Before the 2022–23 season started, goaltending seemed to be one of the biggest strengths of the Flames roster. They had a Vezina finalist as their starter and a backup who always seemed to look confident and play very strong whenever he was called upon. Fast forward to December, and Jacob Markstrom has a .889 save percentage. What was supposed to be one of the team’s biggest strengths has now become one of their biggest weaknesses.
It has become clear to not only the team, but to all fans of hockey that Markstrom has completely lost his confidence right now, and he is well aware of his recent play too, telling reporters that he “sucks at hockey right now”.
With Jacob Markstrom playing the way he is, and with Daniel Vladar putting up a .913 save percentage so far this season, what should the Flames do with Markstrom for the rest of December? We asked, you answered.
Markstrom’s game is off
Ever since Day 1 of the season, Jacob Markstrom has not looked like himself. Whether it is letting in very early goals that probably should have been stopped, or the multiple times he has left his net to play the puck and ended up giving the opposition an easy goal. Something is off in his game, whether it is physical or mental, and the team has to do something to get his confidence back up. So what is it that the Flames should do?
Let’s take a look and see what our readers think.
Keep Markstrom the definitive starter
This is the approach the Flames have been using the whole season so far. This has not worked. Now that we are more than a quarter into the season, this can’t be attributed to early-season adjustments for Markstrom anymore. Fans seem to recognize this as well, as only 8% of voters picked this option.
It’s hard to see how the same strategy that has been followed so far would somehow start working later on. If the Flames want to make the playoffs adjustments need to be made and a new approach is needed.
Split with the 1A role
Though the definition of 1A and 1B is a bit blurred, the main thing to emphasize is that in this situation, Markstrom would still be the preferred starter for the Flames, however, they would be giving Dan Vladar some more starts. This should be the main goal for the Flames.
At the end of the day, Vladar should be between the pipes more. This would give Markstrom some time to rest and work on his game during practice, a type of reset that seems like is extremely needed. However, the question here is will Markstrom be able to have enough of a reset if he is still relied on as a 1A goaltender for the team?
Split with the 1B role
Most voters picked this option. It seems like readers agree that Markstrom needs a reset, however, they would prefer to see Vladar to be the goalie that is relied upon a little more than Markstrom. And honestly, how can you blame those who pick this option. Vladar has recently faced Boston, Pittsburgh, Carolina, and Florida. In each of those games, he has put up an above .900 save percentage, and really shone in the games against Pittsburgh and Florida, where he put up a .974 and .939 save percentage respectively.
It would be important to give Markstrom some games during the month, to see how he progresses and to keep him in game shape, however, many fans want to see the team rely more on Vladar.
Make Markstrom the definitive Backup
This would be the most extreme option, however, this was also the second most popular option. Markstrom as the definitive backup during December would mean that he would get maybe one or two games max all month. Especially with how Sutter likes to stick to his starting goalies, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that Markstrom gets 0 starts all of December if the Flames take this route.
Despite how Markstrom has played, this approach would probably do more harm than good. As much as Markstrom needs a reset, he also needs to get a couple of games in to keep himself ready and build his confidence. It’s important to remember that the goal here isn’t to be changing the starting goalie for the Flames, it is to get Markstrom back to his old self.
Contending teams have great goaltending
If the Flames want to be a contending team, not only for the Stanley Cup, but even just for the playoffs, strong goaltending is a must. The team now has the opportunity to sort out issues during the season before it is too late, however, it is imperative that they take action and make adjustments. At the end of the day, Markstrom needs to have the chance to take his bad play, shake it off, and come back to his old form. How the Flames decide to give him this chance? We will see very soon.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire