Ryan Miller’s injury provides opportunity for Canuck backups

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Jacob Markstrom, picture here playing for Team Sweden, will finally get another chance to show off his ability at the NHL level. Image courtesy of Tricia Hall (flickr)
Jacob Markstrom, picture here playing for Team Sweden, will finally get another chance to show off his ability at the NHL level. Image courtesy of Tricia Hall (flickr)
Jacob Markstrom, picture here playing for Team Sweden, will finally get another chance to show off his ability at the NHL level. Image courtesy of Tricia Hall (flickr).

No matter your opinion on his play or his contract, it was unfortunate to see Canuck Ryan Miller go down with an injury. But the situation does provide a good opportunity for both Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom.

One of the biggest knocks on Miller was that his contract limited the play time of the team’s two backup goalies.

Lack appeared to be ready for the starter job last season, offering consistently solid performances behind former goalie Roberto Luongo. Though he struggled last year when made starter, this might be due to former coach John Tortorella’s choice to play him 19 straight games in his first NHL season — and maybe just playing for Tortorella in general.

Since then, he has been relegated to only the odd start on either the easier back-to-back game, or when Miller has been out of it.

Now we’ll get a proper chance to gauge where he’s really at, and whether he can handle starting night-in and night-out. And at a realistic pace as well —  head coach Willie Desjardins is unlikely to run him into the ground as there’s another goalie getting a chance.

Markstrom, on the other hand, has been tearing up the AHL. At the time of Miller’s injury, he was second in the league in goals against with a 1.95 GAA, and third in the league in save percentage with .933.

Needless to say, he’s ready for a shot at the NHL level.

Markstrom was a top goaltending prospect, picked just outside of the first round at 31st overall, so it’s no doubt he has great potential. However, he has always had a hard time translating his game to the NHL — so much so that the Florida Panthers, the team that originally drafted him, gave up on him.

John Tortorella trusted him so little that he rode Lack 19 games while only playing Markstrom once.

To add to that, the Canucks’ three NHL-ready goalies — Miller, Lack, and Markstrom — all have one-way contracts. For the Canucks to have played Markstrom previously, it would have meant calling him up from the AHL. Eventually the team would have had to send him down — which means losing him on waivers — or carry three goalies for the rest of the season, a very undesirable situation.

According to Sportsnet analyst Elliotte Friedman, with Miller now injured, the Canucks can play Markstrom for nine games without fear of losing him on waivers. With Miller out at least four to six weeks, they will finally get a chance to see what they have in Markstrom.

Though Miller’s injury prevented a trade from happening before the deadline, this opportunity will allow the team to see which goalie will be able to carry the load of being the full-time starter.

Whichever one proves themselves up to the task may also raise their trade value in process.

As bad as it is to say it, Miller’s injury could, in the long term, be a good thing. How else would we get the chance to evaluate the Canucks’ two upcoming goalies?