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What does the future really hold for the Canucks' goaltenders?

Ryan Miller will start for the Canucks Monday night as they pay a visit to the Anaheim Ducks, which makes a great deal of sense. Miller is, after all, the starting goalie; Jacob Markstrom is the backup goalie.

Ryan Miller will start for the Canucks Monday night as they pay a visit to the Anaheim Ducks, which makes a great deal of sense. Miller is, after all, the starting goalie; Jacob Markstrom is the backup goalie. Ergo, more often than not, Miller is going to start and Markstrom is going to back him up, as per their job descriptions.

But it won't always be like that. Rather than talk about the Canucks' starting netminder in the short-term, let's go long-term, where the plan in the Canucks' crease seems pretty clear: Miller, then Markstrom, then NCAA standout Thatcher Demko, currently lighting up Boston College with a 12-1 record, a .953 save percentage and a 1.23 goals against average. He's blowing the roof off over there -- or, at the very least, thatching it.

Ken Hill at Last Word on Sports spells it out the succession story:

In a perfect world, the plan should be pretty straight-forward. Over the course of this season, the Canucks ease Markstrom in with more and more ice time as Miller likely fades down the stretch.

[...] From 2017-2019 the Canucks will run with Markstrom in the crease while going with a veteran free agent backup, as the team returns to contender status near the end of that time frame.

The 2019-20 season should see Demko make the jump to the NHL full-time and split duties with Markstrom, similar to what we saw with Luongo and Schneider. At this point Demko will be in his mid-20’s and ready to assume a full-time starting role in the 2020-21 NHL season, and hopefully run with it for the next decade. The Canucks can at this point trade Markstrom, thus avoiding another Luongo-Schneider-style quagmire.

In a perfect world.

Sadly, if there's one thing being a Vancouver fan has taught us, it's that the world is far from perfect. (Canucks hockey means a lifetime of this sort of fatalism.) Hell, last year Eddie Lack finds a way into this article. Now he's a Hurricane. The plan should be pretty straightforward -- but it won't be. Off the top of my head, here are five ways it could go wrong:

  • The Canucks re-sign Ryan Miller. Sure, that may seem crazy to you now, but what if Miller goes on a Tim Thomas-like run? It seems unlikely, but the Sedins are getting it done at age 35. That could soften Canucks' management to his age in much the same way Bo Horvat's rookie season paved the way for two more teenage rookies the following year. Heck, even the most stoic and logical among us could get sucked into a narrative where Ryan Miller absolutely must be re-signed. The Canucks are fearlessly loyal to him already. If something like this happens, it's going to complicate everything.
  • The transition is mismanaged. Oh, you think that can't happen? Keep in mind this entire succession plan is a plan B. Plan A was Cory Schneider succeeding Roberto Luongo. It didn't happen, thanks primarily to a Luongo's trojan horse contract, which was good one day then, after the NHL lockout changed the rules, bad the next. Suddenly, Luongo was untradeable, feelings were hurt, and a stuck Mike Gillis had swapped out Luongo and Schneider for Miller and Markstrom. I like the succession plan as outlined, but after the last drama, there will be no convincing me it goes as smoothly as outlined. 
  • Someone struggles or gets hurt. The biggest reach in this plan is the notion that all three goalies will have problem-free careers, succeed right away, meet expectations forever, and never necessitate a move or movement for another goalie. That seems unlikely, especially in a city that even Roberto Luongo couldn't satisfy. 
  • Someone refuses to stick to the script. One of the big issues with this plan is the notion that any starting goaltender would willing give up his post(s). We're not talking about skaters here. There are only 30 of these jobs, and we think neither Miller or Markstrom is going to fight to hold onto the spot? We leave out the human element all the time, but a massive subplot in the Luongo-Schneider hullabaloo was Luongo's desire to return to Florida. What if, for some reason or another, one of these guys decides there's somewhere else he wants to be?
  • A crazy fifth thing. Could you have predicted Luongo/Schneider would unfold the way it did? That neither netminder would be with this team in 2015? As simple as the current succession plan seems, it seems a foregone conclusion that it won't actually turn out this way.

Really, rather than watching the succession plan plan unfold, we should be watching -- and maybe even taking bets -- for how it's going to change over time. Because when it comes to the Canucks' crease, nothing ever works out as it's supposed to.