Canucks: Should Braden Holtby open the season as the starter?

Vancouver Canucks. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Vancouver Canucks. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Vancouver Canucks handed Braden Holtby a two-year contract in free agency. Should Travis Green make him the starter to open the season?

Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning decided not to bring back starting goalie and team MVP Jacob Markstrom, who signed a six-year, $36 million contract with the rival Calgary Flames in free agency.

Vancouver faced a serious cap crunch this offseason, and Benning knows that committing that much term and money to a goalie in his 30s always comes with a lot of risk. So Benning played it safe and found a cheaper option in Braden Holtby — signing the 2016 Vezina Trophy winner and 2018 Stanley Cup champion to a two-year deal worth $8.6 million.

Holtby is an ideal complement to playoff hero Thatcher Demko, who’s been viewed as the goalie of the future for quite some time.

Vancouver is no stranger to goaltending controversies, and head coach Travis Green may have one on his hands. Does he go with the younger, up-and-coming Demko, or does he go with the guy who’s played in 468 games over 10 seasons?

As The Canuck Way colleague Joshua Rey explained here, Holtby’s production with the Washington Capitals slipped in 2018-19 and 2019-20, following the departures of defensive guru head coach Barry Trotz and all-time great goaltending coach Mitch Korn in 2018. Those two left for the New York Islanders.

The Canucks can also trust goaltending coach Ian Clark to help Holtby regain his top form.

Just look at what Clark did to help Markstrom develop into an All-Star-caliber goalie. This is the same coach who made Sergei Bobrovksy a Vezina Trophy winning goalie, too.

Green will most likely have a platoon system in place until/unless one goalie starts to outperform the other. If they’re playing at equal levels? That’s another discussion for another day.

Only time will tell if Holtby can put two straight disappointing seasons behind him. But given his experience, career resume and remarkable consistency from 2011 to 2018, it’s easy to argue that Holtby should open 2020-21 as the starter.

But personally, I believe the Canucks should make Demko the opening night starter (whenever that is). It could take Holtby some time to adjust to a new city, coach, team and structure. He may need a few games to settle in.

Next. Canucks roundtable: Predictions for the 2021 year. dark

Coach Green can’t really go wrong with either choice here. But if the season started today, one has to think that he would give Demko the first shot to assert himself as the No. 1 goalie. Needless to say, Canucks fans better get ready for what could be another exciting and dramatic goaltending controversy.