What’s up, OilersNation? Emergency recall goalie Cat Silverman here, now on an OilersNation Standard Player Contract, to talk to you guys about Jonas Gustavsson a bit!
As someone who’s watched a lot of Toronto and Boston games during The Monster’s tenure in both cities, Gustavsson – affectionately referred to as Gus when he makes saves that I love and ‘My Worst Nightmare’ when he’s falling apart at the seams – is a goaltender I have a lot of mixed feelings about.
He’s a bit of an early dropper (think Viktor Fasth), but has a frame that lends itself well to that. He’s flexible and aggressive. He’s got a flair for ‘big saves’, and he’s got NHL experience – so there’s no pressure to rush Laurent Brossoit into the NHL too early.
He’s also got a nasty health history, a poor grasp of his own depth positioning, and an inconsistent resume.
So… what does he bring, exactly?
On the Ice
I won’t lie to you: there’s a lot about Gustavsson’s game that makes me nervous.
His depth is my biggest problem with his game, because it aggravates all of his other flaws and highlights them in the worst possible way. Here’s an example:
It’s an active depth choice that he’s making, and he’s never quite gotten the hang of how to play more conservatively.
For a goaltender of his size, he doesn’t need to come out nearly as far as he does – and unless the Oilers manage to restructure their defensive play enough by next year to compensate for his positioning, things could get ugly.
Gustavsson is also what I refer to as an ‘early butterly’ goaltender, which is what it is. He likes to drop just a few seconds before the shot is actually released, giving the shooter – if they’re paying attention for it – time to redirect their shot. He’s an early decision-maker, almost to a fault; combined with his depth inconsistencies, that’s what took the highly hyped Monster and made it clear that he’ll likely never be more than a career backup.
In the Room
There’s something to be said for a quintessential backup goaltender, though.
Gustavsson is a genuinely nice guy; he’s got all the positivity and enthusiasm you want on the bench when he’s not in the game, and the bounce-back ability to recover from less than ideal games that a team like Edmonton needs.
About seven years ago, he talked with my boss over at InGoal Mag about his transition to North America and some of the changes that he would need to make to his game – and he was both a great interview and an open, friendly personality.
Ultimately, it’s possible that playing for Mike Babcock in Detroit hurt him in the long run, as Babcock is a bit of a proponent of aggressive goaltending depth – and that’s a weakness that Gustavsson had in his game that probably came back out after Francois Allaire tried to stamp it out of him.
He’s a great personality to have on the team, though, and there’s a lot to be said for that. The Oilers don’t need to get rid of talent to bring in locker room charisma; having a guy like Gustavsson join the corps could be exactly what they need.
In the Grand Scheme Of Things
Some of you are hesitant about Laurent Brossoit. That’s totally fine.
Ultimately, young goaltenders – like nearly all young prospects who aren’t elite, top-tier performers at an abnormally early age – are some variation of a crapshoot. Until a young player has gotten their chance to play in a handful of NHL games – at any position – it’s generally a poor idea to enter a new season with no other option for a certain spot in the NHL lineup but them.
That’s likely where Gustavsson fits in here.
If Brossoit (understandably) needs more seasoning at the AHL level, there’s no need to rush him up to the NHL next year. The team isn’t in dire need of hitting the postseason, so development should still be a priority for players not named Connor McDavid.
If Brossoit is ready for NHL action, though, Gustavsson isn’t a tandem starter who would produce negative value for the team by squandering as a healthy scratch or even being waived. He’s a player who, by all accounts, can fill in as a stopgap for Brossoit if needed this year, but isn’t an asset that will actively block the younger netminder from working his way up in the depth chart if he’s ready.
Is Gustavsson the goaltender that I, personally, would have snagged for the Oilers for their upcoming season? Not particularly. I think there were a few other options that, given the right environment, would have thrived more in this specific situation.
All things considered, though, Gustavsson isn’t a long-term answer for Edmonton; he’s a stopgap and a positive locker room presence. Just get ready for a few absolutely deadly highlight-worthy goals… for the other team… on the nights he plays.