When Philadelphia Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher inked Martin Jones to backup Carter Hart last offseason he was banking on the veteran bouncing back into form after being bought out by the San Jose Sharks.
Figuring that Hart would dominance the crease, Jones would provide a steady experienced options to take the load off even if at the higher end of the backup goal market for $2 million — seemed logical enough.
But the issue for Fletcher was that Jones was at that point coming off of increasingly worse and worse seasons with the Sharks, posting three-straight double digit negative Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) seasons dating back to 2018-19.
Unfortunately that trend would continue for Jones’ lone season in Philadelphia as he posted a -7.9 GSAA in 35 games, though at least helping the Flyers bottom out to earn the fifth overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft (selected Cutter Gauthier).
Jones wasn’t good enough in long stretches before the Flyers were officially out of things to warrant protecting the fragile Hart from bouncing back from multiple clunkers as Fletcher had hoped, and interim coach Mike Yeo ended up having to continue to test the 23-year-old’s mettle as a result.
As a matter of fact, Jones’ one-year run backfired so much so that Fletcher — tight up against the salary cap — was willing to forgo the veteran backup goalie market this offseason altogether and roll with some combination of Felix Sandstrom, AHL veteran Troy Grosenick, Samuel Ersson, and potentially KHL standout Ivan Fedotov if he ever emerges from the Russian military prison camp he’s been reportedly taken to against his will.
Despite a body of work stretching now four seasons of data showing that Jones simply isn’t very good anymore, the 32-year-old somehow landed another one-year, $2 million deal with the Seattle Kraken, who already employ the NHL’s worst goaltender from a year ago in Philipp Grubauer (-26.36 GSAA).
NHL general managers, man.
By the Numbers
While we did go hard on Jones up top in terms of where he ranked on average among his peers, he was just a touch worse than Hart, who posed a -3.0 GSAA in a tough year for Flyers goalies.
The main reason that Jones and Hart turned in subpar seasons was that the Flyers were one of the worst defensive teams in hockey, employing a total team defense that lacked buy-in and frequently left their netminders out to dry on odd-man rushes and high-danger chances.
But even taking into account the Flyers’ defensive shortcomings, Jones provided a lack of resistance against high-dangers chances — sporting a bottom-10 NHL rank in high-danger save percentage (.801 %) and saving on average less than five high-danger chances among goalies playing at least 1,800 minutes in all situations.
Even by traditional statistics like save percentage (.900) and goals-against average (3.42), Jones left a lot to be desired — perhaps further justifying Fletcher to consider going cheap on the backup goalie to save again the cap after watching a modest investment fail to pay dividends.
In the end, Fletcher’s bet on Jones capturing past magic reunited with Flyers goaltender coach Kim Dillabaugh — who worked with Jones when he broke out with the Los Angeles Kings — didn’t cash in and left the general manager limited options this offseason to backfill behind Hart.
Three Thoughts on Marty’s one-year wonder in Philadelphia
For starters we’d like to thank Marty for his fine work in January and February, where he managed to go 0-6-2 with an .873 save percentage and a 3.91 goals-against average to help drive the Flyers further South in the standings — that was nice work, truly.
It’s easy to look back on the move Fletcher made for Jones and see what the thinking was a major flaw was failing to move the veteran at the deadline for value that would have been twofold. Even a third or fourth round pick would have provided a lottery ticket that the Flyers could use more of, or potentially use in trade sweeteners. It would have give the Flyers a look at Sandstrom in extended NHL action to better gauge whether or not he could hold his own as a future backup option in say…2022-23…where by default and a lack of cap space, he is. That was a miss by Fletcher, especially given how far out of it the Flyers were at the trade deadline.
Finally, there’s really the impact on Hart in terms of Jones’ departure. Jones was clearly targeted by the Flyers in terms of hoping that pairing him with his former goaltending coach would remedy his game and potentially open him up to future seasons in Philadelphia but that clearly didn’t happen. Now in terms of roster construction and the Flyers right up — and likely over — the NHL’s salary cap, Hart will have backups with somewhere in the range of you can count it on one hand experience. Given that Hart hasn’t been very good the last few years and has been banged up along the way creates a very precarious situation in the crease in Philadelphia.
Never heard that one before.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick, Hockey Reference, and Evolving-Hockey unless otherwise noted.