Wild Limp Into All Star Break….

Marc Elliott

PIGS EYE ISLAND… The National Hockey League All Star Game takes place this weekend in Nashville and the Minnesota Wild will be represented by netminder Devan Dubnyk. I am not certain which criteria they used to make this selection with because there are 3 goalies in the Central division with stats superior to Dubnyk’s. I’m glad to see him go though and I believe he will perform well. He will be the clubs lone representative. This week off is going to be a much needed break for this team, and not because I think they are tired or worked over, because I think they need a mental reset.

With some high expectations coming into the season it appears that the wheels may be coming off a bit. The recent fortunes of the club point to a team trending downward and a deeper examination of statistical performance show a team that might be right where it’s performance warrants, they are an under .500 team prior to the Monday night tilt versus the Arizona Coyotes. Here is the good, the bad and the ugly; the team is 23-17-8, or 23-25. They are at 54 points and clinging to the 2nd Wild Card position in the Western Conference. After an abysmal start to their season, the Colorado Avalanche have now moved past the Wild for the 1st WC spot. The Wild hold 2 games in hand, but that means nothing if your game isn’t where it should be at.

The Wild October record was 7-4, November was 4-7, December was at 9-5 and thus far January comes in at 3-9. The team is 14-10 at home and 9-15 on the road. That road record alone will do a lot of damage toward any hopes for a positive season. They are no longer invincible at home either going 1-4 in their last 5 home games. The Coyotes game will be the last one of this month. As for individual play, it is no secret that the upper level clubs always have some statistical leaders in multiple categories, and the Wild come up fairly short in that regard. The team has no players in the top 50 for overall points. Zach Parise is at 32nd for goals with 17 in 48 games. Ryan Suter is tied for 22nd in assists with 25, and Mikko Koivu is tied for 23rd with 24.

The team has no player in the top 50 for plus/minus rank. (the explanation for that could be that the team sits at only a +7 goal differential on the season)  Chris Porter is at 30th in hits with 114. Jared Spurgeon is 9th in blocked shots with 109 while Suter is tied for 21st  with 87. Koivu is at 6th in the league in Faceoff wins with a .585 percentage. Parise is tied for 9th in PP goals with 5. Thomas Vanek is tied for 29th in shooting percent at .146, and Charlie Coyle is tied for 30th with a .145 rate. By comparison Arizona’s Anthony Duclair has an unusually high .235 percent.

To bolster the lack of high ranking skaters in stats, the team stats are a mirror of the club fortunes. In Goals For the team is 20th with 120. They are 18th in assists with 113. In Goals For Avg., they are 19th with 2.47 per game. In Shots on Goal per game they are at 25th, and 15th in Shooting Pct. When it comes to playing smart and not taking penalties, the Wild are the 2nd least penalized club in the league. (others would say that indicates a passive or non-aggressive game, take your pick) The team ranks 18th in PP goals, scoring on only 17.4% of their chances, and is 21st on the penalty kill stopping 79.5% of opposition chances. In the faceoff circle the team ranks 6th at 51.2%. The team is 20th in Corsi For, an enhanced stat.

On a positive note the team is strong defensively ranking 7th in Goals Against, and 7th in Goals Against Avg. per game.  They rank 9th team-wise in Save% tied with STL at 91.9%. They are tied for 1st with CHI in Shutouts with 7. League-wise they rank 17th in wins with 23, and have the 11th most losses with 25 based on 17 regulation losses and 8 OT/SO losses. Dubnyk ranks 15th in GAA at 2.27 per game and 19th in Save Pct. At .921%. He ranks 13th in Wins with 18.

In my overall opinion of the team, the Wild has a fast team, but out of 14 clubs in the West I would count only about 4-5 teams that I don’t think are necessarily known as speed teams.  The team is not an overly physical or aggressive-physical team. They do not intimidate opponents and have a handful of players in my opinion that can succumb to intimidation tactics. They are substantially reliant on a team-play making style of offense for goal production without an offensively dynamic individual or two that can take over a game when it is tight. There are a handful of players that can do that (Parise, Vanek, Coyle) but they can’t do it on demand or with consistency.

I have mixed feelings on the goaltending in that I have seen Dubnyk give up what I would consider to be some “softies” but then he’ll put up a shutout or hold a club to one or two goals and not get goal support from the skaters. The team is abysmal in the new 3 on 3 Overtime format, and no better if the contest makes it to the Shootout. They have just blown a game to the Coyotes (I won’t describe the ending for you or I‘ll break something) and are now 1-9 when a game makes it to the OT/SO frame. In examining the remainder of the regulation season, this club, as it is currently playing is in danger of losing their spot with 3 teams right on their heels with the chance that 2 more could catch up as well.

I see the potential for a 6-8 February, a 9-6 March and a 2-2 April. That’s 17-16, barely over .500 and at this point I would not be surprised if the team fell out of a playoff spot kicking off a very in-depth off-season look into the makeup of this roster with perhaps some drastic changes to follow. Enjoy the break boys, hope you can figure it out…. PEACE