Edmonton - November 19, 2014 - There were more than a few Edmonton Oilers fans that were hoping to hear news of their club placing in a claim for Minnesota Wild netminder Josh Harding on Tuesday morning.
Unfortunately for them, Craig MacTavish did not take the bait but to be perfectly honest, the Oilers general manager made the right call on taking a pass on the thirty year old native of Regina, Saskatchewan.
There is no question the former 2002 second round pick was very impressive in limited duty for the Wild in 2013-14 (18-7-3, 1.65 GAA, .933 SV%), however there are more than few red flags when it comes to seriously considering Harding as a potential No. 1 guardian.
While his numbers have always been relatively solid during his seven years in Minnesota, they have also led to him seeing action in a grand total of one hundred and fifty-one games to date in his National Hockey League career.
Part of that has been due to circumstance, being stuck behind a pretty good goaltender in Niklas Backstrom, and a fair bit of bad luck, be it on the injury front or the fact he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis during the latter part of November 2013. Since than many have wondered out loud as to whether or not Harding could handle the load of being a clear-cut No. 1 and to this point, nothing we have seen tells us he is capable of carrying the load for an NHL team.
Again, he was fantastic when he played in ’13-’14 but his health kept him from being able to seize the opportunity that presented itself. Once you consider the Wild have not only Backstrom but also Darcy Kuemper, who has appeared to pass both guys on the organization’s depth chart in goal, no one should have been surprised to see Harding and his $1.9 million ticket hit the waiver wire on Monday afternoon.
Clearly the combination of having not played a regular season game in roughly eleven months’ time and coming off a suspension and broken foot, a situation which came about after an altercation with a teammate during pre-season, teams decided to stay away.
With his current situation being what it is and the fact he is now a thirty year old goaltender who has never been a starter, taking a flyer on him would have made absolutely no sense and from an Oilers standpoint, it would have been viewed as nothing more than move of desperation. Just in case anyone can’t remember, this is essentially what MacT attempted to do last season and the results have not been very good.
As things currently sit, Edmonton already have two goaltenders who have been nothing more than backups at this level, so what purpose would be served by bringing in a third guy with the same exact pedigree? Like Harding, both Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth have shown they are good enough to play in this league but none of three have anything on their resumes pointing to them being potential No. 1’s. While the vast majority of Oilers fans were banking on Scrivens being the guy, not surprisingly, he has not been able to do so and now those same fans are starting to panic.
In my mind, making yet another sideways move in the crease, which is exactly what bringing in a guy like Harding onboard would be, accomplishes nothing but sending more mixed messages to the players inside that dressing room. These guys are not dumb, they know their goaltending is nowhere near good enough to compete and if all their general manager does to try and solve the problem is bring in one band-aid solution after another, you have to start to wonder what is running through the players heads.
At the end of the day it is supposed be about winning hockey games and by not going out and truly trying to address the goaltending situation, Craig MacTavish is accomplishing nothing but putting a seed of doubt as to whether or not this organization real wants to win hockey games. Bringing in Josh Harding would only cloud the situation further and essentially do next to nothing when it comes to improving in the standings.