BEST WILD PLAYER Minneapolis 2004 - Roloson
Without Roli between the pipes this season, the woeful Wild would have flirted with the lowest point total in the NHL. Minnesota's hometown pro hockey team may have failed to duplicate last year's stirring playoff run, but Roloson actually improved upon his breakthrough 2002-03 season, becoming arguably the league's most capable netminder. With just a handful of games left in the 2003-04 campaign at press time, he had compiled a sterling 1.88 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage--both second-best (behind a different goalie in each category) in the NHL. The numbers are even more impressive when you consider that, given the Wild's pitiful offense, Roli was under constant pressure to be mistake-free: Eleven times this season he gave up only one goal, yet had just two wins and six ties to show for it. Roloson was so consistently good (and occasionally spectacular) that in the middle of the season, Wild coach Jacques Lemaire abandoned his policy of alternating goaltenders and simply went with Roli over Manny Fernandez. And as the Wild began trading off veterans for future draft picks later in the season, Roloson, at 34 the team's elder statesman, provided invaluable stability that kept the team competitive throughout the year.