With their first preseason game days away, the New Jersey Devils have released their 2016 training camp roster, which features a good mix of young, new, and familiar faces. While the 2016-2017 squad might be easy to predict, there are some grey areas, notably between the pipes that have largely gone unnoticed. To clarify, this isn’t saying that Cory Schneider will have any competition for the starting position. Schneider is the team’s undisputed No. 1 goalie, and it will stay like that baring a significant injury. Including Schneider, the Devils have seven goalies coming into this year’s camp. By now, Devils fans should be familiar with most of the names on that list from their prior years in the organization…Keith Kinkaid, Scott Wedgewood, Ken Appleby, Mackenzie Blackwood, and 2016 draftee Evan Cormier.
Now insert PTO attendee Anders Lindback.
The decision to bring in Lindback was interesting yet peculiar, considering how there hasn’t been any talk surrounding the team’s situation in net all summer. The Devils obviously aren’t committed to moving forward with Lindback beyond training camp, but the fact he was brought in certainly raises questions as to what kind of decisions Coach Hynes and Ray Shero could make if he has a good showing.
What does this mean for someone like Keith Kinkaid, who’s served as New Jersey’s primary backup for the past two seasons? What about up and comers in the organization like Scott Wedgewood and Ken Appleby? Since goalies take longer to develop than any other position, 21-year old Appleby, along with Blackwood and Cormier will start the 2016-2017 season with their respective CHL teams or in Albany. Wedgewood is likely to start in the AHL, but deserves to stay in the mix for the backup spot. For Lindback, it’s backup or bust. While he’s clearly the one with the most to prove going into camp, the ramifications of losing out on the backup spot are more severe for incumbent Keith Kinkaid.
Since his career began, Kinkaid has engaged in an uphill battle to prove his legitimacy as a fulltime NHLer. In 23 games last season, Kinkaid went 9-9-1, posting a 2.81 GAA and .904 SV%. These numbers are slightly worse than his career averages of 15-14-5, a 2.71 GAA, and .909 SV%. It’s worth noting Kinkaid faced some stiff competition in his 43 NHL games played, usually against some of the top teams in the league. He’s held his own for the most part, especially considering the subpar quality of the past two Devils teams he’s been on. I mentioned in a previous article that the jury is still ultimately out on Kinkaid’s NHL-caliber readiness. Having said that, his performance last year has raised concerns that his development isn’t on par with the state of the Devils team itself. He surrendered three or more goals in 12 of his 23 starts in 2015-2016, over which he went 3-7-0 in games where he was credited with the outcome. In his 43-game career, Kinkaid has given up at least three goals in 19 games, over which he went 3-11-2 (he was pulled in the other three).
Like Kinkaid, Lindback hasn’t played on the best teams, spending parts of the last two seasons playing for the Dallas Stars, Buffalo Sabres, and Arizona Coyotes. He’s appeared in 45 contests in the last two years, going 11-23-3. He posted a 3.11 GAA and .909 SV% in 2014-2015, and a 3.11 GAA and .894 SV% last year. His numbers weren’t too extravagant in his first four seasons, where he posted between a 2.42 and 2.90 GAA and .891 and .915 SV%. Lindback’s presence in camp will keep the other goaltenders on their toes, knowing there is going to be little room for error. While the same conditions will also apply to him, his extra option will prove very advantageous to Coach Hynes when making his final decision.