Over the course of the next month, Konopkaesque will review each player who suited up for the Wild this season, with a few exceptions. 1) They had to play at least ten games during the season and/or playoffs (sorry, Brett Bulmer, Carson McMillan and John Curry) and 2) they had to finish the season as part of the organization, which ironically excludes the man for whom this blog is named, among others.
So, without further blathering, here’s today’s subject:
Josh Harding, G, Age 29
Remaining contract (per capgeek): 1 year at 1.9 million (UFA in 2015)
Save Pct: .933
What Did He Do?: Simply put, Harding was the best goaltender in the league when he voluntarily shut himself down just before Christmas to make what we thought would be a minor adjustment to his MS medication. What was supposed to be a week away turned into a season-ending shutdown, re-opening the same questions about his future that we’ve all heard too many times before. In a perfect world, this section would be devoted to discussing Harding’s Vezina chances, in the upcoming NHL awards, as had he stayed on the ice and played even halfway decent for the rest of the season, he would have certainly been a finalist, if not the favorite. When Harding does finally retire, be it tomorrow or in 2025, this may go down as one of the biggest “what-ifs” in Wild history.
What to Expect if You’re Expecting: Speculating on Harding’s future, if you aren’t Josh Harding, Chuck Fletcher, or Josh Harding’s doctor, is useless and a tad irresponsible, so I won’t even try. Harding is very private about his condition, and has every right to be so, as it is truly none of our business. The only extrapolation I can provide regarding his future is that every season he plays will continue to be shrouded in doubt and mystery, so we should just get used to that and not get too worked up about it. What is important for all of us to remember as his career plays out is to keep Harding in perspective. Whatever enjoyment we receive from watching him play is a bonus, and will continue to be so for hopefully years on end. And while each subsequent unexpected absence will be more and more frustrating to deal with, it will never be as frustrating for us as it is for him. So just detach yourself from the situation, root for Harding when he’s on the ice, and if and when he has to step away for a time, we should all just learn to mind our own business until he gets back.
Trade Prospects?: For reasons that need no explaining, none. I would bet everything I own that a Wild sweater will be the only NHL jersey Harding ever dons. I, personally, am fine with that, as I believe he is the most naturally gifted shot-stopper the team has ever seen.
Season Highlight: Before he had to shut it down, Harding provided more than his share of highlight reel saves. Here’s a sample.
First, Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn fail miserably on a 2-0n-0:
Jakub Voracek denied on the power play, en route to shutting out the Flyers:
My favorite Harding staple, the windmill glove save made four feet outside his crease (seen roughly 5-6 times per season). This time on Joe Pavelski:
And the exact same save on Corey Perry…in the same game:
Harding made 639 other saves this season, and many of them were spectacular, but since your boss is probably right behind you by now, I’ll stop.