It may be a little early to consider this a valid talking point, but nonetheless it’s a conversation that the Vegas Golden Knights will eventually need to have. At the start of the 2019-20 season Marc-Andre Fleury will see the first-year of his contract extension kick in and will be celebrating his 35th birthday one month into the season.
The big question is who is next? Based on the moves this offseason, the answer looks to be Malcolm Subban as he is far superior than any other goaltender the Knights have on their depth chart. Do the Knights think Malcolm Subban is the best option for a long-term netminder? Or is he the best they could get for the price point? Maybe a little of the first, and a lot more of the latter?
This article we aren’t going to discuss the contract because that has already been covered here by Richard Cardinale.
Yes, Subban’s record last season was a little shaky at 8-10-2, but there is more to the story. Almost half (10) of the games were played on the road and in 14 of the 21 games (60%) the 25-year-old faced 30+ shots. Four of the games the Knights lost by two or more goals, and four games they lost by three or more goals. Fleury only saw 30+ shots in 25 of his 61 games (roughly 41%). Subban averaged 2.93 Goals Against per game while Fleury averaged better at 2.51 Goals against throughout the season.
Malcolm played eight games straight, the longest streak in his career. Over those eight games, four home and four away, his record was 3-3-2 with one win coming via a shutout at home.
Every game in Malcolm’s loss column the opponents scored at least three goals, and the Knights only averaged 1.6 goals per game. Two of those games the Golden Knights got shut out, and in only three did Vegas match their season scoring average of three goals.
Subban only lost three games last year when the Knights matched their season scoring average. However, he lost every game when Vegas didn’t score at least three goals. This is something that he needs to work on. He needs to build confidence in his teammates that if they have a hard time scoring he is going to be able to keep them in the game.
With Fleury in net the Knights won seventeen games scoring three goals or less. Six of those games Fleury pitched a shutout.
Subban did have a shutout last season, which is the only of his career (thank you Krispy Kreme for the donuts). However, the Golden Knights happened to score five goals that game. For the 21 games Malcolm played last season he gave up three or more goals in all but six games (71.4%). In stark contrast, Fleury gave up three or more goals in 30 of his 61 games (49%).
Subban definitely has some work to do in order to prove he can be a starting goalie in this league. He has trouble seeing through bodies up front, and getting into position when there is traffic. He also struggles with puck handling and helping the defense get the puck out of the zone. However, he is strong and athletic, and has flashes of greatness at times.
Many of Malcolm’s shortcomings can be solved with more ice time. The Knights are going to have to figure out a way to achieve this. Fleury, being 35 this coming season, a 61 game workload is going to be rough on him, even though he will never admit it. Subban is going to need to show the team that he can carry some of the load for Fleury. The Golden Knights are going to need more than 21 games and eight wins out of their backup next season.
There is one caveat at play here, however, and that is the fact that it’s known Subban sees himself as a starter in the NHL sooner rather than later, and that goal isn’t expected to come to fruition in Vegas any time soon given that Fleury is under contract through 2021-22. So, if nothing else, Subban will have the chance to put himself in the shop window this year ahead of becoming a restricted free agent next offseason.
One thing that is worth mentioning; the team as a whole needs to step up and give Malcolm the support he needs both offensively and defensively. Subban can’t see 30+ shots every other time he is in net, and he can win games but he just needs goal support to the tune of 3+ goals. It’s in the tight games where Malcolm needs to buckle down to give his team a chance.
If the Golden Knights can give Malcolm some ice time early in the year against some lower scoring teams it could help with some confidence. With some changes coming to the blueline this season things could be looking up for Malcolm. He is a solid player and has the luxury of having a future Hall of Fame goalie in Fleury as a mentor both on and off the ice. Subban has no reason why he can’t improve from last year, put himself in line for a new, longer-term contract next summer and, as a result, prove that he’s capable of taking over the top job from Marc-Andre Fleury once that day comes.