Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper was a contender for the Vezina Trophy for the second straight season but did not receive as many votes as he should have.
Since joining the Coyotes, Kuemper has established himself as one of the premier starting goaltenders in the NHL and placed in the top ten for Vezina voting for the first time in his career, finishing fifth after the 2018/19 season and seventh after 2019/20.
While finishing so highly in voting, which was ultimately won by the Winnipeg Jets’ Connor Hellebuyck, is a great achievement for the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native, it feels like he should have been higher.
Kuemper received just one vote for this year’s Vezina, a third-place one, which saw him tied with St. Louis’ Jordan Binnington and Pittsburgh’s Tristan Jarry - both of whom received one solitary third-place vote.
When comparing base stats between the three goalies mentioned, Kuemper comes out on top in both goals-against average and save percentage.
Kuemper allowed an average of just 2.22 goals against this season, with Binnington allowing 2.56 and Jarry with 2.43.
The Coyotes starter also put up an exceptional .928 save percentage this season, once again beating out both Jarry (.921) and Binnington (.912).
The biggest knock on Kuemper in terms of voting this year will undoubtedly be how much he played - only able to feature in 29 regular-season games due to injury.
But his impact on the team was noticed arguably even more so once he wasn’t able to play a part, with the Coyotes looking like favorites to claim the Pacific Division title prior to his injury ahead of Christmas.
After he was ruled out for an extended period of time, the Coyotes looked to be a shadow of themselves and gradually plummeted down the standings and out of the playoff picture - only having the chance to progress into the playoffs thanks to the expanded 24-team system this past summer.
Kuemper was never going to win the Vezina after missing so much time this season, but his sheer impact on the team, who he effectively willed into the first round of the playoffs and was completely let down by the team’s skaters once they came up against the Colorado Avalanche, but even just one more vote would have felt like just rewards for his impact on this team.
Talk has recently turned to Kuemper being available in a trade and if he somehow finds himself elsewhere next season, the Coyotes will look like a completely different team and his impact and importance will be even clearer.
If he returns to the desert next season, he will once again be the difference between Rick Tocchet’s side being a legitimate playoff contender or once again falling into the realms of mediocrity.
For that alone, he deserved more than just one third-place vote this year.