The Philadelphia Flyers went a bit off the board with their backup goalie in free agency on Wednesday. Chuck Fletcher inked Martin Jones to a one-year, $2 million contract. Jones was placed on waivers to be bought out by the Sharks on Tuesday.
Jones, 31, has been nothing but consistent over the past three seasons. Unfortunately, consistency isn’t always a good thing.
Martin Jones’ consistently poor numbers
After three solid seasons with save percentages in the .910s –– and a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016 ––, Jones’ numbers fell off a cliff and stayed there. In the 2018-19 season, Jones went 36-19-5 with an .896 SV%. He had an .896 SV% in 41 games in the 2019-20 season and, you guessed it, an .896 save percentage in 34 games last season.
Jones didn’t have the best team in front of him, however, at least in the past two seasons as the Sharks missed the playoffs in both years. The team defense just wasn’t good and it showed up in the numbers.
“I can’t speak to what happened in San Jose,” Fletcher said. “I do know that if we defend better in front of our goaltenders, they, in turn, will play well and allow our players to be more confident too.”
Jones had a save percentage similar to the goalies that joined him in the Sharks crease. From 2018 to 2021, the Sharks had five goalies start a game –– three of which started at least 13 games. Jones had an .896 SV% in 137 games, Aaron Dell had an .899 SV% in 58 games, and Devan Dubnyk had an .898 SV% in 17 games.
That context puts Jones in a bit of a more positive light. However, of 37 goalies that played at least 4,000 minutes at 5-on-5 play over the past three seasons, Jones ranks dead last in GSAA (Goals Saved Above Average). GSAA is calculated by the league’s average save percentage with the number of shots a goalie has had. The Sharks allowed 236.7 expected goals at 5-on-5 with Jones in the crease and he let in 302 goals.
Trusting in Dilly to turn Jones around
So, what makes the Flyers confident that Jones can help them win?
Well, prior to joining the Sharks, Martin Jones was the backup goalie for the Los Angeles Kings. In fact, he won the Stanley Cup in 2014 with the Kings. Their goalie coach at the time, Kim Dillabaugh, is now the Flyers goalie coach.
“I know he has a strong relationship with Kim,” Fletcher said when asked why he believes Jones can turn it around. “I think Kim knows his game and feels that he can work with him and help him get them back to where he was. This is a guy that’s used to playing 60 games a year, so he’s coming into a tandem situation now. I think there’ll be opportunities here to get practice time and to work on things. Sometimes a chance to reset and recharge in a new environment is a good thing, too.”
Fletcher mentioned Kim Dillabaugh five times throughout his post-free-agency press conference. They have to think he can unlock Jones’ talent.
Jones touched on the relationship as well.
“We had a great relationship when I was in Manchester,” Jones said. “He knows my game very well and we know how to work together. That was a factor for sure. Hopefully, we can sort of pick up where we left off and hopefully get my game back trending where it was a few years ago.”
Hart – Jones playing time split to be determined
Given Carter Hart’s struggles last season, the Flyers wanted to get a goalie to pair with him in the crease. Rather than getting a backup goalie, the Flyers wanted someone that could work in a tandem situation. Jones doesn’t have great numbers recently, but he can play a heavy workload.
“Martin Jones is a guy that has played really well in this league for a long time. The last couple seasons in San Jose haven’t gone as well as he hoped, or the team had hoped,” Fletcher said. “He has over 60 games of playoff experience. Again won 30 games in this league multiple times.”
Jones started 18 and 11 games in his first two years in the league with the Kings. After that, he played in almost 60% of Sharks games in each season. He started 65, 65, 60, and 62 from the 2015-16 season to the 2018-19 season, when he dipped to an .896 SV%. After that, he started 39 (of 70) games in the 2019-20 season and 34 of 56 last year.
Fletcher didn’t say how the Flyers planned on using Hart and Jones. It’ll be up to the coaching staff and the goalies themselves.
“That’ll be up to Kim and Alain to get together and figure out what makes sense. Obviously, how the player’s performance and health will come into that,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s possible to play 60 games, for a goaltender to play 60 games this year. I’m not sure if it’s 16 or 17 back-to-backs … It’s five games in seven nights and three time zones I think we have at one stretch … This year is going to be a tough schedule. It’ll be the first time in three years that we played 82 games.”
That tough schedule is another reason that the Flyers needed to get a bonafide backup for Carter Hart.
Jones hopes that he and Hart can push each other to be the best they can be.
“Well, I think that’s something that you deal with as the season progresses,” Jones said of the playing time split. “I’m coming into play the best that I can, to push Carter. He’s obviously a very talented young goalie. If we can push each other to be better, that’s going to be the best thing for the team.”
The Flyers needed a backup goalie to take some of the pressure off of Carter Hart. Martin Jones was their answer. Only time will tell if it was the right one.
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