Perhaps the biggest key to the upcoming season for the Minnesota Wild lies between the pipes with Nik Backstrom. While everyone agrees that Backstrom had a superb season last year, this question should be asked: Was it Backstrom or the system?
As we all know, Coach Lemaire’s system is a defensive one. He won a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils and Martin Brodeur . Since he started in Minny, most of his starting goaltenders have had very, very good seasons. Here is a list of leading Wild goaltenders by season:
2000-01 ~ Fernandez (2.24 GAA)
2001-02 ~ Roloson (2.68 GAA)
2002-03 ~ Roloson (2.00 GAA)
2003-04 ~ Roloson (1.88 GAA)
2005-06 ~ Fernandez (2.29 GAA)
2006-07 ~ Fernandez (2.55 GAA) / Backstrom (1.97 GAA)
2007-08 ~ Backstrom (2.31 GAA)
2008-09 ~ Backstrom (2.33 GAA)
Is it simply a coincidence that every starting netminder for the team has had under a 2.70 GAA? Take away Roloson’s 2001-02 season (which was one year out of expansion) and you’re looking at the leading GAA team in the Western Conference over that time span. Have Fernandez and Roloson gone on to have success elsewhere? This is debatable, but I think the answer is yes, although their numbers haven’t been near what they posted for the Wild.
The jury is clearly out on Backstrom. He may be a great goalie, in fact I truly believe he is, but I’m just saying we don’t know yet. Take him out of the Lemaire-designed system and we’ll have a much better idea.