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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports

Should we expect a better year two from Jacob Markström?

Year one of Jacob Markström’s six-year, $36 million contract didn’t go according to plan. The Flames missed the playoffs and Markström’s mid-season dip in performance was a big reason why. As Markström enters his second season with the team, Calgary has reason to expect a better performance from their number one goaltender. If that doesn’t happen, it’s tough to see the Flames returning to the playoffs come April.

Last season

“I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t good enough,” Markström told The Firestarter Podcast this week. “That’s on me, so that’s the pressure that I put on myself. I feel like I had a great summer and I feel like I’m ready to kick this season starting again.”

For a guy with standards as high as Markström, you can understand why he wasn’t impressed with his first campaign in Calgary. Last year saw Markström go 22-19-2 with a 0.904 save percentage, which was well below his results the prior season in Vancouver (23-16-4, 0.918 SV%). But it’s not like last year was all bad for Markström; in fact, he bookended his season with two really good stretches.

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Stretch Record SV%
First 13 starts 8-4-1 0.924
Middle 15 starts 4-10-1 0.872
Final 15 starts 10-5-0 0.917

Markström was in elite form until around mid-February when he collided with Tanner Pearson in a game against the Canucks. The resulting concussion and recovery not only kept Markström out a few weeks, but also impacted his game upon returning. The resulting dip was noticeable and didn’t really rectify itself until an Apr. 10 shutout performance against Edmonton.

Projecting this season

There’s no science in trying to project future results for a goalie. The best we can do is use past results and a team’s situation to come up with a fair ballpark. In Markström’s case, his recent track record would suggest there’s at least a decent chance of a bounce back. Prior to last year, Markström’s numbers were remarkably consistent over his three seasons as Vancouver’s number one.

Season Starts Record SV%
2017-2018 57 23-26-7 0.912
2018-2019 60 28-23-9 0.912
2019-2020 43 22-19-2 0.918

While it’s by no means a sure thing, goalies with recent resumes like Markström’s tend to return to form after down years. Cam Talbot is a recent Flames example. After a rough final year with Edmonton, Talbot got his game back in order in Calgary and carried that over to Minnesota. I’d lean towards a similar script playing out with Markström. After all, it’s not like he fluked his way to strong results with the Canucks over 160 starts.

Also important in projecting Markström’s success this year is his workload. Last year saw Markström start 43 of 56 for the Flames, which would put him on pace for around 63 over a full 82-game schedule. Markström has shown he can sustain a high level with that type of workload, so if healthy, somewhere in that ballpark is probably what we’re talking about.

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Furthermore, head coach Darryl Sutter has historically relied heavily on his number one goalies…just ask Miikka Kiprusoff or Jonathan Quick. And, knowing Calgary enters next season with an unproven, albeit promising, backup in Dan Vladar, you can expect Markström to play a lot. If he bounces back while starting 60 games, the Flames will be in a much better spot than they were last season.

Finally, I’m fascinated to see what Markström’s results look like under Sutter for an entire year. While it didn’t ultimately result in a playoff berth, the Flames took significant steps in Sutter’s 30 games behind the bench. If that’s the way the team plays consistently this year, logic suggests it should play in Markström’s, or any goalies’, favour.

Calgary’s five-on-five possession rate with Sutter coaching the team was 55.0%, good for second overall. Similarly, the Flames allowed just 20.3 even strength shots (third) and 6.2 high danger chances (second) against in that same stretch. High danger chances courtesy Natural Stat Trick.

Traditionally, teams coached by Sutter spend a lot of time cycling in the offensive zone and limit shots and chances against. That’s exactly what we saw from Calgary down the stretch and Markström posted strong results in his final 15 appearances. That’s at the very least an encouraging sign heading into training camp.