Arizona Coyotes Darcy Kuemper Off to Slow Start

Darcy Kuemper

When you have a goalie who is ranked in the top-ten in the NHL you expect results. While this season has just started, Arizona Coyotes‘ netminder Darcy Kuemper is not playing up to par.

What’s Wrong With Darcy Kuemper?

It just seems if you’ve watched Kuemper play in the past, he seems to be off a bit thus far this 2020-21 season. A quick look to compare his statistics from the 2019-20 campaign reveals there is quite a downfall (at least thus far) this season. Last season after six games, he had a 4-2 record with a stellar .939 save percentage. He only allowed 10 goals in the six games. Now when you glare at his stats this season, things begin to move into the worry category. He has a 0-2-1 record so far and a less than attractive save percentage on .879. His goals-against-average of 3.63 is just not numbers we’ve seen from him, at least in recent memory.

Last season Kuemper missed a good amount of time due to a lower-body injury. When he came back he picked right up where he left off… dominating in the net. He finished with a very respectable 16-11-2 record and had a .928 save percentage. His 2.22 goals-against-average was what all his teammates and fans came to expect. That is why it is concerning that he has just not gotten off to a start that would have been expected with his past history of excellent play.

Antti Raanta Has Played Well

Although Antti Raanta has only appeared in one game, a 5-3 win, he has better statistics than Kuemper. His .912 save percentage beats Kuemper, and as does his 3.01 goals-against-average. He turned aside 31 of 34 shots. With the condensed schedule this shortened season, one would have expected Raanta to go up against the Vegas Golden Knights in their second consecutive game. Instead, head coach Rick Tocchet went with his starter and Kuemper did not come up strong. He allowed five goals, which is a rarity. In his defence, the first two Vegas tallies were screen shots that Kuemper couldn’t see.

It would seem with Raanta’s injury record that Tocchet had better get him in net while he still can. Maybe Kuemper has a slight injury, but the entire team defence has not been up to par. They have allowed 3.75 goals a game, while only scoring 3.00 goals per game. One predicted assumption was that the Coyotes would still have a more than adequate defence this season since most every defender was returning. They of course, are missing Oliver Ekman-Larsson who is out with a lower-body ailment after getting plastered into the boards by one Evander Kane.

They also miss hard-hitting defenceman Ilya Lyubushkin who is having visa difficulties, plus he needs to quarantine when he gets here. It just seemed that the defence was allowing too many breakaways against Vegas, and that team will burn you if you give them a chance.

Keeping Raanta Now Seems Imperative

With Kuemper’s declined play, the chatter about possibly trading Raanta have diminished… for now. There is one team that really needs a good backup and that’s the Edmonton Oilers. With backup goalie Mike Smith out for some time, the Oilers are reeling to try and keep three goalies on their roster as required. Their starter Mikko Koskinen has been minding the net for all five games the Oilers have played. We all know that can’t keep up especially with so many back-to-back games scheduled. The Edmonton team still has seven more back-to-back contests and if they think they can ride the Koskinen train forever, they’re sorely mistaken.

Granted, the Coyotes would love to unload Raanta’s $4.25 million contract which expires after this season. The problem is the Oilers have no cap room to swing such a deal. They would need to unload a large contract like that of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who is earning $6 million through this season. Mathematically, that could work, since the Coyotes have the Marian Hossa contract of $5.275 million they can use since he’s on long-term injury reserve. There’s no doubt that the offence starved Coyotes could use a player like Nugent-Hopkins to light the lamp for them.

Then, if Raanta were traded, the Coyotes could still have Adin Hill as their backup. The problem with that is they need to carry three goalies in this pandemic filled season. They would need to dip into their prospect bank and add Ivan Prosvetov to the taxi squad.

Can Darcy Kuemper Bounce Back?

Let’s all hope that Darcy Kuemper starts to turn things around for the Coyotes. His past play has kept the team in many games and not having him playing at an elite level would be an issue. While he can’t do everything, he is a valuable ingredient to help the Desert Dogs win hockey games. It will be interesting to see how they handle the Raanta situation and if they can trade him for an offensive piece they desperately need.

It could just be that Kuemper is a bit rusty and he will snap out of it. The thing is, with this short of a season… he had better snap out of it sooner rather than later.

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