Canucks 2022-23 Report Cards: Spencer Martin

Welcome to the Vancouver Canucks 2022-23 report card series. In this series, we at The Hockey Writers look back at each Canucks player from the past season, break down how their campaign went and assign a letter grade reflective of their overall performance. This edition will focus on goaltender Spencer Martin.

Martin Failed to Replicate His 2021-22 Form

Despite playing in just six games in 2021-22, Martin’s performances were elite. He had a stellar .950 save percentage (SV%), 1.74 goals-against average (GAA), and a 4.88 goals saved above average (GSAA), which ranked 21st among all NHL goaltenders. After Jaroslav Halak joined the New York Rangers in free agency, Martin took over the backup goaltender spot in Vancouver. With Thatcher Demko coming off an outstanding 2021-22 campaign himself, hopes were high for the Canucks’ goaltending unit heading into 2022-23.

Spencer Martin Vancouver Canucks
Spencer Martin, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Long story short, those hopes were unfulfilled. After Demko injured his groin in a Dec. 1 contest vs. the Florida Panthers, Martin took over the crease for Vancouver. Despite last year’s success, Martin looked like a different version of himself. In 29 games, Martin had a shocking .871 SV%, 3.99 GAA, and a minus-17.83 GSAA, good for 102nd out of 107 NHL goaltenders. Due to his struggles, Martin eventually split starts with Collin Delia, who fared no better than Martin.

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In Martin’s defense, the defensive group in front of him did him no favors either. Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Tyler Myers both had their worst years of their careers. The third pairing of defensemen was a constant revolving door with players like Kyle Burroughs, Noah Juulsen, and Riley Stillman — all below-average defensemen — being in and out of the lineup. However, Martin’s “expected” statistics were poor, which puts much of the onus on himself. His minus-0.027 low-danger unblocked shot attempt save% above expected was sixth worst among NHL goaltenders while his minus-0.038 high-danger unblocked shot attempt save% above expected was ninth-worst among NHL goaltenders. No matter what scoring chance Martin faced, he was below average in stopping the puck.

Martin’s Performance With Abbottsford Canucks

On Feb. 13, 2023, Vancouver announced that Martin was placed on waivers for the purpose of assigning him to their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Abbottsford Canucks. It was a chance for Martin to regain form and confidence as he had been solid for Abbottsford prior to his call-up to the NHL in 2022, posting a .914 SV%, 2.43 GAA, and an impressive 19-4-2 record. In 16 regular-season games for Abbottsford in 2022-23, Martin posted a .916 SV%, 2.43 GAA, and a 7-7-2 record. Outside of the win-loss statistic, Martin’s numbers were nearly identical to his previously strong AHL stint.

In the playoffs, however, Martin looked like he regained his 2021-22 form with the Canucks. Martin got the nod from head coach Jeremy Colliton over Canucks’ goaltending prospect Arturs Silovs to start the postseason, a move that came with some surprise (from ‘AHL Canucks Notebook: ‘Big Game Max,’ Spencer Martin’s revival and more,’ The Athletic, April 20, 2023). Despite being eliminated in the first round by the Calgary Wranglers, Martin was Abbottsford’s best player in the series. In four postseason games, Martin had an exceptional .929 SV% and a 1.92 GAA. He consistently put Abbottsford in a position to win games during his time there in 2022-23, something that can only help his confidence for the future.

Final Grade for Spencer Martin: D+

As for next year, the Canucks’ front office have a tough decision to make when it comes to the backup goaltending spot. Martin is signed through 2023-24 at a cap hit of $762,500 and his strong AHL showing might allow him to get a second chance with Vancouver. Silovs, on the other hand, is currently tearing it up for Latvia at the 2023 IIHF World Hockey Championships and looks poised to take that leap to the NHL.

Related: Canucks 2022-23 Report Cards: Sheldon Dries

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From failing to live up to the high preseason expectations as Vancouver’s backup to being a steadying presence in net for Abbottsford to end the year, Martin had himself a rollercoaster of a 2022-23 season. His play for Vancouver warrants a failing grade as he was statistically one of the worst goaltenders in the league. However, his play for Abbottsford bumps up his grade, seemingly finding his confidence and form the Canucks were hoping to receive during their season.

Analytics Provided By: Natural Stat Trick, MoneyPuck

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