Do the Seattle Kraken have a goalie controversy given Jones’ hot play?

Nov 11, 2022, 2:28 PM | Updated: Feb 5, 2023, 3:39 pm

Seattle Kraken Martin Jones...

Martin Jones of the Seattle Kraken in action against the Nashville Predators at Climate Pledge Arena on November 08, 2022. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

The plan was simple, but like many plans, had to be adjusted. Goalie Martin Jones was brought in by the Kraken this summer to be the backup to Philipp Grubauer.

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With an injury to Chris Driedger, the Kraken needed a fill-in and signed Jones to a one-year, $2 million contract. Then Grubauer was hurt and Jones had to become the number one goalie and take on a heavier workload.

Jones has responded, played well, and been a spark for Seattle, which is attempting to win its sixth straight game Friday night against the Minnesota Wild at Climate Pledge Arena.

“He’s just been rock solid for us,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “Obviously, with Grubi unavailable over the last couple of weeks here it’s been a really important stretch for him. But most importantly, it’s just a continuation of Jonesy’s work from early on in training camp. His consistency has been good and I’ve said it a couple of times, he brings a good calm presence.”

Jones’ numbers have been impressive.

He’s appeared in 11 games, 10 if which were starts, and been the winning goalie seven times. Jones has a 2.45 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage. During the Kraken’s current five-game win streak, Jones was in goal for four of the wins and is expected to be in again Friday night.

“I’m feeling good right now and the team’s playing really well,” Jones said. “Everything’s just kind of clicking right now. So, the hard part, the important thing for us now is to not change anything and realize that what we’re doing is having success. We’re checking well, we’re playing the right way for 60 minutes and it’s leading to wins so we’ve just got to continue to do that.”

One change that is inevitable and looming is the return of Grubauer from injury.

Earlier this week, Hakstol declared Grubauer was still week to week. He was seen on the ice a few days later, working out prior to the team’s regular practice. On the mend, Grubauer’s return will have an impact on the goalie rotation and with how well Jones has been playing, the Kraken could be dealing with an old-fashioned goalie controversy.

Once Grubauer is ready to go, what will happen? Does Jones continue to be the No. 1 goalie? Does Grubauer retain his No. 1 status? Will they share starts evenly?

Keeping up with Jones

Playing the hot hand makes sense, and right now, that’s Jones.

His calmness in net and economy of motion in the crease is working. He reads plays well and positions himself to where he rarely is in desperation mode.

Jones is a veteran of 407 NHL games and for a three-year stretch between 2015 and 2018 with the San Jose Sharks, he was as good as you get in the league. He put the Sharks on his back for their 2016 Stanley Cup Final run when he played in 24 playoff games and had three shutouts.

In the years that followed though, his play tapered off and he spent last season in Philadelphia as a backup. He acquitted himself well in 35 games last year with the Flyers and managed a .900 save percentage – which is the goalie Mendoza Line that is considered the desired minimum percentage.

As he continues to play well there is some question of whether he can handle the starts a number one goalie gets.

With a higher workload early on this season, he seems to be handling it fine.

“That’s why you put in the work in the offseason,” Jones said. “I’ve played a lot of hockey before so not something I’m not used to. But yeah, obviously with Grubi going down, it’s a good opportunity for me to step up and win some hockey games.”

Give Grubauer a chance

There’s an old axiom in sports that says you shouldn’t, or can’t, lose your position due to being injured. On the other hand, if one player is hot, you ride him out.

This makes Grubauer’s return an interesting question for the Kraken.

It would be easy to look at Grubauer’s limited numbers this year and conclude that Jones gives Seattle a better chance. He’s only had three starts and four appearances. In two of his starts, he allowed five goals in each game but in his third start, on the road against Colorado, he was playing well, only allowing two goals, before having to leave in the third due to injury.

So, his sample size is small, and in those two five-goal games, the team in front of him did not play well.

What we have yet to see is a Grubauer playing behind the current Kraken. A team that has cleaned up its puck management issues and given up fewer turnovers that all seemed to lead to dangerous scoring chances against.

One of those poor games was the home opener against the Vegas Golden Knights. Jones started that game but was pulled after two periods in which he gave up five goals. Grubauer made six saves and did not allow a goal in relief. Even Jones has had a clunker this season when the team in front of him struggled.

What will the Kraken do?

Goalie controversies usually are a bigger issue to the fans and media than they are within the team. Grubauer’s return could be a blessing for the Kraken in the long run.

Once healthy, Grubauer could return to his previous form in Colorado and Washington if the team continues to play the way it has of late. That could leave the Kraken with two quality goalie options and Hakstol can go with the hot hand.

Looking at how the starts were given out before Grubauer’s injury, that was already happening. After Jones played well in a 4-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings in game two of the season, he earned a start in the next game which was the team’s home opener. That suggests Hakstol is willing to forego the number one and two conventions and that he trusts both guys.

We still don’t know exactly what Grubauer’s return date will be but a share of the crease seems to be the likely scenario moving forward. Grubauer should get a shot to play again and if he performs well, look for the two goalies to split starts without either being considered the number one. Competition for playing time never hurt and will push both guys to stay on top of their games.

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Do the Seattle Kraken have a goalie controversy given Jones’ hot play?