July 1, 2011. The Blue Jackets are in need of a backup goaltender on the dawn of Free Agency. If youfollow me on the Twittersphere, you probably saw me say, “The Blue Jackets should sign Curtis Sanford.” Much to my delight they did, although it was a two-way, with Sanford slated to be the third man, behind Mark Dekanich (with no slight to Dex – I gave this an immediate thumbs up, as well).
Sanford spent two seasons with the Hamilton Bulldogs. During his first, 2009-10, he split the time with Cedrick Desjardins (currently with the Lake Erie Monsters who went 2-0 in a brief cup of coffee with Tampa). The two would share the AHL’s Harry “Hap” Holmes Award (fewest goals allowed in the regular season) while leading the Bulldogs to a deep playoff run to the conference finals. Sanford was 23-11-3, 2.13, 0.916, with four shutouts. In 2010-11, he suffered a shoulder injury and was limited to first-half duty only (22-13-3, 1.93, 0.930), but impressively played only one less game than the year before as the Bulldogs relied heavily on him over the talent-stalled backup Robert Mayer prior to his injury.
What Sanford has proven in his AHL career (57-30-8, 1.98, 0.925, 13 shutouts) and his short time as an NHL backup(39-37-13, .903, 2.67), and especially over the last handful of games, is that when he is healthy and on his game, you can roll with him. He should not be expected, especially now at age 32, to carry an NHL team on his back, but he is more than capable of filling the role he has been slated for, whether it is AHL workhorse or NHL spot duty. He is athletic, incredibly mobile, and not easily overwhelmed, much of which has led to his success in his handful of games in a Blue Jackets sweater.
And to put it into perspective, Steve Mason’s NHL numbers are remarkably similar to Sanford’s: Mason: 80-79-24, .904, 2.84. (Also, comparatively, the oft-injured backup Dekanich’s career AHL stats are similar to Sanford’s, and over the last two years, they put up nearly identical results: 65-38-11, 2.16, 0.922, 9 shutouts.)