Darcy Kuemper named starter for Opening Night


Minnesota Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo announced today that Darcy Kuemper will start tomorrow night’s season opener against the Colorado Avalanche at Xcel Energy Center.

I don’t think this news really surprises anyone, but it was something that Yeo was not very forthcoming with lately until the announcement today. Really, I think this was the Wild’s plan all along, to start the season with Kuemper, but the competition between Niklas Backstrom and Kuemper in training camp/preseason did a great job of keeping Kuemper honest, and perhaps pushed him to be more ready for the season, with the threat of being sent to Iowa to start the season being hung over his head.

Even with that said, this announcement is a sigh of relief for not just Kuemper, but Wild fans on the whole, who all fear a rotating door at goaltender this year, much like last season. We’re hardly out of the woods yet, as I think they’ll give Backstrom an honest shot to reclaim his former glory with a few starts early on, but they’ve never been afraid to ride the hot hand either, and the hope is that Kuemper can pick up where he left off late last season. After a shaky early call up, Kuemper came up for good in January last season, and posted a great 2.19 Goals Against Average through the end of the season, along with an even better 2.03 GAA in the series against the Avalanche in the first round of the playoffs, before he was injured late in Game 7.

This not only closes the door on the competition from the preseason, but Kuemper being named starter, if only for the first game, sort of closes the book on the aftermath of his mini-holdout that lasted the first day of training camp in search of a one-way NHL contract. There will still be plenty of drama surrounding the goaltender position for the Wild, as any less than spectacular performance from Kuemper will start the rumbling for Backstrom, and it’s very possible the former workhorse goaltender gets his position back. Also still on the very distant horizon is the return of one Josh Harding, kicker of walls, and his NHL leading SV% and GAA from last season. The most speculation surrounding Wild goalies could still be yet to happen, as if Kuemper (or Backstrom) is hot or at least doing well at the time of Harding’s injury, there will be much to be said as to who should start going forward. If both Kuemper and Backstrom are not holding down the job with absolute certainty at that point, it was be a pretty easy call to give Harding an extended shot at regaining his own starting role lost last season when his MS took him off the ice.

When Harding returns to the team might be an interesting point in the Wild season regardless of who the hot goalie is, as it will put three active goalies on the Wild roster, which Yeo has even said is “Less than ideal” as far as roster flexibility. This has led many to speculate that the Wild will only give Kuemper a dozen or so starts, then send him to Iowa while they can, before he’s played too many NHL games to be sent down without having to go through waivers, where he would undoubtedly snatched up by another team. I doubt that’s the plan, as this team is too good to mess around with petty contract conditions that could jeopardize their season, regardless of how many goalies they end up carrying. To that point, each of our goalie’s health histories suggest that the team should be happy with having two healthy goalies at once, and not having to break the glass case in Chuck Fletcher’s office that covers the red telephone hotline to Ilya Bryzgalov, now home in Russia after being released from his tryout.

Hopefully for the Wild, Kuemper can take off and run with the job, and leave no doubt as to who the starting goalie should be for the entire season, though I’m sure that it won’t be that easy, but that’s the fun part right? That way, a certain goalie obsessed blogger has things to write about all season long, rather than a faux-statistical analysis on the best flow on the team.