The San Jose Sharks are off to a hot start on their current six-game road trip.
Wins in Washington and Florida have them in position to possibly repeat last year's franchise record setting 6-0 trip.
Regardless of wins and losses, there is one thing significantly different about this current trip.
Usually there will be at least one set of back-to-backs on a long trip. That was the case last year, but not on this trip.
It is conceivable then, that Sharks backup goaltender Aaron Dell will not start a single game. That, however, would be a mistake.
Dell should get into a game on this trip. Continuing to leave Aaron Dell frozen makes little sense.
By the Numbers
Last season the Sharks added veteran James Reimer at the deadline and his presence was a huge boost for Martin Jones. The added rest for Jones helped the first-year starter thrive in the postseason. After the long playoff though, leaning heavily on Jones to start this season is peculiar to say the least.
Since the 2007-08 season, the vast majority of Stanley Cup winning goalies did not start a big number of games during the regular season. Chris Osgood only started 40 regular season games while splitting time with Dominek Hasek. Osgood took over for Hasek midway through the playoffs, leading Detroit to the 2008 Stanley Cup.
In 2009, Cup-winning goalie Marc-Andre Fleury started 61 regular season games. In 2010, Antti Niemi started just 35 games. In 2011, Tim Thomas started 55 times. Jonathan Quick made 69 starts in 2012, but only 49 in 2014. Corey Crawford started 28 games in 2013 and 57 in 2015 Cup winning seasons for Chicago. And finally last year Matt Murray started just 13 games in the regular season before leading the Penguins to a championship.
If we throw in Cam Ward in 2005-06 (25 starts) and Jean-Sebastian Giguere in 2006-07 (53) starts, it is clear that over the last several seasons, Cup winning goalies are far more likely to have played less than 60 games during the regular season. The last goalie to win the Stanley Cup playing 70 or more games? Martin Brodeur for the 2003 New Jersey Devils.
Get Dell Some Action, Rest Jones
Tonight's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning will be the Sharks' 15th game this season. Jones has started 14 of those games with Dell starting just once on the lone back-to-back situation thus far this season. That puts Jones on pace to start 77 games this season. Of course he won't end up starting that many, but that is far, far higher than an appropiate pace. Ideally Jones should start between 55-60 games if we look at recent history of successful playoff goaltenders.
Last year Jones started 65 games, which is a bit more than the ideal. Jones had to play that much with the struggles of Alex Stalock as the backup. When it comes to Dell, the Sharks simply don't know what they have. His only start this year was a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders. Neither goal Dell allowed was great, but neither was a softie either. It was by all means a solid NHL debut for the 27-year-old minor league journeyman.
A quick check of the calendar says today is Nov. 12. That start for Dell was all the way back on Oct. 18. Sure, he played nearly two periods of pop up duty in a recent lopsided loss against Pittsburgh, but a month between starts is far too long. San Jose needs to get Dell at least one start every couple of weeks to see if he can suffice as an NHL quality goaltender. Maybe he sinks, maybe he swims but keeping Aaron Dell frozen doesn't do this team any good. If they have to end up trading for a veteran NHLer at the deadline than so be it. However, right now they have no idea what they have in their backup.