Editor's note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which Kevin Kurz will highlight a different Sharks player every day leading up to the start of training camp.
Name/Position: Alex Stalock, G
2015-16 cap hit/contract: $1.6 million, pending UFA
2014-15 year in review: Headed into training camp last year, the thought was that Alex Stalock would get as much of a chance as Antti Niemi to become the number one goaltender. Niemi, after all, was a pending free agent that faltered badly late in the first round against the Kings the previous playoffs.
The two netminders split time in the preseason, and although Niemi was the opening night starter, Stalock was between the pipes for the home opener in Game 2 as the Sharks became the first team in NHL history to post shutouts by two different goalies in the first two games of the season.
Still, it became evident that Niemi was the favored son by coach Todd McLellan soon after that. After alternating the first six games, Niemi became the bonafide number one by the end of October while Stalock settled in as backup again. A lower body injury in mid-November shelved the Minnesota native for two weeks, and he never made a real push to unseat Niemi after returning.
After a promising first full year in 2013-14, Stalock’s numbers regressed last season with an 8-9-2 record, 2.62 goals-against average and .902 save percentage.
2015-16 outlook: It remains to be seen how new coach Peter DeBoer will frame the goalie situation when camp begins in less than three weeks, but Stalock has to be the assumed backup to newcomer Martin Jones. The Sharks wouldn’t have surrendered an unprotected first round pick and a prospect for a backup, which is what they sent to Boston to gain Jones.
While Stalock’s numbers weren’t as good as the season before, neither was the Sharks’ defensive game, often leaving its netminders out to dry. Stalock even seemed to suggest as much after a loss in Nashville on Feb. 17, when he surrendered five goals thanks in large part to a number of Sharks errors. When asked why his numbers were down, he replied: “Different chances, maybe? I don’t know. It’s something we look at every day.”
The most concerning part of Stalock’s game last year was his sudden propensity to make mistakes while playing the puck, which had previously been one of his strong suits. Instead of acting as a third defenseman and helping the transition game, Stalock was making errors that ended up costing the Sharks on the scoreboard.
Even if Jones locks down the number one job as expected, Stalock should still get plenty of playing time as the Sharks have 13 sets of back-to-backs and, as always, some long and grueling road trips. He’ll have to be better, or he’ll risk losing his job to Troy Grosenick, who is signed to a one-way contract in 2016-17 – already calling into question Stalock’s future in teal after this year.