The “new” WILD look a lot like the “old” WILD

Marc Elliott


Minnesota Wild defender Ryan Suter goes against Mikko Rantanen of Colorado
Minnesota Wild defender Ryan Suter goes against Mikko Rantanen of Colorado


GRINDSTONE LAKE… Well, I’m still stewing over the Minnesota Twins loss that literally just wrapped up. While I think that their opposition, the NY Yankees have a great organization, I’ve never been much of a fan of theirs, and well, they basically just throttled the Twins in a 3 games to none ALDS beat down. The Twins did have a splendid season but didn’t have enough juice to get past the talent of the pinstripes. You could make the argument too, and it would have merit, that the AL Central was the weakest division in MLB this year, and you wouldn’t get much blowback on that. You do not win 101 games though with blind luck, and if I mention the Twins MLB homerun record, I’ll open a can of worms regarding the condition of the baseballs in use this season, so I’ll let that be. I still love baseball, and I still Love the Twins. Thanks boys…

OUR MINNESOTA WILD opened their new 2019-20 campaign last Thursday evening in Nashville against the Predators, and it wasn’t pretty. The Preds came out for the 1st period with their rocket skates on and the Wild were wearing their cement boots. The frame was scoreless but the Preds took the fight to the Wild with a 14-6 shot advantage. The final SOG totals had NASH with a 32-24 tally but the shot chart told the real story with a majority of Wild shots from the other side of the hash marks. The boys got a PP goal on 3 attempts while NASH, in a continuation of last seasons PP woes, was 0 for 2. Most of the Wild forwards were unremarkable, the defense was as ok as you could be in a game where you gave up 4 ESG and an ENG. Matt Dumba had a strong game as did Jonas Brodin and I believe Brodin is going to try to assert himself more into the offense this season. Starting goalie Devan Dubnyk was mostly good and had a couple of point blank highlight reel saves, but had his lapses too.

The most baffling item of play with this team, and I really don’t understand it, particularly on an opening night, is this teams propensity for slow, lethargic game starts. I am going to pay closer attention to that this year, but I’ll bet this club has what you could call “poor” game starts 4 out of 10 games. The 1st period of this game was maddening. The Preds possessed the puck for long stretches in the Wilds zone and were generally buzzing around the Wild as if they were welded in place. I was shaking my head at one point. The Wild also had few instances of any sustained offensive zone play and as I said, the bulk of their shots were from the hash marks to the blueline. It was an eye opener as to what we might be seeing a lot of this season. The 2nd was more competitive, and after the Preds finally got a goal that counted early on, the Wild notched 2 scores late in the period 43 seconds apart for a 2-1 lead. 

However, former Wild forward Mikael Granlund got a goal early in the 3rd to tie, a minute and a half later the Preds went ahead, eventually got an insurance goal and finally the empty netter. They controlled the play for most of the period enroute to a 5-2 final win. The first goal for the Wild was awarded to Jason Zucker and I believe it went off of his breezers. Other then that the Wild forwards looked anything but cohesive in their play or effort. Post game the team traveled to Denver for Saturday nights contest which allowed them to practice on Friday in an attempt to iron out some wrinkles to their game. 

AGAINST the AVALANCHE on Saturday eve, the club didn’t get much of a better start. Faced with another younger team with faster skaters and pace the Wild were on their heels almost immediately and were down 2-0 just under 6 minutes into the frame. They did battle though and cut the lead to 2-1 on an unassisted Ryan Suter goal at 10:17. The Wild would tie the contest toward the middle of the 2nd period on a Zach Parise PP goal but would forfeit the tie on a late period score from Gabe Landeskog with 1:06 left in the period. The Wild would battle through  the 3rd gaining a 12-8 shot advantage, but couldn’t dent netminder Phillip Grubauer.

The Av’s added an ENG with under a minute to go for a 4-2 final. So, two games, some similarities, especially in the outcomes, both losses with no points gained. UMD’s Carson Soucy played on the 3rd D pair and had a nice game.

When you pickup the Worldwide Duluth Reader today the Wild will be in Winnipeg to take on the Dustin Byfuglien-less Jets. Yes, Big Buff is still away from the team and it’s most likely a very long and inaccurate story. Rumors abound that he is entertaining retirement and walking away from the game. I’ve also heard that that is totally not what is going on, so I’m not offering up any guesses. I’ll only say that the NHL is better when the Big Guy is in it. So, the Wild should be rested up for this tilt and other then that I am not certain if we can expect anything different then we’ve already seen.

Our veteran players are slow in a speed league, our young guys do not have the experience yet, and our mid-roster hasn’t outplayed their oppositions middle yet. Dubnyk has been himself. He has made a couple of 10 bell stops and has mostly had quality play. I had some optimism going in, but reality is setting in. This is and never was going to be anything but an “if” team. If they don’t get injured, if they get some breaks, and so on. Does this edition of the Wild have another gear or is this finally the year the Wild sink to the bottom, get a #1 or #2 lottery draft pick and get a franchise and game changer? That’s the question. What will the answer be? PEACE

THE ATHLETIC, (10/7) 21st, trending for 89pts, with a 42% playoff chance, 1% for a Cup. THE SAGARIN, (10/7) 25th, with an 0-2 record, 0-2 vs the top 10 and top 16, with the 2nd ranked difficulty of schedule.

NHL STANDINGS, (10/7) tied for 5th in the Central at 0-2 with 0 pts. 4GF, 9GA, -5Diff. 0-0-0 @H, 0-2-0 @A. 0-2 in L10. 24th in GF, 23rd in GA, 9th on PP @ 28.6%, 9th on PK @ 87.5%, 14th in PIM with 16. It’s too early for this to mean anything but the Wild are 7th in the Western Wild Card standings and out of a spot…