The Minnesota WILD; Start, go, stop, repeat

Marc Elliott

1945 Eveleth Golden Bears first  ever Boys State High School Hockey Champions
1945 Eveleth Golden Bears first ever Boys State High School Hockey Champions

ELY… The Minnesota Wild are down to their final 12 games of this campaign. But before I get to that I would be remiss to not mention what a fabulous weekend of Hockey was just held here in the State of Hockey. The Wild played 3 games last week, the greatest Prep sports spectacle in the entire country was played as well, many of the Minnesota D1 and D3 Men’s and Women’s teams were in action, our NWHL entrant, the Minnesota Whitecaps would have been in action yesterday but were postponed due to weather creating travel problems and there is no shortage of youth hockey still being played. The only problem I could see from this phenom was in how the heck could I possibly watch every single second of hockey possible? 

Well, I couldn’t, but I gave it an honest shot. I saw so much puck I was going to ban myself from watching yesterday but ended up watching a college game and 3 NHL tilts. What are my highlights? My great-nephews HS team, Blaine, got in, and a friend of a friend’s son was on the roster and was one of their top skaters for the season. No word yet on any collegiate interest in him. For the tourney I went 10-4 in my brackets, calling the first 10 games perfectly until the Class AA semis. That was the end of the line for my picks! Oh well. As this was the 75th Anniversary of the tourney, right before the AA Final on Saturday eve the All Time Tourney team was introduced. The memories that flooded back to me were just about overwhelming. Introduced were Willard Ikola/Eveleth, Greg Stutz/Centennial, Henry Boucha/Warroad, Ryan McDonagh/Cretin, (represented by Coach Jim O’Neill) Mike Antonovich/Greenway, Dave Spehar/Duluth East and the Greatest of All-time in my book, John Mayasich/Eveleth.

Growing up in St. Paul in the sixties on West 7th, those 3 days in March were incredibly special. I doubt if I could describe them for you. The entire city was abuzz and welcoming beyond normal hospitality to all who came to town for this event. Going to Mickey’s Diner that week, or to The Manor for lunch, or Mancini’s, the only language spoken was hockey and it was beyond great to cross paths with the out-of-towners. Seeing the intros of the All-timers brought many memories flooding back to me, it got to me. I have got to see all of them play save for Ike and Big John, they were before my time. I have though, got to see slightly over 75% of this grand event, and hopefully I’ll be blessed to see many more. The greatness of this event simply cannot be put into words. Congrats to the AA Champion Edina Hornets, and the Class A St. Cloud Cathedral Crusaders. Well done Boys!

FOR THE MINNESOTA WILD I am not quite certain how to analyze what is left of their season. I’d like to think that they will get into the Cup tournament, even though I know they would be unlikely to advance out of the first round, but then again, I must be honest here and assess their chances with some integrity. Let’s look at some current data; the club went 5-9 in February, and thus far in March have put up a 2-4 record, going 1-2 last week starting with a 5-4 SO loss at Nashville, then achieving an epic 3-0 shutout of the best team in the league currently, the Tampa Bay Lightning, followed by a stink-bomb of a game the next night over in Sunrise, losing to the Panthers in a 6-2 spanking. Therein lies the challenge of trying to analyze this club without negativity but expounding on its realities. Is this a Jekyll and Hyde team, or a team that now may have too many “young” players or are they just honestly not that good of a team in the NHL scheme of things? The likely answer is that all those factors add up to what we are now seeing with this club. I must consider too, that prior returning to St. Paul, they played 5 in 7.

I don’t care who you are, that’s daunting. At any rate they have put up a 7-13 record over the past 39 days and if this were any other season in the Western Conference, they’d be nowhere near a playoff spot. Thanks to losses tonight by ARI and COL, the two teams tailing them for that last Wild Card spot they are still holding onto, the Wild are still in, even after tonight’s disheartening 3-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks. The Wild lineup this eve was mostly unrecognizable if compared to this team a scant month or so back and they mostly played that way with one another. The Sharks are an efficient team if nothing else with some scoring punch, and enough defense and goaltending to maybe get to a Cup Final this year. I’m not certain they could prevail, because I don’t think the Cup is leaving the East this year.

But this Wild club, it teases its fan base with a minor run here and there and right when you think this team may be building up to something positive, it evaporates. Mathematically, since February 1st the team is playing at a .350 clip. (using a simple W-L formula) If I apply that to their final 12 games, they will win 4.2 of them and obtain 8 points. That would place them at 82 points and I’m not certain that that gets them a spot. The Wild are currently 1point ahead of ARI and 2 points ahead of COL. ARI is 8-2 in their L10 and 11-8 since February 1st. That’s a .579 pace and applied to their remaining 13 games gets them another 7.5 wins, 15 points and an 88-point finish, along with probably the 2nd Wild Card spot. The Av’s data comes in at 8-12 for a .400 pace and with 12 GR they get another 4.8 wins, a possible 10 points for an 82-point finish, and likely no spot. Of the 3 clubs remaining schedules I see 5 games that ARI won’t win, 6 for COL and a possible 9 for the Wild. Buckle up folks, I see hockey turbulence ahead. PEACE   

WILD DATA; The ATHLETIC, 18TH, trending for 88.3 points, with a 50% chance at the playoff, with a 0% chance at a Cup win. The SAGARIN, 20th on a 33-36 record, 9-13 vs T10, 14-21 vs T16 with a schedule difficulty of 13th. NHL DATA; 19th with 33 wins, 18th with 74 points, T18th for pct. of points available @ .529, 5th in the Central on a 33-29-8 record, in the 2nd Wild Card spot, 1 point behind DAL, 1 point ahead of ARI, and a 6-point spread between 6 clubs. DAL/75, MIN/74, ARI/73, COL/72, CHI & EDM at 69 each. 23rd in GF/190. 12th in GA/201. 15th on the PP/19.7%. 18th on the PK/80.2% and 14th in PIM’s with 569. OVER & OUT!