Keith Kinkaid is generally considered an adequate backup. In fact, the Devils were impressed enough with his limited action in 2014-2015 (shown below)...
PLAYER GP W L OTL GAA SV% SHO Keith Kinkaid 19 6 5 4 2.59 0.915 0
... to give him a 2-year contract and completely hand him the reigns after Cory Schneider went down this year -- letting him start six of the seven games the Devils have played since Schneids went down. So let's see how he's done.
Kinkaid's 2015-2016 Season
This is data from Hockey-Reference. The sub-.900 save percentage is ugly. So is the sub-.500 quality start percentage. That QS% is 55th out of 72 goalies that have started 5 or more games. He also has 5 Really Bad Starts which means that almost 3 of every 10 games is a real clunker. That figure is 6th worst out of the 72 goalies.
But maybe there's more to it. The Devils are a pretty bad team after all. Perhaps he's just getting shafted by high level attempts. Errrr .... or maybe not. According to War-on-Ice, Keith's Adjusted Save Percentage is 67th out of the 69 goalies who have played 300 minutes.
Two down. The last site that has stats we haven't mentioned is Corsica. They have an expected goals against statistic that incorporates shot quality. The usefulness of formulas like this one is still a topic of debate as our understanding of what the important aspects of a shot are evolves, but it is still most likely better to have this information than to not. If you compare the xGA (expected goals against) to the actual, Kinkaid is actually allowing and extra goal per 100 shots. This figure ranks him 66th out of 72 goalies that have played 5 games. For comparison, Cory Schneider is 11th out of the 72 -- preventing over a goal and a half. The only clear starters (40+ GP) that outrank him are Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick. In the interest of full disclosure, he is 17th out of 72 in rebounds attempts allowed per 100 with 5.75. However, just about every other stat from the three sites points towards the same conclusion. Kinkaid has been a liability when you assess his net effect on our games this season.
In the battle of the awesome twitter nicknames, @wedgewall is giving @blockaid1 a run for his money. I began writing this article Yesterday (Thursday 3/24) before the game, but as I type this, Scott Wedgewood has just shutout the red-hot Penguins in impressive fashion. Check out John's recap and peruse the comments. It's clear that a few Devils fans are of the opinion that Wedge might be a better option than Kinkaid.
According to War-on-Ice, Wedgewood has stopped 15/15 high-danger shots so far which is really impressive. The NHL-wide average is saving somewhere just south of 85% of those shots. According to Corsica, Wedgewood should have allowed just over 4 goals in his time on in the NHL so far. His rate of expected goals prevented would currently be highest in the NHL. His performance has been so impressive, that there has been discussion of starting him again tonight in back-to-back games against teams powered by the best two players of the last decade. Hynes will let us know at 4:40 whether we can be treated to more of the Wedgewall tonight;
No morning skate for Devils today. Coach Hynes to talk 4:40. Will have to wait until then for lineup and starting goalie info.— Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice) March 25, 2016
A brief reminder of his prospect status from Hockey's Future for anyone who forgot about him:
Wedgewood is a technically sound, hybrid style goaltender with great down-low net coverage and reflexes. He often plays like he has ice in his veins but has put pressure on himself at times at the pro level and his production has suffered as a result. He seems to thrive when facing a lot of shots and has the makings of a big-game goaltender who can be a dominant workhorse, carrying the team on his back for large stretches. Like another former New Jersey goalie he also has great puck-handling skills, often acting as a third defenseman. His production to this point has not yet matched his considerable skill set.
The thing that might incentivize the Devils to lean towards Kinkaid is that Kinkaid, now 26, would need to clear waivers. Now he hasn't been great this year, but there are plenty of teams hungry enough for a backup (or even a starter) to take a shot on a young guy who has shown flashes. Wedgewood can float between the leagues freely.
Others and Future
We could always sign another goalie for 2017-2018 if the current crop doesn't assert themselves. Browse General Fanagers 2017 free agents if you're curious. That seems more likely than 34-year-old Yann Danis forcing himself into relevancy.
However, by the end of next year we could even be ready to occasionally promote from within. The Devil's contentious 2nd round selection has had, by most accounts, a very good season with the Barrie Colts of the OHL. He had a tumultuous time with Team Canada in the World Juniors and that seems to have rattled him recently. The Barrie Examiner notes how his performance will be key as he had "at times carried Barrie in early parts of this season." Devils fans interested in the future of this position should pay attention to Blackwood's first postseason as a Devil prospect. His first series against the Mississauga Steelheads will begin Monday after being postponed due to a power outage.
Brian's write-up for Blackwood in his most recent Prospect Update also comments on the mostly-successful season:
Mackenzie Blackwood went 1-1 over his final 2 starts of the season. He stopped 18 of 22 in a loss to Ottawa on Wednesday and stopped 24 of 28 in a win against Sudbury on Saturday. In the OHL Coaches Poll, Blackwood was voted as being the Best Puck-Handling Goalie and 2nd Best Shootout Goalie in the Eastern Conference. Blackwood finished tied with Tyler Parsons for the highest SV% (.921) in the OHL. Barrie is the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference and will take on the 7th seeded Mississauga.
Kinkaid might not have a choice in the matter. If Wedgewood continues to be lights out, he could easily play Kinkaid out of a job. More likely, however, is that Wedgewood eventually comes down to earth and we will get a competition between the two of them for the backup position for next year. Kinkaid is going to need to be better with his next chance if he expects to stay with the team after next year.
What will be interesting is how long in will take Blackwood to be relevant. Furthermore, it will be interesting to see how we want to use him. Cory Schneider is signed through the 2022 season, but Blackwood will be 26 by then. That means he will have either carved out a backup position, ditched the franchise, or taken over for Cory by that time. Pay attention to this kid. I wrote an article last September talking about if Cory Schneider will be part of the next era of Devils. If he's not, it will be because Blackwood will have easily tossed Wedgewood and Kinkaid to the curb, en route to his old vs. young battle with Schneider.
Who is it gonna be?
Who will play the most games through the rest of this season?
Should Hynes consider starting Wedgewood/Kinkaid even if Schneider is healthy this year for evaluation purposes?
Who will be our backup next year?
Who will be out backup after next year?
Leave your thoughts below.