It’s been a bumpy few years for Martin Jones. After experiencing the highs of a Stanley Cup finals run in 2015-16, he was rewarded with a big-time contract and the weight of the crease on his shoulders. The Sharks rode Jones without much of a reliable tandem in place, leaving him to start in 60+ games four years in a row. With a disappointing end to what was once regarded as an exciting era in San Jose, Jones is hoping to find redemption.
“I wasn’t happy with the way the last two seasons went.” Jones said in his first presser as a Flyer. “I don’t need that to motivate me. Obviously, I think I have something to prove now. Anytime you get a little extra motivation that can be helpful. For me, I know what my expectations are of myself and they’re a lot higher than what the last few seasons have shown.”
He allowed an average of at least 3 goals per game in both of those last two seasons, for a lowly .896 save percentage in each of his last three. Whatever the reasons were, a change of scenery was clearly going to be beneficial for the 31-year-old, and there were some familiar faces waiting to greet him in Philadelphia, making the decision to sign a little easier.
First up, Justin Braun. The D-man played with Jones in San Jose and the two spoke briefly upon his arrival this morning. Secondly, Kim Dillabaugh, the Flyers’ goalie coach. Dillabaugh worked with the Kings as the Head of Goaltender Development from 2007-2015, overlapping with Jones, who arrived on the scene as a UDFA back in 2013 and spent three seasons there.
“We had a great relationship when I was in Manchester. He knows my game very well and we know how to work together. That was a factor for sure. Hopefully we can sort of pick up where we left off and hopefully get my game back trending where it was a few years ago.”
Under his tutelage, Jones won 16 of his 34 appearances, with a goals allowed average of 1.81 in his rookie year and 2.24 in his second season. His save percentage was above .900% in both. Obviously he was much younger and the sample size is much smaller, but joining a team to be greeted by someone who helped you take your first steps as an NHL goalie has to be a positive.
It’s not yet known just how much of a role Jones will play. He appeared in 34 games last year an there is reason to believe that he’ll be working under Carter Hart, a younger goaltender who also struggled in 2020. That presents its own challenge for the Wiley vet, and one he’s looking forward to.
“ I’m coming into play the best that I can, to push Carter. He’s obviously a very talented young goalie. If we can push each other to be better, that’s going to be the best thing for the team.”
Hart’s former backup, Brian Elliott, recently signed a deal in Tampa Bay, forcing Fletcher’s hand to go and find a replacement. Jones is somewhere in between Carter Hart’s skill-level and Alex Lyon’s, who showed signs of growth in limited action last year. On what is a one-year deal, his experiences over the past eight years will be valuable to Hart, especially as someone who has struggled in recent years. The relatability through conversations may help Hart overcome the mental obstacles and get back to his best, while lighting a fire of competition under Jones’s belly in the process.
With a fresh change of scenery bringing new challenges and some familiar faces, Jones will enter Philadelphia turning a new chapter in his NHL story. It’s one he hopes will be a very successful one, very quickly.
“Well, they’ve been a good team for a long time.” He said of his new team. “It feels like they’ve been sort of just right on the cusp of kind of breaking through. They’ve added some pieces on the back end, which I think are going to be obviously super helpful. If I can come in and kind of stabilize goaltending, that’s going to help as well. I think we’re positioned really well this year to have a good season.”
Photo by Matt Cohen/Icon Sportswire