Minnesota Wild: Battle Brewing at Goaltender


When the Minnesota Wild signed Devan Dubynk to a 6-year contract this summer it seemed as if the team had secured stability at the goaltender position for years to come. I would certainly agree with that notion, especially now that he’s playing with a high caliber defense and team like the Wild.  He will excel as long as the rest of the team doesn’t put him in a position to try and win every game by himself. Still when looking at the team’s overall goaltender situation it was thought that Darcy Kuemper was a lock to back Dubynk up, but after this first week of preseason games that might not be such a sure thing.

“Some shutouts are made by not making a ton of quality chances, but this one he made a lot of real key saves over the course of the night.”-Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo

Niklas Backstrom played a great game on Wednesday in Winnipeg. He shut the Jets out stopping all 28 shots leading to a 1-0 Wild victory. Still it wasn’t just the sheer amount of shots he faced, but it really was the key saves at certain times on quality scoring chances. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo was quoted on Wild.com as saying that “Some shutouts are made by not making a ton of quality chances, but this one he made a lot of real key saves over the course of the night.”

More from Editorials

Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

On the other side of the back-up battle is Kuemper who was the favorite heading into training camp.   I think due to his performance last year before Dubynk’s acquisition that he should be under scrutiny and the back-up job should not necessarily be handed to him. His first preseason performance was average at best as he stopped 16 of 19 shots (.842 SV%) for a 3-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. The defense really did do its job allowing only 19 shots, and it should be said that to be successful at the NHL level a goaltender needs to be consistently above .900 SV% per game.

So heading forward I’d really watch this situation closely. Backstrom may be older, but he has more experience and has shown more of an upside throughout his career. Kuemper other than the Colorado playoff series win in 2014 has largely been underachieving and one would have to wonder when time to develop turns into talented bust. I really feel Kuemper has to show much more tonight in his second start of the preseason in Saskatoon against the Oilers, because right now Backstrom has the upper hand.

Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Many would point to the delicate situation of keeping Kuemper happy for the future as a reason why there is no actual competition going on. My stance is that Kuemper will be an RFA at the end of the year, which really means that unless something drastic happens he will be re-signed. So why not motivate him to play better by keeping the threat of Backstrom possibly taking some of Kuemper’s playing time?

Due to contract issues the three-goaltender construct is going to be a forced reality for the Wild this season. Dubynk’s performance and potential make him the no question starter. When it comes to the back up it could be Kuemper or Backstrom; both have to play well to get that spot because it won’t be handed to them. This next week will be important as this battle shapes out.