An interesting week for the WILD and some whispered rumors

Marc Elliott

Mats Zuccarello bears down on LA  Kings netminder Jonathan Quick in a 5-1 win
Mats Zuccarello bears down on LA Kings netminder Jonathan Quick in a 5-1 win

SILVER RAPIDS… After defeating the Montreal Canadiens in St. Paul in a 4-3 final, the Minnesota Wild played the second of their only consecutive home games of this early NHL season. They met up with the Edmonton Oilers who have, with their new GM Ken Holland and new Head Coach Dave Tippett on board, been raising some eyebrows around the league. It is obvious that the club has some upper end talent with perhaps the most skilled player in the game today, Connor McDavid, and he has some support with the likes of forwards Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. They have the newly acquired James Neal who can put up points and D-man Darnell Nurse who is as tough as they come. They are hoping they have smoothed over some recent goaltending issues by obtaining veteran netminder Mike Smith in the offseason, and at least in the early going they have fared quite a bit better than the Wild.  

As of this writing (10/28pm) the Oilers are holding down the 5th spot in the overall league standings with 17 points in 12 tilts. On the Sunday the Wild faced Montreal the Oilers were in Winnipeg dropping a 1-0 shutout to the Jets. On Tuesday the 22nd the Wild defeated them by a 3-0 final. Since this wasn’t a back to back situation the Oilers can’t allay this loss to travel fatigue or the like, it was only the back end of a two gamer on the road. The Wild played a nice, smart game and prevailed. All scoring was done in the 1st period on 2 scores by Eric Staal followed by a PPG from Brad Hunt. Al Stalock shared the shutout with Devan Dubnyk when Dubnyk left the game after a nasty tumble early in the 2nd period. It’s early in the season and it wasn’t a back to back for the Oilers, the Wild played them straight up and won.  

Two nights later the Wild played the Predators in the Music City and were whitewashed in a 4-0 defeat. This marked the 7th straight defeat of the team in Nashville. The Wild put on a very strong 1st period performance, outshooting the Preds 13-4 and came away empty with a 0-0 score at the intermission. The Preds then took over the final 2 frames for the victory and the two points. The first 3 markers were ES goals and the 4th was a SHG late in the 3rd. I’m not certain what happened to the 1st period Wild, but they were mostly absent after that. Preds netminder Pekka Rinne was sterling in a 26 save shutout. He got a few tests from the Wild and stood his ground.  

On Saturday eve in St. Paul the club returned home to face the hapless LA Kings. The Wild prevailed in a 5-1 tilt that we didn’t exactly see a lot of fight or pushback from the Kings in. On Sunday in Chicago they lost again in an identical 5-1 final and new Head Coach and former Wild assistant Tood McLellan ripped into the team post game. You probably wouldn’t have had to be in the room to figure out what he said. This club has won two Cups in this decade. Any of the players from those teams still on board have got paid, and they are older and slower. Sound familiar? (except for the two Cups part?) In the 2017-18 season the club put up a 98 point campaign. Their big fall from grace began last season, (31-42-9/71 pts) and it’s continuing on.  

I had to take a look at some of their data. Salary Cap wise they’re like a few teams. They have big money committed to 6 players and 5 are over 30 years of age. That’s $44.2mil for 6 guys with varying degrees of production and contract expiration dates. However, unlike the Wild for instance, all things considered, they still have $6mil of cap space left. The Wild currently have $345k of cap space. Would the LAK do well to do some dealing of assets for a run? No. They are like the Wild in that they need a major rebuild. They were built to win in a league that pretty much doesn’t exist anymore. But bottom line, their big producers aren’t doing that as in the past, their depth has diminished as well as their goaltending. And all of McLellan’s foot stomping is unlikely to change that.  

For this week the Wild will be at DAL on Tuesday, and then in a back to back, at STL the next night. They’ll finish the week at home on Saturday night with a return bout with the Blues. The Blues announced this AM that star forward Vladimir Tarasenko will miss at least the next 5 months due to an impending shoulder surgery. They will still have a formidable team on the ice and I’m not making any predictions about how this week might go. The team has played better at home recently and is still struggling away from St, Paul. Backup netminder Kaapo Kahkonen has been returned to Iowa as has forward Gerry Mayhew. Jordan Greenway returns making 13 forwards available for Tuesday, and Devan Dubnyk will be back. Who starts between the pipes is up in the air….  

USUALLY WHEN I SEE trade rumors, especially this early in the season, I pay little attention to them. But when I saw a blurb this morning stating that Joel Eriksson Ek, Kevin Fiala and Ryan Donato were being shopped, I had to dig in. The listed source was Bruce Garrioch from Ottawa. The Senators do have injury issues at forward right now, and the referenced article doesn’t really say any concrete talks have taken place. The old quote of “names on the market include” was mentioned so I’d be inclined to take these rumors with a grain of salt. If I were GM Bill Guerin I’d only move players right now to stockpile draft choices, and considering the value of the aforementioned players at the moment, they are unlikely to bring a big return. Nothing else makes sense at this point, the Wild will not be this years 2019 STL Blues... PEACE

THE ATHLETIC; (10/29) 25th and trending for 87 points with a 35% chance at the playoffs. THE SAGARIN; (10/29am) 24th on a 4-7 record, 0-4 vs top ten, 0-5 vs the top 16 with the 9th most difficulty of schedule. NHL STANDINGS; 7th of 7 in the Central division, 4-7-0 record for 8 points, 25GF, 37GA, -11 Diff. 3-1 @ H, 1-6 @ A. 4-6 in L10, 1W streak. 28th in GF (26), 21st in GA (37), 23rd on the PP @ 15.8%, 18th on the PK @ 80%. 11th in PIM’s with 87. 8th of 9 teams for the Western Conference wild card. (2 spots) 14th in the West of 15, and 26th of 31 in the overall NHL standings. OVER & OUT!