By: Trent Leith / January 30, 2022
Spencer Martin was a player that the Canucks took a flyer on back in July, acquiring him from the Tampa Bay Lighting for “future considerations”. Boy howdy was that a high-value pick-up seeing as he just got four points in three games against some of the NHL’s finest. Not to mention he did all this while the Canucks were playing with a depleted roster. Martin got his first start in five years on January 21st against the elite Florida Panthers, when both Thatcher Demko and Jaroslav Halak were away from the team in COVID-19 protocol, leaving the Canucks scrambling to get goalies to ice when Martin stepped up for the team.
Martin didn’t disappoint when he got the call, playing three games, not losing a single one in regulation. While his record was 1-0-2 as the starter, he gave the Canucks every chance to win every game he played sporting a surprisingly strong .958 sv% and 1.59 GGA. Now that Halak and Demko are both back for the Canucks it brings the end to an era, regardless of how short it was. Or does it?
Martin Martian’s Performace
Martin got three starts in his brief second chance in the NHL, and he played exceptionally well during all three. But that was not always the case for the 26-year-old journeyman goaltender. Martin was selected in round three, 63rd overall by the Colorado Avalanche in 2013.
Martin worked his way up from the OHL, to the ECHL, on to the AHL before he got his first chance to play in the NHL in 2016-17. Martin got three starts with the Avs and put up a very pedestrian .865 sv% and 4.35 GGA. After those three games, he was sent back down to the AHL, and then back down to the ECHL again.
But Martin didn’t hang up the skates. Martin got a couple of contracts in unrestricted free agency from the Tampa Bay Lightning however, he never got into any game action before coming to the Vancouver Canucks. Martin worked his way up the Vancouver depth charts with an impressive .921 sv% 2.24 GGA in Abbotsford until he was the third man on that list, and got the nod when the team needed him the most.
In his first game with the Canucks this season, he was thrown to the wolves. As Martin was set to go against one of the best teams in the league, the dangerous Florida Panthers, who absolutely devour their opposition. Martin made 33 saves on the 34 shots only letting in a single goal in regulation. This is against a team that chewed up and spit out the Canucks only 10 days prior in a 5-2 spanking in the Sunshine State.
The Panthers were averaging 5.7 goals a game in the ten games prior to Martin tending the crease, and he held them to a single goal in regulation, and no goals through overtime, only losing in the shoot-out.
Martin would then go on to force a point against the very top-heavy Edmonton Oilers only letting in two goals.
Martin would finally get his first NHL win in his sixth try, against the Winnipeg Jets in a decisive 5-1 outing.
Martin did all this with a thinned-out lineup in front of him, with Garland, Horvat and Miller missing different amounts of time due to being in COVID-19 protocol.
Martin’s NHL Future
Now that Halak and Demko are back and have relieved Martin of his duties with the big club, Martin was reassigned to the taxi squad, and on Sunday morning was sent back to the Abbotsford Canucks thus implying the Martin Era has come to an end. But Martin had such a strong, albeit short, showing that he is sure to have caught the eye of teams around the league who are short on goaltending or are looking for COVID-19 insurance before the playoffs. Before the deadline, Martin’s name could come up if teams are looking for cheap options to shore up the net, and he deserves to go somewhere where he will have the chance to get more games under his belt.
There is still a chance that Martin gets that opportunity in Vancouver too, with Halak’s bonuses coming up, changes may be on the horizon for this team. On Wednesday in the Patrick Allvin introductory press conference, Rutherford said “And we’ve got to figure out a way to get a little cushion on the cap. It’s always difficult being up against the cap, and a team that’s not in the playoffs at this point in time is not a good thing. So, some big decisions are coming up.”
You don’t have to be a rocket surgeon to deduce that the Halak overage next season might not be something Rutherford is comfortable with. Halak does however have a no-trade clause, but the Canucks could attempt to twist Halak’s arm into waiving it by carrying three goalies and not giving Halak starts. This may motivate Halak to move on if he ends up seeing the writing on the wall that comes with a decision like that. Rutherford has thrown cold water on the Halak trade rumours, however, only time will tell what if anything will change in the crease for the Canucks.
One thing is for sure though, Martin has played exceptionally well despite only winning one of three games in his short stint in the starter’s crease and he deserves a longer look at a full-time NHL job.