John Gibson Demoted: What’s Next?


Oct 9, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson (36) stands for the national anthem before playing the Pittsburgh Penguins at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 6-4. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014-2015 has not started well for John Gibson. After a shaky preseason, the 21-year old goaltending phenom got the opportunity to start against his hometown Pittsburgh Penguins in the Ducks’ season opener.

After allowing 6 goals on 39 shots (.846 SV%) in the loss against the Pens, Gibson was benched for the last three games of the opening road trip, including both games of a back-to-back against the lowly Buffalo Sabres and the aging Philadelphia Flyers.

Many believed that Gibson might get the call against Buffalo, easily one of the worst teams in the league, because it would provide a low-risk opportunity for Gibson to boost his confidence. Instead, Boudreau elected to start Andersen against the Sabres, as well as the following night in Philly.

With over a week in between potential starts (Thursday, October 9 against Pittsburgh and Friday, October 17 against Minnesota), the Ducks deemed that it would be best to send down Gibson to the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals for a two-game “conditioning stint” against the Manchester Monarchs this weekend.

Gibson was sent down this last Wedneday, October 15. In his stead, career backup goaltender Jason LaBarbera was called up to backup Andersen until Gibson’s return.

Though Gibson’s demotion was purely conditional in nature, one has to wonder if perhaps the Ducks coaching and management has lost any trust in John Gibson. Certainly, it’s a complete 360 degree turn from the organization’s prior commitment to their 21-year old prospect.

During training camp, Ducks GM Bob Murray commented that he “couldn’t see Gibson in the AHL.” And yet, weeks later Gibson was on a plane headed for Virginia.

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  • One has to wonder if this demotion really is what it seems, or if the Ducks have changed their thinking regarding Gibson.

    For one, if Andersen continues to play well, it seems unlikely that Coach Bruce Boudreau would be willing to strip his starting role from him. What use is it for Gibson to be sent back to Anaheim if he will merely be riding the pine? Why not get him as many games as possible in Norfolk?

    For two, the call-up of Jason LaBarbera complicates things. Because he is not waiver exempt, any move to send him back to Norfolk would allow him to pass through waivers. The chance that LaBarbera, a middling goaltender at best would be picked up by another NHL team in the waiver process is quite low, but it still remains. The Ducks would then be forced to scramble to find a replacement.

    We’ve already discussed at length why I think that Gibson should be in the AHL for the remainder of this season. Unfortunately, chances are Gibson will return to Anaheim as planned after this weekend.

    However, for the good of the team and of Gibson’s development, we can hope that this roster move represents a meaningful change of strategy by the Ducks organization, who continues to make a huge gamble with the best goaltending prospect they’ve ever had.