NHLN Notebook: Backup goalie woes, Justin Schultz hype 2.0, and the death of alternate jerseys

Christian Pagnani
January 09 2017 03:11PM

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The NHLN Notebook is a semi-regular feature of interesting hockey content from the past few days that doesn't quite deserve its own article. 

Jonas Gustavsson gets fired into outer space, Justin Schultz's stock is at an all-time high, Tampa Bay is in trouble, Adidas is getting rid of third jerseys, and Colton Sissons makes history.

Gustavsson placed on waivers

Jonas Gustavsson's appearance on waivers today is not very surprising but his ability to stay in the NHL up until this point was. Gustavsson only has one season in the NHL above a .908 save percentage, and that came in a seven game stint with Detroit, otherwise Gustavasson hasn't provided his teams with the saves they need.

Gustavsson has never been close to the league average save percentage yet continues to get NHL work. No one is hiring him to be their starter but as a backup Gustavsson is still giving up valuable points. There are better options available too. In terms of save percentage, Gustavsson ranks 78th out of 82 goalies that have played 50 games since 2011. 

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This was a confusing signing, and the timing of it made it even odder. Last season the Boston Bruins gave Gustavsson a tryout in October and he managed to turn that into a full-time contract. This summer the Oilers signed Gustavsson an hour intro free agency when there were much more attractive options still out there. Although goalies with decent track records like Jhonas Enroth have faltered, signing Jonas Gustavsson early in free agency doesn't seem like something a winning team would do. 

Curtis McElhinney is also on waivers today. His .924 save percentage this season may seem enticing, he's only played seven games and his career save percentage (.905) is just marginally better than Gustavsson's (.901).

Jultz is finally living up to the hype

Justin Schultz has found a role in Pittsburgh. The former Oiler is on a 50-point pace and his ice time has been steadily increasing with a depleted defense core due to injuries. 

Schultz is finding success despite being miscast and traded out of Edmonton. Similar to Sam Gagner, Pittsburgh has played to the player's strength instead of asking them to something they are not. Although he's had a bigger role recently, Schultz still finds himself in more of a second or third pairing role at even strength rather than the undisputed number one he was in Edmonton. Schultz shares the blunt of the power play time with Letang and Daley, where he's accumulated 8 of his 25 points this season.

Schultz also shows why plus-minus is largely meaningless. On a second-last Edmonton team he's among the league's worst, while on a powerhouse Pittsburgh team he's among the league's best. Schultz is providing value for one of the league's best teams on a very cheap $1.4M cap hit, which will make his next contract very interesting to follow as expansion looms ahead.

Tampa Bay is... bad?

Tampa Bay might be in bigger trouble than originally thought when Steven Stamkos went down with injury. Stamkos was back to his huge scoring ways, but even with his loss the Lightning's depth have previously weathered the storm. This time around they aren't getting much help from either of their goalies. Both Andrei Vasilevskiy and Ben Bishop have an identical .907 save percentage, which is far below Bishops' career .919, but not too far off what Vasilevskiy's done in his short time in the NHL. 

Their playoff hopes aren't done just yet. They're only four points out of an Atlantic division spot and six out of a Wild Card, although multiple playoffs teams have games in hand and teams like Toronto are currently out but have been red hot. A bounce back from Bishop or Vasilevskiy would do a lot for their push, but even that may not be enough with how much of a gauntlet the Metropolitan division has become. Metropolitan teams are likely to occupy one, if not both, Wild Card positions. 

There's still some hope for the Lightning. The Ottawa Senators have been slipping lately and the Boston Bruins are just hanging on to their spot it in the Atlantic, but the Lightning have to fight it out with both the Maple Leafs and the Panthers in terms of stealing a playoff spot. Tampa Bay is one of the top possession teams in the league, but it's hard to see them making the cut if they don't get the saves they need.

No more thirds

With Adidas taking control of NHL's jerseys next season, it looks like they're leaving third jerseys behind  

This will force teams with amazing alternate jersey's like Columbus, Minnesota, or Edmonton, to decide between wearing them full-time or ditching them entirely, although it looks like some have already made the choice. According to Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the change is "in order to make the initial implementation of new sweaters easier".

There will likely be small changes to each home and away sweater with Adidas coming in, so eliminating the third jersey will highlight any adjustment made.

The best random stat of 2017!

Picking up your first career hat trick is a huge accomplishment as it is, but making NHL history at the same time makes it even better and gives Sissons bragging rights for the foreseeable future.

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I like to read and write about sports. I'm @chrispagnani on Twitter.
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