As we all know, goaltenders are the most important players in the sport of ice hockey. It just breaks down that way; you can have an All-Star lineup but if the person in between the pipes is letting in one out of every eight shots or so, then your team is destined to eventually fail.
Well in the Minnesota Wild’s Central Division, there are some mighty fine netminders and some absolutely terrible situations. So why not, before the 2021-22 season gets going, look through the names and determine what team is actually solid in net or absolutely purposely losing games because of who they threw in there to suffocate by way of pucks as a form of punishment.
1. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
The easiest decision of my life is placing Connor Hellebuyck as the division’s best goaltender. It certainly helps that he is standing behind one of the league’s worst defenses for the last number of years, but this dude just cannot help making saves.
The 28-year-old has led the NHL in shots faced and saves made for the last three seasons, games started in the last two, and even though he’s led the league in goals allowed for two of the last three seasons, he still saves enough to get the Jets more wins than they deserve.
It’s a matter of opportunity, but without Hellebuyck, the Jets would be closer to the Buffalo Sabres than making the playoffs.
2. Marc-Andre Fleury, Chicago Blackhawks
As we all saw last year in the first round, then playing for the Vegas Golden Knights, Marc-Andre Fleury can simply prevent his team from ever losing a game that they should have. Often, it was Fleury and Fleury alone standing in the Wild’s way from getting one of those surefire games to add to their total, but he was just too dang good.
For the Chicago Blackhawks, it might be different since they are very bad but it can also be a situation like Hellebuyck where he gets the opportunity to make a lot of saves, adding more value than initially thought.
He’ll probably be a Hall-of-Famer so there’s that too.
3. Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators
Saros will be taking over the reins as the Predators starter from Pekka Rinne full-time this season and he should take that and absolutely run with it. Despite his small stature (stands at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds), his lowest save percentage in a season is .914. That’s really fucking good.
He came in sixth in Vezina Trophy voting and with the Preds losing some defensemen, they might need to rely on him even more.
4. Darcy Kuemper, Colorado Avalanche
Oh, we know him. Always a good, not great goaltender on a very bad team, Kuemper is going to get his shot this year as he was traded from the Arizona Coyotes to the Avalanche this summer. He had a down year last season but has been putting up some ridiculous totals previously and just enough to be on the outside looking in for some individual awards. He’s good, and honestly, I had a hard time choosing between him and Saros for this secondary tier.
5. Cam Talbot, Minnesota Wild
Our guy! Talbot has been absolute godsend for the Wild and last year proved that all they were missing was an above-average NHL goaltender (and Kirill Kaprizov). In the postseason, Talbot proved to earn a lot of wins or not-blowout-losses and added to the storyline of it essentially being a goaltending battle.
This year there will be some questions but if he just keeps up being at the same consistent level, then that’s good enough for a Wild defense that can stop pretty much anyone.
6. Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues
Binnington sucks but doesn’t suck more than the guys that are next. I have nothing else to say.
7. Anton Khudobin/Braden Holtby/Ben Bishop/Jake Oettinger, Dallas Stars
The Dallas Stars are an absolute trainwreck in between the posts. They have four netminders after signing Braden Holtby this summer and honestly, either one of them could play and nothing would really change. Khudobin is good but strictly as a backup, Bishop is not what he once was because his groin is made out of saran wrap glued to each of his thighs, and Oettinger can be something but probably isn’t going to get minutes above any of those other dudes.
It’s a mess.
8. Carter Hutton, Arizona Coyotes
Okay the Coyotes are straight up just tanking. They chose to sign the Sabres’ worse goaltender and are probably going to start him or Josef Korenar in front of an absolutely dreadful team. It might be so damn bad and for Hutton, he’s had a .902 save percentage through the last three years. Albeit for the Sabres, but still.
He’s easily the worst.
Do you not agree with anything I just said or the ranking? Well there’s nothing like a good solid pre-season debate in the comment section.