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Can we ice 3 goaltenders, please?

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01-23-2012, 03:09 PM
  #1
thestonedkoala
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Can we ice 3 goaltenders, please?

Given how much our forwards have been talked about this season (Bulmer, Granlund, Coyle, Phillips, Zucker, Haula), I thought we should turn our attention to those quirky members of our team that occupy a small little land called the crease.

I think Bob Mason is one of the most underrated coaches in the NHL. No one knows who he is (And hell Nashville's goaltending coach comes up in discussion more often than not) except us Wild fans. He has survived two coaching changes and has churned out goaltenders like Johan Holmqvist, Manny Fernandez, Dwayne Roloson, and Anton Khudobin. Not to mention our current stock of Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding.

But with this solid goaltending group there is a problem. A good problem but a problem nonetheless.

Let's take a look;

Niklas Backstrom - Has his ups and downs, been criticized and praised. Steady goaltender, and has a large contract making it hard to move.

Josh Harding - The plucky little backup that seems content being the backup instead of the starter. Been easy to sign back but is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. Could he bolt?

So there's our starting goaltending crop.

Matt Hackett - He's ready. He might need some patience, he'll have his good games and bad games as he grows but he looks like a gamer and a starter. I was wrong about him. He should be the backup next year on this team or another team.

Hackett is pushing Harding and Harding is pushing Backstrom. What a wonderful problem to have but it goes deeper than that.

Darcy Kuemper - He might not be ready for 2-3 years but by then Hackett might be our starter or backup still (depending on how Backstrom fairs). He's already pushing Hackett in the minors but could use some adjustment.

Johan Gustafsson - I could see him over here next year if Hackett moves up. Will take time to adjust to the AHL but he's already got a gold medal and has proven a lot in the SEL. He's young and I think he might have a good future ahead of him.

Steve Michalek - The little known Harvard kid. Stopped over 1,000 shots at prep school. A thousand. And they don't have an 82 game schedule. His numbers might look terrible but Harvard looks bad this year. This guy I could see sticking in school for 4 years before coming out...

But all of our goaltenders right now in the minors are 21 < (Hackett turns 22 this year). That is amazing and they all have a lot of potential to be gamers in the NHL. Michalek is a long shot but man, after facing that many shots? And still playing solid in college? He has so much untapped potential.

So what do we do? We're going to have a logjam really quick even if we move Harding.

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01-23-2012, 03:20 PM
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The quick answer is that not everyone will work out, at least not with this team. Hackett looks as close to a sure bet as you can get at this point. I think logistics are going to push him into the backup role next season, even if some people think he needs more time in Houston. Kuemper's a ways away at this point. Hackett's ready for the NHL at this age, but usually goalies aren't stepping in until they're closer to 25 than 20. By the time Kuemper might be challenging for an NHL job, Backstrom will be gone or on the way out. Gustafsson will be challenging Kuemper in Houston for the next spot in line behind Hackett, and one will win, the other will either see their NHL hopes fade, or be traded. Michalek is 4 years away from sniffing Houston, so I don't think we have to even begin to worry about him at this point. For all we know, by the time he's here we might not have any of our current goaltending prospects in the system anymore.

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01-23-2012, 03:39 PM
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saywut
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Yeah, I don't see the log-jam. Hackett playing with the Wild next year, Kuemper in Houston, Gustafsson with Lulea, and Michalek at Harvard. 3 get starting jobs while Hackett gets as many games as he deserves(hopefully 25+ starts) in the NHL and we find out what kind of goalie we need to pair with him for the future as Backstrom's contract is up. 13-14, Kuemper/Gustafsson(if we can get him signed and come over) in Houston, Michalek still at Harvard.

Its not really insane depth either. Look at the Kings, their depth is better than ours if you include the 26 and 23 year olds playing well in the NHL.

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01-23-2012, 03:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by saywut View Post
Yeah, I don't see the log-jam. Hackett playing with the Wild next year, Kuemper in Houston, Gustafsson with Lulea, and Michalek at Harvard. 3 get starting jobs while Hackett gets as many games as he deserves(hopefully 25+ starts) in the NHL and we find out what kind of goalie we need to pair with him for the future as Backstrom's contract is up. 13-14, Kuemper/Gustafsson(if we can get him signed and come over) in Houston, Michalek still at Harvard.

Its not really insane depth either. Look at the Kings, their depth is better than ours if you include the 26 and 23 year olds playing well in the NHL.
I don't think it's fair to count Quick. If you don't count him, their depth isn't really better than ours. They have Bernier who I can't really rank ahead of Hackett. I'll be a homer and rank Hackett a bit ahead of him, but really it's best to say they're even. Looking at their HF list, it sounds like Martin Jones is identical to Kuemper, except two years older. Are Gibson and Zatkoff better than Gustafsson and Michalek?

