Jacob Markstrom had a sensational 2021-22 season in the Flames net
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
By Ryan Pike1 year ago
Two off-seasons ago, the Calgary Flames went out and signed Jacob Markstrom to a hefty free agent contract worth $36 million over six seasons. It was a big gamble, one that might’ve made folks nervous after he had an uneven first season.
But after a sensational 2021-22 campaign, it’s hard to argue that the signing wasn’t a prudent one, as Markstrom has finally brought back stability – and dare we say excellence – to the Flames’ crease.
A product of Gälve, Sweden, Markstrom was a beast as a junior-aged netminder. He posted a .931 save percentage with Brynas’s under-20 team in his draft year, then was called up to their pro team and had a .931 save percentage and two shutouts to maintain their spot in Sweden’s top league. For his efforts, he was selected in the second round of the 2008 NHL Draft by Florida. He played two more seasons in Sweden – splitting time between Brynas’ pro team and Sweden’s World Junior team in each season, capturing silver and bronze medals – before heading over to North American when he was 20.
Markstrom’s time with Florida could be summed up as a plane that just couldn’t find a runway to land. He split time in all four seasons between the Panthers and their AHL affiliates (first in Rochester, then in San Antonio). He posted strong numbers in the AHL, but had varying results in the NHL. He was eventually shipped out, traded to Vancouver in the Roberto Luongo trade.
In Vancouver, Markstrom spent the 2014-15 season circling the proverbial runway again, but he finally made the big step in the following season and became a full-time NHL netminder. He spent two seasons playing as Ryan Miller’s backup before taking over as the starter in 2017-18, a gig he had for three seasons. Eventually, the Canucks had a desire to get more out of Thatcher Demko, and Markstrom headed to free agency, signing with the Flames in the 2020 off-season
Markstrom’s first season in Calgary, a pandemic-shortened bubble season, wasn’t great. He struggled at times to adjust to his new blueliners and the Flames’ system, and he suffered a concussion in a mid-season collision with Tanner Pearson that further complicated matters.
In his first year with the Flames (2020-21), Markstrom had no real training camp or pre-season to adjust to his new team, systems or teammates. Heck, he didn’t even play in front of people. It was not a fun year, even before his concussion.
But his second season was better in basically every way. Markstrom had a full training camp and pre-season. Playing within Darryl Sutter’s checking and defensive system, he was asked to save the team’s bacon far less often, and he faced fewer strong chances and second chances. In other words: life was much, much easier for him. Aside from Daniel Vladar playing both halves of a back-to-back because Markstrom wasn’t at 100%, he remained healthy all season.
Markstrom responded to these better circumstances with a sensational season. He played 63 games, a career high. He also set career highs in wins, shutouts, goals against average and save percentage. His nine shutouts were the second-most in a season in franchise history. His regular season performance made him a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.
In the post-season, Markstrom had two very different series. Against Dallas, he faced crazy-good scoring chances only occasionally and managed to keep most of them out. Against Edmonton, he faced crazy-good scoring chances fairly often and didn’t manage to keep them out. The defensive play in front of him wasn’t nearly as good, but he also wasn’t a difference-maker as often as he was in the regular season or against Dallas.
It was a sour end to what was otherwise a tremendous bounce-back season for Markstrom.
Markstrom has played two seasons of a six year contract with a $6 million annual cap hit. If you split the difference between his first and second seasons, he should be expected to be a pretty effective goalie for the Flames for awhile longer. Behind him are backup Daniel Vladar, who played well on a league minimum deal this season, and AHL All-Star Dustin Wolf.
Markstrom is an excellent Plan A for the Flames to have in net for the next several seasons. But if he ever falters, they have pretty good Plans B and C available.
2021-22 Flames player evaluations
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