During the 2020 offseason, Calgary Flames fans rejoiced when it was announced their club had signed free agent goaltender Jacob Markstrom to a six-year, $36 million deal. By all accounts, the former Vancouver Canuck was the best available in the free agent market, and his signing arguably gave the organization its first legitimate number-one netminder since Miikka Kiprusoff.
Markstrom struggled to live up to the hype in his first season with the Flames, however, producing a rather pedestrian 2.68 goals against average (GAA) along with a .904 save percentage (SV%) in the shortened 2020-21 campaign.
Thankfully, those numbers improved in a major way just a season later, as he had a career-best 2.22 GAA paired with a .922 SV% and a league-leading nine shutouts in 63 outings. He had more than lived up to his lucrative contract, and for the first time in his career was named a Vezina Trophy Finalist. Throughout the entirety of the season, it felt as though Markstrom could do no wrong. He was beloved by the Flames fanbase and very rarely if ever, had an off night. That is, until the playoffs.
After an impressive opening round against the Dallas Stars, the wheels fell off in dramatic fashion for Markstrom in the Flames’ second-round series versus the Edmonton Oilers. He and his teammates were eliminated in just five games, during which time he recorded a ghastly 5.12 GAA and a .852 SV%. As you can imagine, fans grew frustrated very quickly with his performance given the team’s Stanley Cup aspirations. And, while it is early into the 2022-23 campaign, it is clear those frustrations are still very real.
Markstrom Off to a Rough Start
Though it is very early into 2022-23, Markstrom has looked far from the Vezina-caliber goalie he was a season ago. Through three starts, he has given up a total of eight goals on just 50 shots for a disappointing .862 SV%. His most recent start against the Buffalo Sabres was the worst yet, as he was pulled after a first period in which he allowed three goals on 12 shots.
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In the 32-year-old’s defense, he hasn’t had a lot of help in the early going, oftentimes being left hung out to dry. That said, he hasn’t yet been able to make the clutch saves he was coming up with so often a season ago. That, paired with his poor playoff showing, is drawing the ire of plenty of the Flames fanbase.
As mentioned in the Tweet above, it isn’t as if Markstrom is looking to make excuses for his poor start. He isn’t the type to do that, and he refused to do so last year after his team’s elimination. There is no one more aware than him when he isn’t at his best, and you can bet he is the type of player who is going to do everything in his power to ensure he ups his game moving forward. That said, if this continues for much longer, the noise from Flames faithful is only going to grow louder.
Patience Needed From Fans
The frustration from fans regarding Markstrom’s performance as of late is justified. That said, those who are calling for Dan Vladar are doing so far too early. Not only is it far too soon to write off Markstrom, but it would put Vladar, who has logged just 30 career games at the NHL level, in a very tough position. The best Darryl Sutter can do right now is continue to throw his workhorse out there on a consistent basis and hope he can soon get back to last season’s form.
Again, it is very early into the season, and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if Markstrom was quickly able to put these doubts to bed with several great starts. He has a chance to begin that tonight (Oct. 22) in a must-watch game versus the Carolina Hurricanes.