Facing Off: Should Jacob Markström be the Panthers' starting goaltender?

SUNRISE, FL - SEPTEMBER 19: Goaltender Jacob Markstrom #25 of the Florida Panthers watches the Nashville Predators warm up on September 19, 2011 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Welcome to Facing Off, our new weekly editorial in which two LBC staffers go head-to-head and voice their opinions on all things Panthers. We invite the community to give us their take as well, so once you've finished reading, feel free to post your comments. Please remember that we are simply voicing our opinions and asking our readers to do the same; therefore, keep the commenting civil and avoid any flame wars. Initiate argument functions...

This week's topic: Should Jacöb Markstrom be the starting goalie for the Panthers?

Our featured authors: Donny & Alex

We all saw the numbers from the preseason, and numbers rarely lie: Jose Theodore struggled throughout the "don't count" games, giving everyone a very uneasy feeling that he'll barely be able to tie Tomas Vokoun's shoes, let alone fill them. Meanwhile, possibly the best goalie in the world not starting in the NHL waits in the wings. Is it time to bring Jacob Markström in as the starter this season, or is it too early to trust the youngster with the reins?

Alex Says:

Starting Jacob Markström may not be as insane as you might think.

Experience and success at minor league levels
Before coming over to North America, Markström played for Brynäs IF in both J20 SuperElit and Elitserien. For those who don't know, the Elitserien, or Swedish Elite League, is the highest hockey league in Sweden, and one of the most respected hockey leagues in the world. Just like in the AHL, Markström played against players more experienced than him and was able to come out on top, winning Elitserien Rookie of the Year in 2010 and IIHF Best Player Award for goaltender at the World Juniors in 2009. Unlike Erik Gudbranson and Jonathan Huberdeau, Markström has experience with older players and North American ice.

Trial by fire
While experience in the AHL would help Markström develop, experience in the NHL could help even more. With a veteran defense, a head coach with success in developing young players, and a Vezina Trophy winner to mentor him, Markström could learn more in the NHL than he can in the AHL. Also, what's the worst than could happen? He has a rookie season like Marc-André Fleury and Cam Ward (regular season)? If Markström can't handle the heat, then bench him and send him back to the AHL. But if he can, we don't need to wait until next season for him to challenge Théodore for the number one spot.

 

Donny Says:

Though he's been a starter virtually everywhere he's played, the Panthers can't help but be responsibly cautious with Markstrom's North American development, which began to show steady improvement despite a very mediocre Rochester club in front of him in 2010-11. The forty minutes of NHL regular season experience under his belt - sent to the fire in relief of Scott Clemmensen during a burgeoning 5-2 loss at the hands a surging Devils squad - was an inauspicious start, though the defeat was not entirely of his own making, stopping 12 of 14 shots just as New Jersey began a memorable yet maniacal run up the standings. And there you have his National League resume.

That said, could Markstrom shove aside a proven veteran in Jose Theodore for that golden Number One spot? Based on what we've seen in the preseason, it's a completely feasible possibility; everyone has looked shaky, "Marky" only less so. For the purpose of this argument, let's suppose Jose quickly collects himself some ugly stats amid a sea of "L"s. This on a rebuilding roster, many of whom only knew each other previously as The Opposition, with two of the three coaches still hunting for homes in the area. The intended backup going into the year is out another three weeks at best, and you still have yet to meet Winnipeg (um, kidding).

This is a frightening scenario in which to break in your future "all world" goaltender. Yes, he's got a shiny disposition with a stellar attitude second to none, and oodles of successful international experience as well, but such qualities can only go so far amid the potential reality of wandering that confidence-sapping wasteland of a brutal rebuild. So few are up to the task; perhaps he - at 21 years of age - is. In the meantime let's continue crossing fingers and blowing kisses in Theo's direction.
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