Though many players have spent time in the crease for the Minnesota Wild, there are 4 players not currently on the roster that would make a very nice Wild goalie Mount Rushmore tribute. With one of those players visiting today, it seems a appropriate to take a trip back through time to acknowledge these players for their accomplishments in a Wild uniform and reminisce about their success for the franchise. This list will be chronological in nature rather than ranked by accomplishment, but does take us all the way back to the very beginning of the franchise. How would you rank these players? Let us know in the comments.
The Wild acquired Manny Fernandez from the Dallas Stars prior to their inaugural season for a current (2000) third-round pick and 2002 fourth-round pick. Fernandez was with the Wild through the 2006-07 season and was traded to the Boston Bruins after two seasons of being the Wild's #1 starter. Fernandez had previously been deployed as part of a tandem of split-game starters, first with Jamie McLennan, and then most notably with Dwayne Roloson (also on this list), but took over as the top guy when Roloson was traded. Manny was known for being an emotional player who could make electrifying saves with his sprawling acrobatics. Unfortunately, he was also plagued with some inconsistency from game-to-game that prevented him from being the #1 keeper for several seasons in a Wild uniform. Perhaps his most memorable stretch of play came in the Wild's first playoff run in 2003, when Fernandez stepped into the starting role in game 5 against the Colorado Avalanche, rolling off 3 straight wins that culminated with Andrew Brunette's game 7 OT dagger and one of the greatest moments in team history. Fernandez ranks 2nd all time in games played and wins, and first overall in PIM.
"Roli the Goalie" joined the Wild in 2001 after bouncing around between the Flames, Sabres, Blue Jackets and Blues organizations, but never finding a full-time NHL job. During the 2002-03 season, Roloson finally got his shot while splitting time with Manny Fernandez in Minnesota. Much like his counterpart, Roloson was known for his emotional play and could often be found getting in the face of linesmen and referees or using his own force and equipment to clear out his crease. Despite the true platoon he held with Fernandez, Roloson earned an All-Star nod in the 2003-04 season while capturing the NHL's best save percentage. Roloson was traded to the Edmonton Oilers at the deadline in 2006 for a first round pick that would be used to acquire Pavol Demitra, and backstopped the Oilers all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Roloson also continued playing into his 40's, retiring following the 2011-12 season at age 41. He was recently activated as the emergency backup goalie for the Anaheim Ducks in 2014. He won a gold medal for Team Canada at the 2007 World Championships, and a silver in 2009. Roloson is 3rd in Wild history in GP and Wins and trails only Devan Dubnyk in GAA.
Backy is the most decorated keeper in Wild history. His accomplishments for the franchise and internationally are without equal. Backstrom joined the Wild following Dwayne Roloson's departure to start the 2006-07 season and was with the team until his trade deadline day move to Calgary this year. Though his final 3 years were marred with injury, Backstrom leads the team all-time in games, wins, and shutouts. He has 2 Olympic medals and 2 World Championship medals with team Finland to go with his team Finland gold medal at the 1998 World Juniors. He was an NHL All-Star and Vezina finalist in 2008-09 and spent more than 23,000 minutes in Minnesota's crease. He was part of the team for 5 playoff runs, and was with the team for longer than its last 3 coaches and current GM and owner. He will make his second start of the season tonight against the Wild at the X.
If bad luck had a face, it would be Josh Harding's. His entire career was impacted by his myriad injuries and he was ultimately moved into early retirement due to his continuing battle with Multiple Sclerosis. He was drafted by the Wild in the second round of the 2002 entry draft and spent a couple of years playing Junior before moving to AHL Houston in 2004. He looked to have a true shot at a full-time NHL job when the Wild traded Dwayne Roloson to Edmonton at the deadline in 2006, and Harding stepped up to the big club and went 2-1 to close out the season. Unfortunately a preseason injury to Harding prompted the team to acquire Niklas Backstrom from SM-liiga in Finland, but Harding would still get a chance in Minnesota during the season filling in for injuries and went 3-2-1 with and incredible .960 SV% and 1.16 GAA. The Wild felt that Harding was ready to take the next step and traded away Fernandez following that season. With Backstrom locking down the starting job, Harding never really got the chance to seize the #1 job. He lost the full 2010-11 season to an ACL and MCL injury in the preseason at Saint Louis. He also missed time in the playoffs with a concussion and infamously missed the beginning of the 2014-15 season with a broken toe after kicking a wall in the preseason. The most games he played in a single season was 34 in 2011-12, the season in which he was diagnosed with MS. He returned to capture the Bill Masterton Memorial trophy in 2012-13 with great play following his enduring battle with the disease. However, despite all of that, he still ranks 4th all time in games, wins and shutouts for the Wild. He never played a minute for another NHL team, but was a promising and exciting player for the Wild.
McLennan was only with the Wild for 1 season, the team's first in 2000-01. He was the first Wild netminder to secure a win and posted solid peripheral numbers, but only managed a 5-23-2 record in Minnesota. He also infamously did not win his first shutout, dueling Roberto Luongo to a 0-0 tie.
The enigmatic Russian was acquired to replace an injured Josh Harding at the deadline in 2014 and quickly became a fan favorite with his quirky personality and quick inclusion the leadership group of the team, while helping the team sneak into the playoffs and getting past the Colorado Avalanche in the first round.