy’s case, it applies to the regular season and the playoffs. Some can handle, or thrive, with one but not the other. Demko has previously been on top of his game for both.
“Consistency, it’s why (Roberto) Luongo’s going in the Hall of Fame,” Woodley added. “Almost never had blips, and it’s too early to call this year a blip, but certainly it’s a slow start. Ironically, Luongo was always awful in October, but we’re now into mid-November, so something’s gotta turn pretty quickly for him (Demko) here.”
A blip would obviously be way better than something long term. Back to the scribbles of 2021 …
Anyone ever heard of Matt Murray? Let’s review the career arc of Anton Khudobin. Andrew Raycroft anyone? How about Dan Blackburn. OK, so injuries were a factor with the latter, but, oh yeah, injuries happen. For a roster being built for a win-now or an almost win-now purpose, there might want to be a smidge more certainty between the pipes.
Sorry about the hand-wringing, but the most important position on the ice is also the most unpredictable.