Saturday, December 14, 2013

Goaltending Controversy In L.A.?

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Coming into the 2013-14 NHL season, Jonathan Quick was arguably the best goaltender in the NHL and with this title came high expectations. He started the season off poorly according to his standards. Quick posted a 2.35 GAA and .905 SV% while winning 10 of his 16 games. He wasn't necessarily playing awfully, but wasn't his usual self either. Then, came the groin injury which was to keep Jonathan out of the lineup until late December. Kings fans everywhere were obviously worried, but most knew nothing of the gem they had acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

When the trade took place, many people around the league did not realize what a great goaltender Scrivens was. When Reimer went down with injury, Scrivens did a marvelous job filling in last season. Coincidentally, a very similar situation happens when he arrives in LA, and what does Ben do? He plays out of his mind by posting a 1.56 GAA, .943 SV%, and 3 SO to put him second, first and first in the NHL, respectively. Scrivens leads the Kings to seven wins and only two regulation losses. He plays the bulk of the games, even back-to-backs, but is eventually given a break.

Enter Martin Jones. The rookie is just expected to fill in for Scrivens to give him a breather, but what does the kid do? He snatches the starting spot from arguably the best goaltender this season. Jones posts a mind-boggling GAA of 0.99, SV% of .967 while winning all five of his games and posting two shutouts. As if the controversy wasn't already real enough, Martin Jones decides to raise it to another level. Now with Quick set to return in a couple of weeks, how should the Kings proceed? They are in quite a predicament, but it is a good problem to have. Most teams lack a great goalie, while the Kings have three possible starters. Jonathan was playing mediocre hockey before he went down, but was his injury affecting his performance? Is that why he wasn't his usual self? We all know what the Conn Smythe winner is capable of, but is it wise to automatically give him a start over a hotter goaltender? A couple weeks ago I would've said to stick with Scrivens until he cools off, and when he does make him a backup again. I've known for a while the level Scrivens can play at and truly believe he is capable of being a starter. That's not to say he should replace Quick because that is just insane. My theory was to start the goalie with the hot hand, as Scrivens is more than capable of leading a team. This would allow Quick to rest without sacrificing LA's chances of winning the game. But, then comes Jones and messes everything up. His recent performances have gotten me thinking again. Is it possible that the Kings' defensive system is so good that it makes any goalie good? Did I overestimate Scrivens? Or, are both these guys the real deal. After much analysis, I concluded that although the Kings' defense is spectacular, it should not receive all the credit. Quick, in the presence of the same system, did not play as well as these guys. Also, if one watches Scrivens and Jones play, it is obvious they are capable of making the big save and stealing a game for their team. This brings me back to the original question, who should be the starter? I like what Darryl Sutter is doing right now. He is going with the hot hand and not playing favorites. It is obviously working for him and he should continue to do so even when Quick returns.

As for the long-term future, it is immensely important that the organization handles this correctly. The Senators and Canucks have both undergone similar situations and could've improved on their decisions. Los Angeles obviously needs to trade one of their goaltenders, but who? Definitely not Quick. Regardless of how he has fared this season, Jonathan is one of the top goalies in the NHL and perhaps the most clutch player in all of hockey. Trading him would be foolish. That leaves Scrivens and Jones. Although Scrivens has more experience, he is also older and has more value on the market. The 27 year old is just entering his prime and has what it takes to be a starter. He has proven himself time and time again and I think many teams would be interested. Having him as a backup would be a horrible idea because L.A. could receive valuable players in return. Also, just how long could he backup Quick for? They are both the same age and Scrivens would become frustrated being a backup. Jones is much younger and would be an ideal backup. He could learn a lot from Quick, and eventually takeover as starter. As for the short-term future, Jones will be a great backup capable of giving Quick a much needed break when the schedule gets tough. He has the confidence of his teammates and is able to come in and get L.A. the two points against any team in the league. The Kings sure are lucky to have three great goalies, but they must handle this situation correctly to fully benefit.

Follow me on Twitter @WarraichRoop

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