Soft Mitts, Heavy Hits was a blog that I was incredibly proud of, co-authored by two wonderful friends. While that site is no longer available, I wanted my work from there to be preserved somehow. I will be reposting a few of my 2013 articles here and backdating them so I can revisit them whenever I want!
Edmonton Oil Kings goalie Tristan Jarry was one of the more noticeable names left off of Hockey Canada’s selection camp invite list for the World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden. Despite a sparkling record of 34-14-0-1, 1.79 GAA, .930 SV%, and 9 shutouts since the beginning of the 2012-13 season, it appears that Jarry has still yet to garner the respect to go along with these accomplishments. The Pittsburgh Penguins gave the goalie their vote of confidence with the 44th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft and an Entry Level Contract that followed on September 4th, but between the selection camp snub and the fact that Jarry was initially left off even the Team WHL Super Series roster, it looks like Jarry still has to prove to many that he’s not just a solid backup.
Jarry spent the first two years of his career as the backup to Laurent Brossoit, the 2012 WHL Playoff MVP and recently acquired cornerstone of the Edmonton Oilers’ goaltending future. He had a breakout season in that role in the 2012-13 season, making 27 starts behind Brossoit, finishing with a league-leading 1.61 GAA, .934 SV% and 6 shutouts—unheard of numbers for a WHL goaltender, backup or not. Jarry would sometimes have to wait for weeks to get a start over Brossoit, but never faltered in spite of his long layoffs. Ironically, Hockey Canada had a hand to play in that, as well—Jarry was expected to see a stretch of starts while Brossoit was in Russia with Team Canada, but was forced back to the bench when Brossoit was unexpectedly cut. Some criticism of Jarry may come from the fact that he’s been held to just 65 WHL starts in the last three seasons. However, in this, Jarry’s first season as a full-time starting goaltender, he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
The first eight games of the 2013-14 season were no cakewalk for Jarry after being reassigned from Pittsburgh’s training camp just three days prior to the start of the WHL season. It was a slow start that saw Jarry go 3-5, struggling with an uncharacteristic 3.36 GAA and a floundering .874 SV%. To say things turned around after that would be an understatement. In the 16 starts since then, Jarry has put in a 13-2-0-1 record, including 3 shutouts, a 1.37 GAA, and a .946 SV%. The slow start probably contributed to Jarry being left off of the Super Series team, and that was corrected when he was named to the team as a late addition—and it paid off, as he was later on the ice in Lethbridge to clinch the series for the CHL with a win in Thursday’s Game 6.
Jarry was called upon to follow up his Super Series appearance with a task that most goaltenders would balk at. The Oil Kings had a 3-in-3 set the weekend that followed Game 6: a game in Lethbridge on Friday, then Kootenay on Saturday, and back to Lethbridge for Sunday. Jarry was called upon to start all three games when Oil Kings backup Tyler Santos took an errant puck to the face while on the bench during the game against the Ice. He took the opportunity to raise his stats even further, sweeping the weekend with a 1.33 GAA and .934 SV%. Clearly, his new starter’s workload hasn’t yet begun to take a toll on him.
Another criticism that has been leveled at Jarry is that he plays behind too good of a defense. It’s true that the Edmonton Oil Kings, particularly last season, had a defense that would send most teams in the CHL running. With the likes of Griffin Reinhart (Islanders), Keegan Lowe (Hurricanes), Marty Gernat and David Musil (Oilers) patrolling the blueline, the Oil Kings netminders were given a few easy nights. However, the same cannot be said of the team this year. While the Oil Kings still have a strong defense that includes veterans Cody Corbett and Ashton Sautner, Reinhart is the only player that remains from that group of drafted defensemen, who have been replaced with a young corps led by second year player Dysin Mayo and rookie Aaron Irving, both in their NHL draft year. With Reinhart the only remaining superstar, the quality of opposition chances has increased, yet Jarry’s numbers have remained excellent even in the face of some of the WHL’s toughest competition: in the 12 games he has played against the teams above the Oil Kings in the WHL standings, Jarry has come away with a 7-3-0-1 record, 1.81 GAA, and .929 SV%.
Jarry has started all but three games for the Oil Kings so far this season, and with a depleted offense in front of him, he’s been a huge reason for the team’s recent success. As of December 1st he’s on a personal five-game win streak, and lost just one game in November—half as many losses as he had shutouts—giving him an 8-1 record, 1.33 GAA, and .945 SV% over nine starts in the month leading up to the camp invitations. His showing earned him Vaughn WHL Goaltender of the Month for November, announced just one day after the roster was named. Jarry hasn’t allowed more than two goals in a game since back on October 5th. To this point in his WHL career, Jarry has shown a level of elite consistency that few would have expected of him. It seems as though those waiting for him to falter will have to continue to hold their breath.
Last year, there was a huge outcry from the WHL’s fans and players due to the unexpected cut of Brossoit, which came as a surprise after an excellent camp showing from the B.C. native. The Hockey Canada brass told Brossoit that, despite his strong camp, there was nothing more he could have done. After Brossoit (and Calvin Pickard and Tyler Bunz before him), the snub of Jarry, and his Tri-City Americans counterpart Eric Comrie, is just another piece of evidence in what many believe is an Eastern bias in the selection of Canada’s World Juniors teams. It’s not to say that the goalies named to the roster–Memorial Cup Champion Zachary Fucale and last year’s WJC third stringer Jake Paterson–aren’t deserving candidates, even though they’ve combined for a hardly impressive 3.01 GAA and .903 SV%. But when the stats are taken into consideration, it’s clear that Hockey Canada is once again showing favouritism in their selection. At the very least, Hockey Canada could benefit from an elevated level of competition at their selection camp.
Jarry’s strong play is backed up by enough stats and pedigree to suggest that he should have at least warranted an invite to Canada’s selection camp. To Western League supporters, it’s just one more in a trail of snubs, exacerbated by the fact that Comrie was also left off the list. However, it may come as a relief to some that the Hockey Canada brass didn’t bother bringing in a WHL goaltender to camp only to crush his dreams of the international stage regardless of how he played. Unfortunately, it appears as though this is just one more example of how Hockey Canada is responsible for manufacturing their goalie crisis all on their own.