Anaheim Ducks: Lukas Dostal is Coming to North America

Goaltender Lukas Dostal #2 of the Czech Republic (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images)
Goaltender Lukas Dostal #2 of the Czech Republic (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images) /
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Anaheim Ducks
Goalie Lukas Dostal #2 of the Czech Republic (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) /

Will History Repeat Itself?

How the Anaheim Ducks could play the Dostal situation is perhaps seen in their somewhat recent history. Notably how current netminder John Gibson was brought into the team.

Going way back to the 2013-2014 season, the prevailing thinking was that the Ducks would use the 2-year contract extension of Viktor Fasth to allow Gibson to develop in the AHL. Jonas Hiller and Fasth would take the reigns with the parent club and Gibson would get the bulk of the starts in the AHL. At present, the Ducks have the Hiller equivalent (and if you don’t buy that, please go back and watch Hiller’s San Jose Sharks playoff series win) in net, with John Gibson locked up.

Hiller was a concussion risk as his career with the Ducks wound up, yet Gibson himself has some lower body issues that are traditionally likely to flare up as a netminder ages. The Anaheim Ducks currently don’t have a Fasth equivalent, however, whoever they put in will likely only be for a short period of time. It could be Miller. It could be Stolarz. Whichever direction they move in won’t be a permanent position.

However, coming into the 2014-2015 season, the landscape had changed. Fasth was traded to Edmonton. Gibson made his NHL debut in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and for the most part, excelled. Whether coming into the NHL in the postseason under renowned goalie-killing coach Bruce Boudreau was the best thing for Gibson long-term, is perhaps debatable.

However, that is an issue that is long in the past now. Nonetheless, 2014-2015 saw Gibson take a backup role, more or less, with the Ducks senior squad. He ended up playing 23 games with the senior squad and 11 more in the AHL. However, notably, his frail 22-year-old frame folded but five games into the season and he was out for some period of time with a now prevailing groin injury.

It’s worth noting here that one of Coach Boudreau’s former star netminders, Semyon Varlamov, was perhaps brought into the NHL before his time and he too has had a career stricken with lower-body injuries. Varlamov has had a 12-year career (to date) and in six of those years, he’s played in fewer than 50 games, not inclusive of his debut season. Four of the years prior to his 28th birthday he played in fewer than 40 games.

For those looking to compare Gibson’s superiority, consider that Varlamov has a .915% save percentage in 493 games, compared to Gibsons .918% in 287 games. They’re not dissimilar. If not for the Anaheim Ducks choosing Gibson over Andersen, or the Capitals choosing Holtby over Varlamov, they might even be considered closer in their career trajectories.

There are no doubt nuances to the comparison and it’s not the purpose of this commentary to explore those nuances. However, I believe it’s worth noting that similar goalies (both “acrobatic” netminders) were brought into the NHL at a young age when they perhaps were not quite ready to carry that burden.

Jumping back to Gibson, in 2015-2016, the 22-year-old Gibson was back starting in the NHL, but with a hot new contract and the following commentary of Bob Murray (excerpt from the hockey news) to go with that:

"“He’s very clear,” Murray said. “His agent (Kurt Overhardt) and I talked a lot about this situation. (Overhardt) was very helpful because he knew it was the best situation for John moving forward. Early on this year, things could be rough, but he knows exactly. I had a long talk with him two nights ago. He knows what my game plan is. He knows what I think of him. He’s on board right now. He’s prepared for that. Injuries happen – and have happened in goal – every year for the past four or five years. We’ve always had injuries. That’s why I’m a little more comfortable with our goaltending right now. I won’t be searching for somebody in November, I don’t think.”"

The rest then is history. Gibson went on to play 40 games that season for the Anaheim Ducks and co-won the William M Jennings Trophy with Frederick Andersen, for the netminder(s) who had played at least 25 games for a team with the lowest goals against. From there, Gibson established himself as one of the league’s superior netminders, when healthy.

This reputation has perhaps lost a little shine over the past two seasons, however, he’s been an excellent and perhaps even underrated netminder despite being buried behind an underwhelming defensive unit and Dallas Eakins no-defence defensive scheme at times.