At this time of year the NHL comes to a complete halt. GM’s, players and even the media are almost nowhere to be found, many taking their end of summer vacations. Things aren’t any different here in Minnesota.
For the Wild fan, it seems as if we are in a state of limbo. We are eager to talk about hockey, watch hockey and see how our teams are developing during training camp. Most of us can’t wait for hockey to start. That doesn’t mean we are eager for winter to be here. I know I’m not. I just want to talk hockey.
It seems as if it’s been an eternity since the Stanley Cup Finals when the LA Kings were anointed champions of the NHL. It seems as if I’ve lived three lives since the Wild exited the playoffs.
I can’t wait for another Wild season to start. These are some boring days without hockey. I guess I should hit the snooze button until the season starts.
The season might be on Hiatus but the Wild still need to address what they want to do with their goalies. Should they sign Darcy Kuemper or Bryzgalov to new contracts? What about Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom?
Josh Harding & Niklas Backstrom
While boredom has set in for me, there are still some things that I think are hanging in the balance. The first thing that needs to be addressed is the goalie situation. Will we have a healthy Josh Harding and Niklus Backstrom in the lineup when the season starts?
That’s a tough call. Wild GM Chuck Fletcher believes both guys will be healthy. I’ll assume for argument sake that Fletcher is right and that both guys will be in the lineup at the start of the season.
I’m a Josh Harding fan and I feel for the guy. He had complications from his MS that kept him out of the lineup last season.
I think that the Wild are safe to keep Harding as the backup but the team does need a plan B option. Harding has played well when he’s in the lineup but there’s no guarantee that he won’t face complications with his MS. If he does, the Wild need another option.
The Wild have a couple of options for a plan B option should Harding or Backstrom be out of the lineup at the start of the season.
I don’t think that Bryzgalov fits the Wild’s needs. Ilya would command a contract worthy of a starter and that is obviously way too much for a third goalie in the system.
Ilya played exceptionally well for the Wild down the stretch of last year’s regular season. He was a big part of why the team made the playoffs. Ilya went 7-3-1 for the Wild. He impressed me and many the hockey experts. But Ilya has been inconsistent during his career. Can he be counted on to play well long term?
I don’t think so. I think that Bryzgalov filled in nicely when needed. He played a role and he had something to prove. He had to prove to other teams that he still ca be a starter in the NHL.
I don’t believe that the Wild considered Bryzgalov a long term solution for the club. They needed a guy for their playoff run. Ilya served that role very nicely.
At this point I wouldn’t make the decision to take Bryzgalov over Harding or Backstrum since he’s been inconsistent throughout his career. So that leaves one guy left on my list.
Kuemper Should be Signed to a New Contract
Without Backstrom and Harding in the lineup, the team relied on rookie netminder Darcy Kuemper. Kuemper held his own, ending the season with a 12-8-4 regular season record. Kuemper played well for a rookie, even though he was thrown into a pressure cooker.
I think that Kuemper proved that he will have a bright future for the Wilfd. Kuemper also played well in the six playoff games that he played in. Kuemper has potential but he’s still young. I would be happy if the Wild signed Kuemper to a new contract.
I think with the trio of Backstrom, Harding and Kuemper in the system, the Wild would be able to deal with the unfortunate scenario should Backstrom or Harding be injured.
Let’s face it, Kuemper was thrown to the wolves as a rookie and he did pretty well. As a third goalie or even backup, Kuemper wouldn’t have as much pressure but he would be able to develop as a goalie.