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01-23-2012, 05:40 PM
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Yeah I wasn't talking "prospect" depth, more-so "future" depth, though prospect-wise I do have Bernier above Hackett and the other 3 basically wash-out. Their log-jam is much more noticeable now as well. Bernier's getting little playing time behind Quick while Zatkoff/Jones basically 50/50 Manchester. Kuemper hasn't played as much as I'd like him to have this year but the rest of our prospects are seeing significant playing time.

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01-23-2012, 06:39 PM
  #6
thestonedkoala
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Quote:
Originally Posted by saywut View Post
Yeah, I don't see the log-jam. Hackett playing with the Wild next year, Kuemper in Houston, Gustafsson with Lulea, and Michalek at Harvard. 3 get starting jobs while Hackett gets as many games as he deserves(hopefully 25+ starts) in the NHL and we find out what kind of goalie we need to pair with him for the future as Backstrom's contract is up. 13-14, Kuemper/Gustafsson(if we can get him signed and come over) in Houston, Michalek still at Harvard.
What is we bring back Harding? It's not out of the question as Harding has firmly established himself as a backup and a solid goaltender here in Minnesota. Hell, he might like it here and might not want to be seeking a starting job. He's been pretty relaxed about the contract issue.

And why shouldn't we bring over Gusty? He would benefit more over here getting adjusted to the AHL than another year in the SEL.

Quote:
Its not really insane depth either. Look at the Kings, their depth is better than ours if you include the 26 and 23 year olds playing well in the NHL.
I would say it is if Kuemper develops.

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01-23-2012, 08:07 PM
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saywut
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Originally Posted by the8bandarmadillo View Post
What is we bring back Harding? It's not out of the question as Harding has firmly established himself as a backup and a solid goaltender here in Minnesota. Hell, he might like it here and might not want to be seeking a starting job. He's been pretty relaxed about the contract issue.

And why shouldn't we bring over Gusty? He would benefit more over here getting adjusted to the AHL than another year in the SEL.
Playing time is as important as competition for developing goaltenders. We bring Gustafsson over, we're losing 20, 30, maybe 40 starts between him and Kuemper next season. The SEL is a league near par to the AHL, the more significant difference is the smaller ice, which Gustafsson struggled with at the WJC. If Gustafsson wants to play for Houston next year I would assume we'd allow it(need to sign him anyways), but I don't see a reason to push for it, and we haven't had success pushing directions for prospects recently(Coyle, Granlund).

There is little reason to re-sign Harding if Backstrom is still here and we have any hopes for Matt Hackett. Its going to be the final year of his ELC, we need to know what he's capable of at this level. We need to know what we want for his next contract(s). We need to confirm he's an NHL goalie before his waiver exemption ends. We need to know how badly we need another goalie for the 2013-14 season, as Backstrom's contract will be up. Playing him another year in Houston doesn't really do these things for us, he'll do the same thing he's been doing the last 2 years. Plus, Kuemper could use the playing time in Houston. He's shown himself capable at that level this year.

Now, if Fletcher and co. believe Josh Harding gives us a better chance to win for the next 10 years then by all means try to retain him and deal Matt Hackett. Hackett has his flaws but he's younger and handled bigger workloads than Harding without the injury history, and under team control for years.

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01-24-2012, 02:17 AM
  #8
Billy Mays Here
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Quote:
Originally Posted by saywut View Post
Playing time is as important as competition for developing goaltenders. We bring Gustafsson over, we're losing 20, 30, maybe 40 starts between him and Kuemper next season. The SEL is a league near par to the AHL, the more significant difference is the smaller ice, which Gustafsson struggled with at the WJC. If Gustafsson wants to play for Houston next year I would assume we'd allow it(need to sign him anyways), but I don't see a reason to push for it, and we haven't had success pushing directions for prospects recently(Coyle, Granlund).

There is little reason to re-sign Harding if Backstrom is still here and we have any hopes for Matt Hackett. Its going to be the final year of his ELC, we need to know what he's capable of at this level. We need to know what we want for his next contract(s). We need to confirm he's an NHL goalie before his waiver exemption ends. We need to know how badly we need another goalie for the 2013-14 season, as Backstrom's contract will be up. Playing him another year in Houston doesn't really do these things for us, he'll do the same thing he's been doing the last 2 years. Plus, Kuemper could use the playing time in Houston. He's shown himself capable at that level this year.

Now, if Fletcher and co. believe Josh Harding gives us a better chance to win for the next 10 years then by all means try to retain him and deal Matt Hackett. Hackett has his flaws but he's younger and handled bigger workloads than Harding without the injury history, and under team control for years.
Hackett is also bigger period. He's 6'3" while Harding is 6'1". Would be a little different having a larger than average goalie in net than what we've been use to the last 10 or so years. If I'm not mistaken Harding, Backstrom, Theodore, Roloson and Fernandez are all 6'1" or shorter.

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