By Thomas Harrington
The Ducks drafted John Gibson in the second round four years ago, and ever since then, he has been considered one of the best goaltending prospects in the NHL as well as the future starter in Anaheim. However, the emergence of Frederik Andersen, along with injuries this past season, have made Gibson’s assent to the NHL go slower than some anticipated.
After Gibson’s performance in the 2013-14 playoffs, especially his stellar play when he shut out the Kings in his playoff debut in game four of that second round series, Gibson was expected to take a big step forward this season and quite possibly challenge Andersen for the starter’s role. Gibson was given a chance in the Ducks’ first game of the season, but he was beaten six times on 39 shots in what was one of his worst performances of the season. Gibson was sent back to Norfolk for a few days before getting recalled. He was back in Anaheim’s crease in late October and put up much better numbers, as well as picking up his first two wins of the season.
With the Ducks, Gibson’s play was up and down. He put up some fantastic games, like his shutout of Chicago in October or his wins over Dallas and Montreal in March, where he allowed a total of two goals while facing 78 shots combined in those two games, or his victory against Carolina in February. However, he also had some poor games. While he was never the reason for a Ducks loss, he struggled quite a bit some nights, most notably against Washington in February and Calgary in March. Overall, he appeared in 23 games for the Ducks while recording 13 wins, eight losses, one shutout, a goals against average of 2.60, and a save percentage of .914. Gibson also appeared in 11 games for Norfolk, where he recorded six wins, three losses, two overtime losses, a shootout loss, a shutout, a goals against average of 2.07, and a save percentage of .935.
Based on his numbers, Gibson had a good, but not great second professional season.
However, there is one number sticks out: the number of games he played in. Between the Admirals and Ducks, Gibson only played in 34 games. If Gibson had spent the entire season in Anaheim and been Andersen’s backup, that number would make sense. However, the fact that he played in both leagues and still appeared in so few games is surprising. There were times last season when Andersen was a on a roll, so in order to get Gibson playing time, he was sent to Norfolk to appear in a some games before coming back to Anaheim. The goal was to get Gibson in as many games as possible. However, given the fact that Gibson only appeared in 34 games shows that something was off. As with many Anaheim players and prospects, Gibson suffered through injuries last season, and even had strep throat when he was in Norfolk. Unfortunately, the first medication that Gibson took for the strep throat failed to work, keeping him off the ice for an even longer period of time.
When Gibson and Andersen both went down with injury in November, the Ducks were forced to look outside their organization for help and signed former Anaheim goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. Unfortunately, that move didn’t work out as hoped. Not wanting to go through a situation like that again, the Ducks brought in Anton Khudobin this offseason. Both Khudobin and Andersen would have to pass through waivers in order to be assigned to San Diego, whereas Gibson does not.
With Andersen seemingly entrenched in the starter’s role, and Khudobin as the likely backup, Gibson appears to be odd man out in the goalie crease in Anaheim this season. I’m expecting him to start the season in San Diego, and probably spend most of the season down there. After having a rough year this past season, some stability for Gibson would be a good thing, and so would playing as much as possible. If he were in Anaheim, he’d be backing up Andersen and seeing less playing time overall. Giving him more games in San Diego will help get him back on track.
Gibson has one more year left on his contract and will be a restricted free agent next summer. Andersen will also be a restricted free agent next summer, and Khudobin will be an unrestricted free agent. The Ducks will likely keep all three goaltenders through this season, and decide on their futures next summer, although the Ducks could choose to trade one of them at the deadline to help improve the team as they gear up for the playoffs. It would not surprise me to see both Andersen and Gibson re-signed next summer. Andersen will be in line for a nice raise, but if Gibson does spend most, or all, of the season in San Diego, he should be relatively cheap to re-sign to a short term deal next summer. The Ducks could also choose to keep Khudobin instead, and trade one of Andersen and Gibson, as either player could bring in a nice return.
Assuming the Ducks re-sign Gibson this summer, I expect him in Anaheim for the 2016-17 season. If the Ducks keep Andersen, Gibson is the likely backup, but should get a number of starts as he pushes for the starter’s role. If the Ducks keep Khudobin instead, then I would anticipate it being more of a battle for the starting position.
The Ducks have three goaltenders all under the age of 30, and while the future in net for Anaheim is uncertain in terms of who the starter will be, the Ducks should have solid goaltending for years to come. Gibson is good enough to be the starter; the question is whether or not he can beat Andersen for the starting job in Anaheim in the long term. Right now, the answer to that question is murky, but the performance of these two players this coming season will give us a good idea how the future in net for Anaheim will look in the long term.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the prospect profile and updates this summer. Now that they are complete, I’ll be posting an article that examines the strengths and weaknesses in the Ducks’ prospect system. Following that, I’ll be posting who I think are the Ducks’ top 10 prospects.
We have been tracking the off-season status of the Ducks prospects. If you want more information about a specific prospect, then please visit here: Ducks Prospects: Summer Updates
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