Backup goalies are not necessarily supposed to be amazing; but it is great when they are. It is an added convenience that a coach can rest the starter, put in the backup, and the team cannot miss a beat. There have been several times in Flyers history that the team had a strong starter and a reliable backup.
Ron Hextall had Garth Snow and John Vanbiesbrouck as backups. Beezer had Brian Boucher backing him up. Just recently, Carter Hart had Brian Elliott and Martin Jones behind him.
However, Hart’s current backup, Felix Sandstrom, isn’t getting the job done. His 3.52 goals against average is 11th worst among goalies who have played 10 or more games. Likewise, his .880 save percentage is tied for fifth worst. In 11 games, he has just one win. That’s not good enough.
To be totally fair to him, it’s not all on him. There are times that he may have been caught on an odd man rush and left out to dry by the defense. Or maybe a bad pass was intercepted and transitioned into a goal. Every goalie around the league can share similar stories of being let down by their teammates. It happens.
But some of it is on him. The same players are in front of Carter Hart and Samuel Ersson. Hart has struggled at times, but is still well under a 3.00 GAA (2.78) and above 90% in save percentage (.913). Errson’s numbers are also very respectable. He has a 2.37 GAA and a .918 save percentage…and that includes his first game where he gave up five goals. Both Hart and Ersson have a shutout. Sandstrom does not.
Earlier, it seemed like the Flyers were doing good with having three good goalies. Sandstrom was sent to the AHL for “conditioning” so that Ersson could continue to play. Meanwhile, Hart was just getting back into his groove after recovering from an injury. When Sandstrom had to be activated or released, the Flyers sent Ersson, who still had options, back to Lehigh Valley and kept Sandstrom; willing to give him a chance to prove himself.
He’s played in two games since being recalled. He gave up four goals in both losses; one to Winnipeg and one to Seattle. In fact, in his 10 starts, he has given up four or more goals in six of them. In contrast, Ersson has started six games. In his first game he gave up five goals to Carolina. In his second start, he gave up three. Since then, he’s given up two or less in each game.
Sandstrom is 26. If you look at his body of work, he’s performed well for the Phantoms and in the Swedish Leagues. Heck, even last year he appeared in four starts. He didn’t win them, but at least he held his own with a 3.23 GAA and a .910 save percentage as an end of the year call up. But he’s not going to improve much on what we see now.
There are some teams who could probably use him as a backup. The Chicago Blackhawks are tanking and are a mess. Perhaps they could use him. Columbus, Vancouver, Anaheim, and San Jose aren’t much better. And while Sandstrom won’t fetch a top pick, he might be able to give the Flyers back a fourth, fifth, or sixth round pick. You know what, that might be worth it.
I hope that Sandstrom can put it all together. I hope that he can figure out what he needs to do to be successful in this league. I just don’t feel that he has a future in Philly. Maybe he is destined to be one of those good AHL goalies who get an occasional call up; like Alex Lyon or Neil Little. But as far as the Flyers should be concerned, the Felix Sandstrom experiment needs to be over.