Is Jeff Zatkoff’s Time With The Pittsburgh Penguins Over?


Jeff Zatkoff‘s breakthrough season finally occurred last season but it was not enough to show new head coach Mike Johnston that he deserved to backup Marc-Andre Fleury this season. Zatkoff played well with the limited time on the ice he had and his statistics agree. Last season he appeared in 20 games and had a record of 12 wins to 6 loses. The win/loss statistic is inflated due to playing on a team like the Pittsburgh Penguins who have the offensive firepower to make up for mediocre goaltending.

The underlying numbers tell some of the picture but not entirely. Zatkoff faced 582 shots stopping 91.2% and finished with a 2.61 GAA. These numbers while not fantastic were solid for it being Jeff Zatkoff’s first season at the NHL level.

I have no doubt if he was given another season or two his play would elevate with more experience.

Last season when you actually watch Zatkoff’s play he was wildly inconsistent. The Penguins starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is a fantastic goalie, but has struggled greatly over the last few seasons with consistency issues.

When the Penguins ownership was evaluating their goaltending situation for the upcoming season, it is clear they did not have faith in Jeff Zatkoff. While Zatkoff may be able to make some eye popping saves, similar to Fleury, he lets up goals too often that should be easy saves.

To address this projected need, Rutherford brought in Thomas Greiss on a one year contract. Throughout his 5 year NHL career Greiss has been a solid backup for the San Jose Sharks and last season the Arizona Coyotes.

Sep 23, 2014; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Cam Atkinson (13) shot hits the post behind Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Thomas Greiss (1) during the second period at Nationwide Arena. Columbus defeated Pittsburgh 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Last season Greiss had a great season as a backup goaltender posting a .920 save percentage and a 2.29 GAA. Despite the solid numbers he had barely had a winning record or 10 wins and 8 loses. Much of this can be blamed upon the offensive ineptitude of the Coyotes.

Throughout the preseason and training camp Greiss has simply outplayed Jeff Zatkoff.

While I really hope that Zatkoff clears waivers and goes back down to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. I have doubts that it could actually occur. The issue is not Zatkoff’s talent but his lack of experience and he will not be able to gain that experience by playing in the minors.

Frankly, if Zatkoff goes through waivers it is almost certain that he will be claimed by another team.

The tricky task Rutherford has to deal with is trying to balance the future of the franchise with the need to win now. With the number of superstars on the Penguins roster currently the expectation is to compete for the Stanley Cup every season.

Keeping Zatkoff with the Penguins would be the best thing for the franchise’s future, but Greiss will give them a solid netminder to fall back on if Fleury falters again.

More than likely Zatkoff will be sent down before the start of the season and the Penguins will have Greiss back up Fleury which will give them the best chance to win.

Let’s just hope we don’t lose Zatkoff in the process.