This past week, the Devils announced they’d be placing goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood on Injured Reserve because of a heel injury. A few months ago, Steve Cangialosi reported that Blackwood has been and will continue to deal with a heel injury that has been nagging back to last season. It’s also the same heel that had undergone surgery in the offseason, yet it nor Blackwood has been at 100%.
So far this season, the Devils lost the goaltender they signed in the offseason for the second straight year, they’ve had six different goalies in net this year, and they’ve willingly played a goaltender who was not healthy. It’s no mistake this team’s season is over at the end of January, and they direct a ton of blame towards their goaltending situation. At this point in time, the Devils are relying on Jon Gillies and Akira Schmid, who combined have a total of 24 career starts and a .866% save percentage. How do the Devils stay afloat with these two running the crease, what will they do with Blackwood, and who are some potential adds in the offseason?
The Gillies/Schmid Show
The Devils’ on-ice product has not only been abysmal for the last few months but for the last decade. The only difference between the team now and the ones in the mid-2010s is Cory Schneider. Every night, he gave what were some terrible Devils teams a chance to win every game. This recent basement-dwelling Devils teams have the second-worst save percentage in the league.
Gillies, who currently has a .907 save percentage, has given the Devils chances to win games. While he has let in more than a few soft ones, the Devils offense has generated just five goals in their last three games, which is not enough regardless if prime Marty’s in net. As for the other half of the duo, Schmid has been anything but reliable. Among goaltenders who have started three or more games this year, Schmid has the second-worst save percentage at a .824.
Over their last thirty games, the Devils have just eight wins, and it isn’t going to get easier. The Devils are currently behind the Flyers in the standings, who have already had two separate ten-game losing streaks this season. Unless Cory Schneider of old walks through that locker room door or Dougie Hamilton’s return kick starts the Devils defense to stay structured, the rest of this season is going to look identical to what we’ve watched over the last month. It will be a lot more losing, poor goaltending, but at least that means more Bratt and Hughes.
In Blackwood’s first two seasons as a Devil, he looked like their goaltender of the future. He now ranks at the bottom of every analytical card JFresh offers. Whether it’s goals saved above expected, consistency, or high/medium or low danger chances, Blackwood is in the cellar for all of them. Suppose this drop-off is a direct result of the heel injury that’s been plaguing him. In that case, management should be questioned why they decided to play him injured. If it isn’t, the first two years were a flash in the pan, and this is the real Blackwood, Devils management shouldn’t be shy about signing a goaltender and drafting one this offseason.
It’s not every day of the week you find a high-end goaltender on the free-agent market. There haven’t been many notable names to grace the market outside of Jacob Markstrom, Robin Lehner, and Sergei Bobrovsky. This year, it’s the same. Of the limited choices, three realistic options are Joonas Korpisalo, Pavel Francouz, and Jack Campbell. When it comes to Korpisalo, he’s had two outstanding seasons and four seasons below a .900 save percentage. As for Francouz, his resume is much smaller, but it’s much more impressive. Over 44 career games, he has a remarkable .928 save percentage. Realistically, some of that is a product of being on an Avalanche team with a loaded blue-line. But when it comes to Korpisalo, he had John Tortorella as his head coach, meaning he had a defense in front of him who were risking their lives to block shots. When it comes to Campbell, he’s a guy who’s had a few solid seasons as a 1B goaltender. Fast forward to this season, he’s a top candidate for the Vezina. The Devils still have as much cap space as anyone in. If they want to throw money at one of these guys to make Blackwood’s life easier, they can, and they should.
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