It may seem improbable, but Martin Jones could be the key to the Toronto Maple Leafs pursuit of the Stanley Cup this year.
When the Toronto Maple Leafs signed Jones last summer, no one thought he would make a meaningful impact on the team. Yet, as we find ourselves in January, it appears to be one of the most significant acquisitions in Brad Treliving's career.
Jones, a seasoned goaltender, has started 30 or more NHL games in eight consecutive seasons, indicating that the prospect of playing every other night does not faze him. In fact, it seems to have revitalized his enthusiasm for coming to the rink every day, especially considering his recent past in the minors with the Toronto Marlies.
Earning an NHL salary in the AHL at 33 years old might not be the worst scenario, but Jones is proving that he has a considerable amount of quality hockey left in him.
While no one wanted to witness Ilya Samsonov struggle or Joseph Woll get injured, having three NHL goalies on the roster is precisely for such scenarios. Jones is demonstrating to the Leafs and the rest of the NHL that he deserves more than just a league minimum contract next year.
Martin Jones Could Key to the Maple Leafs Success
The notion that Jones could be the Leafs starting goalie when the playoffs commence might sound far-fetched, but why not? Comparing his statistics to the six most recent Stanley Cup-winning goaltenders reveals that they are not too far off:
- Regular Season: 919 SV%, 2.44 GAA
- Playoffs: .922 SV%, 2.19 GAA
These numbers are respectable, though one might have expected them to be even better. What's surprising, however, is Martin Jones' performance in the 2023-24 season and his career in the playoffs:
- Martin Jones: 2023-24 Season: .932 SV%, 2.08 GAA
- Martin Jones: Playoff Career: .917 SV%, 2.36 GAA
These career figures are impressive, and what's even more exciting for Leafs fans is that he has put up even better numbers in individual playoff runs. In 2015-16, when Jones led the San Jose Sharks to the Stanley Cup Finals, he finished the playoffs with a 2.16 GAA and .923 SV%, aligning well with the average statistics of Stanley Cup-winning goaltenders.
Though that experience is from almost eight years ago, its value in the playoffs cannot be overstated. The Leafs will undoubtedly feel more comfortable with Jones in the net, should they be required to use him.
The coming weeks will be intriguing to see how Jones continues as the Leafs new number-one netminder. However, the initial apprehension about him assuming this role may be dissipating, given his recent performances and the promise he holds for the team's playoff aspirations.