Jacob Markstrom had a bounce-back season for the Calgary Flames in 2023-24

Photo credit:Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Raz Devraj
1 month ago
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Many factors play into the success of a team, one of those being good goaltending. Despite the flaws and setbacks the Calgary Flames experienced during the 2023-24 regular season, goaltending wasn’t one of them.
Next up is Jacob Markstrom as we continue player report cards for the 2023-24 season here at FlamesNation.

The past

The Swedish goaltender was drafted 31st overall by the Florida Panthers in 2008. He made his NHL debut with the Panthers in 2011 replacing Scott Clemmensen at the start of the second period. He did not have a consistent role in the NHL till the 2012-13 season when he strapped on the pads 23 times for the Panthers. 
His time in the NHL with the Panthers was short-lived as he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks the next year, a team Flames fans have gotten all too familiar with in recent years when it comes to swapping players. It took a couple of years for Markstrom to grab a hold of the starting goaltender position but he quickly emerged as a reliable 1A goalie not recording a save percentage lower than .910 as a full-time member of the Canucks. 
In 2020 Markstrom became a free agent and he signed a six-year, $36 million contract with the Flames. He has played some of his best hockey as a Flame, especially in 2021-22 where he was named a Vezina Trophy finalist and had the most shutouts by any goaltender that season with nine. That year was the only time (to date) that the Flames have made the playoffs with Markstrom on the roster.
Markstrom had his worst season statistically in 2022-23, the first year without Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau. It was the first time in his career as a starting goaltender that he had a save percentage below .900 finishing the season with an .892, as well as the highest goals-against average he had as a starter with a 2.92. 

The present

After having his worst season in the NHL there was skepticism about whether or not Markstrom could continue to be the number one guy for the Flames, especially with Dustin Wolf’s excellence and his itch to crack the roster. Knowing the Flames had goaltending depth made this season even more important for Markstrom individually. 
He clearly knew it was crucial for him to have a big year and he rose to the occasion being the biggest and most consistent positive force for the Flames this season. Markstrom finished his 2023-24 campaign with a .905 save percentage and a 2.78 goals-against average through 48 games played despite the heavily depleted defensive corps in front of him. One by one the individuals who came together to form one of the strongest defensive lineups in the past vanished. First, it was Nikita Zadorov, then it was Chris Tanev, and lastly Noah Hanifin. Big holes were left when those players left and it subjected Markstrom to more difficult tasks every night. Throughout the struggles, he was a bright light that remained consistent and gave the Flames a chance to win almost every night. 
There was a clear difference when Markstrom was in the net, he showed how important having good goaltending is for team success. The team played better, they took more risks, they took more chances offensively because they had faith in Markstrom and they knew he had what it took to bail them out. Not only did Markstrom shut the door but he also brought out this extra sense of energy and motivation in his teammates that only continued to get stronger after every huge save.
The Flames were still in the hunt for a wild card spot pretty much up until the trade deadline and if not for Markstrom’s stellar play, they could have very well been going toe-to-toe with the San Jose Sharks for the best odds at Macklin Celebrini. 

The future

Markstrom’s future with the Flames is uncertain. We all know of the talks and trade rumours that were floating around during the trade deadline and we also know how Markstrom felt about the whole situation. Markstrom has a full no-move clause, which he may (or may not) have waived for a trade to the New Jersey Devils. Obviously, that trade never came to fruition and Markstrom expressed his not-so-happy thoughts on why he should have been able to just focus on hockey instead of who he was going to get traded to when it wasn’t going to happen. 
Obviously, Markstrom wasn’t happy with the way things were handled in terms of the trade talks and there has been lots of speculation that he has played his final game as a member of the Calgary Flames. We don’t know if this whole gong-show has completely changed Markstrom’s thoughts on if he wants to be a Flame next season but what we do know is that he still has two years left on the contract that he signed back in 2020. 
Not very often do you see teams willingly part ways with their All-Star starting goalie but with Wolf ready to go, the Flames entering rebuild mode, and Markstrom coming off a phenomenal year, it almost seems like the perfect time to move on from him if that’s what the plan is to do.
Moving Marsktrom shouldn’t be a problem either. There will be plenty of teams all over this situation ready to make a deal. If Markstrom is made available again in the off-season, Craig Conroy is going to have deals left, right, and centre to choose from. 
Only time will tell what Markstrom’s future with the Flames is but whether or not the Flames have him in the pipes or Wolf in the pipes, goaltending should not be an issue for this franchise for the foreseeable future. 
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