Sunday, April 24, 2016

In the world of the Joneses, Martin Jones life is good

By Larry Wigge

Martin Jones wanted to be his own man.

After spending the last two years as the Los Angeles Kings backup goaltender, the 6-4, 190-pound netminder from North Vancouver was yearning to get his shot.

He made the 350-mile journey from Los Angeles to San Jose by way of Boston. He became a Bruins in the June 26 trade that sent Milan Lucic to the Kings.

A contrived deal. You bet your life on it. Kings GM Dean Lombardi wasn't about to let a prospect like Jones go to a Pacific Division rival. So ...

Maybe there was a little under-the-table negotiations going on between San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson and Boston GM Don Sweeney.

"He was number one on our list," explained Wilson. "We liked his style of play. His size. His age. His competitiveness. We thought he was a guy that would fit great for us.

"We've had a lot of trade discussions, and there are a lot of different ways to acquire people. This one came to fruition after a lot of conversation."

Now, 11 months later the truth can be told.

The Bruins traded the 25-year-old puckstopper to the Sharks four days later for a 2016 first-round draft choice and prospect Sean Kuraly.

And now the Sharks have knocked the Kings out of the first-round of the playoffs by a 4-1 margin ... and Jones was one of the major reasons for it.

Jones posted a brilliant 37-23-4 record with a 2.27 and a .918 save percentage and he capped that by going 6-0 in the Forum in Los Angeles by winning three straight games there in the playoffs.

Following a historic collapse against the Kings in the 2014 Western Conference First Round, the San Jose Sharks missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs entirely last season for the first time since 2003.

But back to Jones.

Backup to Jonathan Quick no longer, Jones had beaten Quick in the series. He stopped 19 of 22 shots in the April 22 series-clinching Game 5 win over the Kings.

"Composure," coach Peter DeBoer said when asked what sticks out about Jones. "He really has a calming sense. I think good goalies have that. Marty Brodeur had that. Cory Schneider has that quality. They don't get rattled. They don't get too high or too low. Your team reads off of that, so it's a nice feeling."

Joe Thornton says that Jones was a perfect fit for the Shark. "He's a stud. There's no denying it."

"Not a lot gets to him," said Sharks defenseman Paul Martin. "Not a lot affects him. I think for us, playing in front of him calms us, too."

Jones was on a golf course with some pals in Scottsdale, Arizona, when he got the call that he had been traded to the Sharks last June 30.

It was pure elation, which wasn't exactly the reaction he had a few days earlier when he was dealt to the Boston Bruins.

"I thought it was kind of a step sideways for me with Tuukka there," Jones said. "So I didn't really know what was going to happen. But then it didn't take long before I got the call that I was going to San Jose. That was a quick turnaround ... and that was really exciting."

He was so excited about being his own man, having the No. 1 job.

"It's hard being a backup goalie," Jones said. "You've got to sit on your games a couple of weeks at a time. It puts a lot of added pressure on yourself to get the results.

"It's tough, especially when you want to play and you're not sure when you're going to get the start. But going into a season with a guy like Quick, you know that's going to be the case. It's part of the job. You just try to be a good teammate and work hard in practice."

In Boston, it was ...

"It was a win-win on both situations, Jones is a quality goaltender but we also got quality return," said Sweeney.

Jones was undrafted as an 18-year-old, but the Kings were shrewd enough to sign him as an unrestricted free agent October 2, 2008. That year, he went 45-5-4 with the Calgary Hitmen.

A goaltender's mentality gets out.

Years ago, Dylan Crawford, son of Marc Crawford, who was then coaching the Kings then, told his father that Jones was a kid Los Angeles should look at. He had IT.

As a goaltender you want to have the same mindset that a baseball pitcher has -- you want to have a bad memory. If you give up a home run or if you give up a bad goal, you're able to get over it. Martin Jones had that. He's got a perfect demeanour for a goaltender.

The same was said years ago about all-world goaltender Dominik Hasek when he twice named the NHL's Most Valuable Player in 1997 and again in '98.

"Martin doesn't know anything but winning," Crawford said. "The goalie has to win games for you, and he's learned how to do that from a young age. I've very rarely seen him have bad outings. When he does have one, he'll follow it up with a real quality start. That's character, but it's also having the quality of knowing what your game is all about. That's why I think he'll continue to be real good in the NHL."

Unknown, but with a rich pedigree.

"I watched the tape of it two or three years ago and I'm looking at it going, 'Holy, was Marty ever good.' So often that was the case," continued Crawford. "They had about five or six kids playing in the NHL now, including Evander Kane, Patrick Wiercioch and Stefan Elliott, which means they had a lot of really good players, but Marty's was outstanding."

But something else was happening to Jones as well ... he was growing ... and growing ... and growing. By the time he was done growing the quick little goalie who did nothing but win with the Winterhawks was now nearly 6-4.

When you're a smaller goalie you need to be very technically sound to be successful. When he was small, he was sound. Now, that Marty was big, he had the advantage of his size ... the sky was the limit.

Harvey Jones, Martin's father, worked for the Vancouver Canucks for 15 years as a vice-president and general manager of arena operation at Rogers Center.

Before joining the Canucks, he worked on construction projects in Argentina, Guam and Iran. Martin's mother, Sofia, is from Argentina.

"He likes to be in the center, likes the responsibility and likes to be important but not in a way where he's outgoing and aggressive and goes seeking it," Harvey Jones said. "Being a goalie was perfect for him. He likes to be relied on, a thoughtful, reflective kid ... he was around the dressing room a little bit. He saw what it was like and what was going on. It would be different than some kid that grew up in northern Saskatchewan and had never been to an NHL game."

For years, things, obstacles had gotten in his Martin Jones way. Undrafted. Being stuck behind one of the greatest goaltenders in the world -- Jonathan Quick.

Everything is going Jones' way in San Jose.

"That's the end game, is to play in this league and be a starting goalie, and have a chance to play for a Stanley Cup," Jones said. "I think the transition has been really good. All the guys, all the trainers, have made it very easy for me. It's been very good."

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