John Gibson has long been hailed as a potential franchise goaltender for the Anaheim Ducks. A solid minor league career followed by an All-Star selection as a rookie did nothing to abate the hype. With “frenemy” Frederik Andersen shipped off to the Toronto Maple Leafs, he’s now the sole proprietor of the Anaheim net.
In 2015-16, the 23-year old netminder showed glimpses of the player he might eventually become. On some nights, his lanky frame and unflappable demeanor had him looking like he was ready to be one of the league’s premier workhorses. Yet there were also nights, notably in the post-season, where he looked every bit the 23-year old that he is.
Shaky when venturing out behind his net, fumbling rebounds, Gibson’s inexperience at hockey’s highest level reared its ugly head when the lights were at their brightest. Now, the team in front of him wasn’t much better either. He just didn’t have a positive impact on either game he played in though, allowing 6 goals on 60 games. Watch here as he over-complicates matters behind the net:
Gibson’s future is still promising. Goaltenders take longer to reach their primes, very few of them looking like bona-fide starters at such a young age.
Unfortunately, the Ducks don’t have time to wait for him to become an elite starter. They’re a team whose Stanley Cup window is right now. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry,and Ryan Kesler are all on the wrong side of 30, and on gargantuan deals to boot.
Anaheim needs quality goaltending from Gibson. And they will get it, so long as he continues to develop.
The question isn’t so much how well Gibson will play, but how much he’ll actually have to. The Ducks currently don’t have a backup goaltender, at least not an NHL one. The options to fill that void are currently very limited.
Let’s Talk Options
Jhonas Enroth is by far the best goaltender remaining in free agency. He’s been serviceable throughout his career, and he could easily turn in 20 to 25 quality games for the Ducks. That’d be just enough to ensure that Gibson wouldn’t have to exceed the dreaded 65-game mark.
Enroth could very well land in Anaheim. Suitors like the Calgary Flames, who once didn’t have a single goaltender on their roster, have addressed that need. His latest contract paid him $1.25 million, which could work for Anaheim even with their constricted cap sheet. He put up a career best .922 save percentage last season though, meaning he could be asking for a raise. The Ducks might have to bite the bullet there, since their other choices are loathsome at best.
Hallowed names like Ben Scrivens, Karri Ramo, Ray Emery, and Anders Lindback dot the remaining free agent pile. GM Bob Murray might as well have Ducks’ goaltending coach Dwayne Roloson come out of retirement again if he’s considering any of those guys.
The farm isn’t yielding any fresh produce either. Dustin Tokarski has had some good moments in the NHL, but he was dreadful in Montreal last year. Not the guy the Ducks would want to lean on should Gibson falter or go down with an injury. Then there’s Matt Hackett, who posted a ghastly .895 in San Diego.
Simply put, there really isn’t a better option than Enroth. He’s been around the league long enough to provide some guidance for the greener Gibson, which sounds pleasant. He’s also good, but not quite good to the point where he’ll challenge Gibson for minutes. The Ducks probably don’t want a redo of the Gibson-Andersen era.
Murray might have to spend more than he’d like to on a backup goaltender, but better that than the unsavory alternatives before him.
Felix Sicard is the Anaheim Ducks’ Lead Writer for The Hockey Writers. Now in his third season of covering the team, he writes previews and recaps for all Ducks’ home games, as well as weekly analysis pieces.
In addition to covering the Ducks at THW, Felix co-hosts SB Nation’s Anaheim Calling: The Podcast, as well as hosting The Garage Hockey Podcast.
For consistent Ducks’ content, be sure to check out his Twitter @Felix_Sicard.