Heading into the 2013 season, it was pretty clear that the Minnesota Wild were among the deeper teams in the league, as far as their goaltenders throughout the organization were concerned. With a pair of starting caliber guys on the big club, and a pair of intriguing prospects, the future looked good for them.
Then Niklas Backstrom proceeded to have one of the worst years of his career. Matt Hackett was moved at the trade deadline. As inspirational a story as Josh Harding is, it remains to be seen how long he’ll be capable of playing, and logging significant time between the pipes seems unlikely. Darcy Kuemper is still a relatively unknown quantity.
Whether or not Backstrom is the guy heading into the future for the Wild, who appear primed to become serious contenders in the Western Conference. The fact that they signed him to a new three-year deal this summer obviously means that they have some faith in him. Or they’re not confident in the potential alternatives.
Backstrom has been an extremely steady presence in the Minnesota net over the course of his career. He’s never been mistaken for an elite guy in net, but he’s solid. He sports a 2.43 goals against average for his career, along with a .917 save percentage. Solid numbers, to be sure.
However, if the 2013 Backstrom is the version that the Wild are going to see for the remainder of his tenure, he’s not the answer. His save percentage had a hard time staying up above .900 last year, with his .909 percentage proving his worst since the 2009 season.
Still, a guy with the career averages that Backstrom has posted, he should be able to rebound heading into the 2013-14 season. As of right now, the Wild are hoping for that rebound, and if he can return to form, he’s a guy that gives them a chance on any given night. If not, it’ll be interesting to see how the Wild utilize their alternatives.