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McKenna Has Misgivings About Sharks’ Acquisition of Blackwood



Credit: AP Photo/Noah K. Murray

Mike McKenna has misgivings about the San Jose Sharks’ trade for Mackenzie Blackwood.

“If the Sharks picked up Mackenzie Blackwood, and plan on starting him in the American League to build up his game back, I’d feel a lot better about this,” the 14-year pro goaltender, now with the Daily Faceoff, told San Jose Hockey Now. “Because he just hasn’t been able to play consistent games in a row with any level of comfort.”

That sounds radical but consider where McKenna is coming from. In 2019-20, Blackwood finished sixth in the Calder Trophy voting, and was thought to be one of the top up-and-coming goalies in the game.

But over the last two campaigns, felled by various upper and lower-body injuries, the 26-year-old netminder has managed just 47 appearances and an .893 Save %. Per Evolving Hockey, his -14.62 Goals Saved Above Expected is 45th in the NHL (of 56 goalies, 2,300-plus minutes in All Situations) in that stretch of time.

Along the way, Blackwood lost the New Jersey Devils’ starting job, and before the Draft, was dealt to the Sharks for just a 2023 sixth-round pick.

“He’s somebody who’s really, to me, right to go to the American League for the first half of the season. Remember when Brian Boucher was with the Philadelphia Phantoms in the American League? And then he ended up signing a deal with the Sharks later in the year?” McKenna recalled, going back to 2007-08.

Boucher, 30, had struggled in his previous two campaigns with the Phoenix Coyotes, Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, and Columbus Blue Jackets. Signed by the Philadelphia Phantoms, he found his game as a starter in the AHL and was scooped up by the San Jose Sharks late in the season.

After going 6-19-3 with an .877 Save % from 2005 to 2007, Boucher bounced back with a 15-7-4 and .919 Save % in his two years with the Sharks.

“He can play a bunch of games, build back up his confidence, and if he earns a job in the NHL, fantastic,” McKenna offered of Blackwood.

Anyway, Blackwood isn’t likely to start the season in the AHL. The San Jose Sharks just inked him to a two-year, $4.7 million contract.

“For me, it’s really, really difficult to have two really tough years in a row. Not just your performance, but also your injuries, and come back and be a serviceable NHL goalie. When’s the last time, really?” McKenna mused.

It’s not the norm, for sure. Boucher was one example. Off the top of my head, Peter Budaj went back to the AHL for two seasons, before rebounding with the Los Angeles Kings in 2016-17. Going way back, after a couple tough years, Grant Fuhr re-discovered his Hall of Fame form with the 1995-96 St. Louis Blues, while Arturs Irbe struggled in San Jose and Dallas before a late-career Carolina Hurricanes comeback.

McKenna doesn’t have a problem with Blackwood’s talent, he’s more concerned with the environment in San Jose.

Chiefly, the Sharks team defense has been problematic in each of the last four seasons, their best Goals Against in this span 21st in the NHL in 2021-22. San Jose certainly hasn’t been a safe haven for keepers with something to prove.

But also?

“I don’t think that San Jose’s patience or their evaluating has been where it needs to be,” McKenna said of the Sharks’ goaltending since Martin Jones. “They just seem impatient.”

Whether you attribute that to the carousel of GMs or director of goaltending Evgeni Nabokov, the San Jose Sharks have been burning through goalies like cheap cigarettes. In the past three seasons, four goalies – Devan Dubnyk, Adin Hill, James Reimer, and Kaapo Kahkonen – have been trumpeted as the answer to San Jose’s netminding woes. So far, nobody has lasted more than two full seasons.

This search hasn’t been cheap either.

Between Dubnyk, Hill, and Kahkonen, the Sharks have expended a 2022 second-round pick, 2022 fifth-round pick, and top-four defender Jake Middleton to try to solve their questions between the pipes.

For what it’s worth, San Jose did also receive 2022 fifth and seventh-round picks in these deals.

Now, it’s Blackwood’s turn.

“This is another unsurprising surprising move from a team that has not had a clear plan on goaltending in a very long time,” McKenna said.

Well, at least Blackwood came cheap.

Hopefully, he and incumbent Kahkonen will also surprise.

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