Vitek Vanecek, Devils, New Jersey Devils

Devils lack of confidence at goaltender position

What should have been a fantastic moment for goaltender Isaac Poulter as he got his first NHL call-up is also the moment the Devils' weakness and lack of confidence in the net have genuinely shown.

Poulter signed his first NHL contract a week ago and started working with the Utica Devils in the American Hockey League. While this was all happening, Akira Schmid got called back to New Jersey after playing 12 games in the AHL. Vitek Vanecek was out with a lower-body injury, hence the Schmid call-up.

Schmid has not played any games since joining the team again, as head coach Lindy Ruff has given 23-year-old Nico Daws the starting position the past five games in a row.

Over the past few days, Vanecek was put on injured reserve retroactive to Feb. 10. Once this move was made, Schmid was sent back to the AHL, and Poulter got the call-up to the big team.

Although that may seem like a normal roster move, a few scenarios could happen.

The first and, most likely, the real reason all these moves happened is that the organization has lost confidence and trust in Schmid because he has not progressed after being sent down to the minor leagues. With the playoffs still in sight, New Jersey has to have a goalie they can trust. Since the Devils have a busy stretch of games over the next few weeks, playing 19 games in just over a month, Ruff cannot depend on Daws to play all the games. With Vanecek on IR, Poulter is next on the list.

Vanecek has a 17-9-3 record this season, which anyone who does not watch the Devils would assume he is having an amazing season. His save percentage tells an entirely different story. A .890 save percentage is not ideal and would not be able to support the Devils in the playoffs.

Schmid has not played for the Devils in over a month, but he had a .893 save percentage before he got sent down. During his time with the AHL, he has an even worse save percentage, .885.

Daws has been the Devils' starter as of late and has strung together a few good games. During the off-season, he had hip surgery and came back in late December. After a major surgery like that, rest and recovery are important, but Ruff has been riding him the past few games, so it is only expected that he would have a bad game after a bit. Daws might not be ready to be the starting goaltender for the Devils, but he could be a perfect backup if the Devils make a move before the trade deadline.

The second reason all of these moves could be happening is because there might be a trade shortly. The Devils have been linked to Jacob Markstrom from the Calgary Flames and Juuse Saros from the Nashville Predators ahead of the trade deadline. According to some NHL insiders, the Devils and Flames got very close to a trade including Markstrom but negotiations fell through.

No matter the scenario, the Devils must find a goalie they feel confident in. What moves will the President of Hockey Operations/GM Tom Fitzgerald make before the season is a lost cause?

Gabrielle Nordstrom