In every sport, there is a position that "takes" the loss and is "credited" with the win. In football, it is the Quarterback, in baseball the pitcher, in basketball... the uh... guy with the shooting... In hockey, it is the goaltender. If the team plays like a peewee squad in front of him, he s expected to pull a win out of his rear end, and if he can't, he is clearly not an elite goaltender.
We live with this every game here in Minnesota. A high end goalie signed to a high end deal, and the team in front of him is not capable of putting forth even the slightest defense. Rather than call out the guys who could have prevented the shot from happening, if only they had been in position, the fans call for the head of Backstrom.
It makes no sense, and yet, here we are. Make the jump and find out if the HW staff agrees on how to grade Backstrom.
|2010 - Niklas Backstrom||51||2978||22||23||132||2.66||1566||1434||.916||3|
JS- GRADE: A : This man played like a man possessed for the vast majority of the season. He is undoubtedly the main reason the Wild were even chasing the playoffs for so long. He stayed in the top 10, even top 5 sometimes, in the major goaltending categories for a while. The problem though is when he got cold, he got very cold, and usually for weeks at a time. He was unquestionably the hardest and busiest worker on the team this season, seeing as the Wild received a million shots this season. We were also introduced to a side of his game we had hardly ever seen before: Jaw-dropping saves. Backstrom was often criticized for no being able to make the huge saves when they needed him to, those highlight reel saves. Backstrom changed that big time this year as he seemed to pull one off every other game.
Backstrom, in his starts, saw 35 shots or greater 16 times, getting a record of 8-6-2 (both shootout losses), which is great, considering when you get as many shots against, chances are you're destined to lose that game.
There will always be debate on his contract because of much less pricey goalies doing great work, but those goaltenders will either A) Command big contracts some day, B) Be a passing fad, C) Be quite hard to find. We've discovered this year that we have a bona-fide superstar goalie in Backstrom after an off year last season, the problem is he can't score goals for his offense, so he'll need more help. That late season collapse tarnished his numbers, but exactly 0% of it should be blamed on him. In fact, he and Koivu were probably the only ones who fought to stay in it until the end while the rest of the team didn't seem to give half a damn.
Backstrom is for real, he does exactly what he's supposed to do and it's not his fault the team in front of him can't do what they're supposed to. Is Tomas Vokoun a bad goalie because he plays for the Panthers? Hell no, he's the only reason they don't lose 75 games a season, and Backstrom is just as important to the Wild. The only thing I can say is he needs to be a bit more consistent and not let his letdowns drag too long. I know this won't be a very popular grade among a lot of you, but I don't care. I stand by this grade.
Elise: GRADE: C Backstrom had some very good games and some very terrible games. He didn't always have the support in front of him, but he definitely wasn't at the level he was two seasons ago.
Dan- GRADE: B+ There were good times and bad times but overall, he remained rock solid and gave the team a fighting chance. He won't make the often hightlight reel save but he doesn't need to because his positioning is one of the best in the game.
Bryan- GRADE: B+ He is close to an A for the year, trust me. Had the team put out some team defense, cleared the zone a few more times, and not left him exposed as much as they did, Backstrom could have stolen this season for them. This guy, despite the critics, is one of the best goalies in the league. He has a big contract that was signed in the big goalie contract era. He cannot, will not, and should not be traded, and the hopes and dreams of this team ride with him. You can hate on him all you want, but a 2.66 GAA, a .916 save% and 1434 saves is nothing to be upset with. Had his team provided some offense and some puck control, those numbers would have been even better.
Nathan: GRADE: B. He had a good, not great season. 2.66 is too high, but his .916% is very good. This season, having Jose Theodore behind him, gave Backstrom more nights off than he was used to, but let's be honest. He needed them. This was the first season where you could visibly see Backstrom being shaken and losing confidence. He was showing negative emotion (no, we're not talking about Manny Fernandez here) and when he got rattled, it took him longer to bounce back than ever before. It's not a good trend. I do not like it. At all. He needs to figure out what the hell happened, because when it rained, it poured.
Cumulative GPA: 3.12 B
For all of those calling for Backstrom to be traded, I'm just going to throw this out there: Shut up.
Niklas Backstrom cannot be traded, due to a no trade clause that is still fully in effect. If it weren't for that, his contract prevents it from happening. No, not because he is not worth every penny (he is), but because teams simply do not have the cap space to trade for that contract.
I am willing to bet my house that if you asked any NHL GM, and told them they could have Niklas Backstrom, no worries on the cap issue, they would take him. All of them. Even the guys who already have a goalie. He really is that good.
Just like any goalie, he has off days. The difference is, when Backstrom has an off day, the team can't pick up the slack, and they lose. He's human, folks. He cannot stop every shot all year. Yet, due to his performance, and that of his counterpart, the Wild had a chance for far longer than they ever should have.
I have truly come to a point where the "Trade Backstrom" crowd needs to simply get bent. How about we drop it and move on to things that might actually happen?