WILD commence 2nd half of season, another NHL Head Coach dismissed

Marc Elliott

Wild Goalie Alex Stalock battles Calgarys Dillon Dube last Sunday night
Wild Goalie Alex Stalock battles Calgarys Dillon Dube last Sunday night

EMO… The Minnesota Wild have began the 2nd half of their 2019-20 campaign by going 1-1 in games 42 and 43. On Saturday they defeated the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 in OT and in the followup tilt last night in St. Paul, lost in the shootout to their newly found nemesis the Calgary Flames in a 5-4 epic battle. The Wild coughed up 4 leads before succumbing to the Flames in a 7 round shootout. Still, obtaining 3 of 4 points over the weekend isn’t bad. For the calendar week, and going by the way the league keeps its records, the team went 1-1-1. In the manner the Sagarin rank views things, they went 1-2. They do not differentiate by the way a team loses, only if they do. The team was totally outclassed by the Toronto Maple Leafs on New Years Eve, (4-1L) and then of course, the two weekend tilts results.  

The team played a very good game against the Jets, and I can’t say that they didn’t against the Flames, but came away with the loss anyway. I’ve read up on a lot of the teams 1st half stats, regular and advanced, and while I’m not a stat geek, I do find them interesting. At any rate, the ones I still believe to be the most useful are just your everyday basic ones. They can tell you a lot. Where I find the advanced analytics to be useful is for tweaking parts of your team game that needs it. The basics are that the team is not as good as they have been in the past relative to the four most basic stats. In Goals for, they rank 14th. (133) OK, that’s playoff worthy. In Goals against they stand at 29th. (142) That isn’t indicative of a playoff club. And on the Power Play and Penalty Kill, two areas which have usually been a strength for the Wild, they aren’t doing so well this season. On the PP they rank 19th. (18.4%) Anything below at least 20% is substandard in the NHL. On the PK they are at 25th. (76.2%) 80% is the foundational number on the PK. The rough part is that the Wild have long had one of the hardest working, better PK units in the show. 

Former NHL Head Coach Ken Hitchcock once said that your combined PP and PK numbers have to total 103 or higher for you to be an upper level playoff contender. The math here is simple for the Wild, their current number is 94.6. Can they get into a playoff spot without a substantial boost on Special Teams? History would say no. Analyzing the PK would show that netminding has been an issue in the lack of success with the team exhibiting a 9th worst in the league save percentage of .850. On the PP the team has had a recent stretch of going 6 for 44 over the past 16 games which equates to a 13.6% clip. Not good enough. When I study them, this is a team that seems to get pass happy on the PP, content to play the perimeter until they think an opportunity is open to them. It helps maintain possession I guess but has been less than effective for this team. If you are loaded with snipers, or your team name is “Red Army” it’s a great strategy, if not it’s simply not productive. Shooting location has been problematic too.

Hitch’s theory isn’t ironclad though. Edmonton is at 1st and 4th on the PP/PK and their number equates to a strong 112.7. They are currently in a playoff position and are a team you probably don’t want to get in a horse race with, on the other end their goal differential is a -8. Go figure. I think they’ll get a spot though and whoever plays them needs to watch out. What about the State of Hockey boys? Before Thursday eve’s matchup in Calgary they will have 39 tilts left with 78 points available to them. They are currently at 46 points. If they play to their current percentage of points available number of .535, they will end the year at a projected 88 points rounded up. 

Does 88 points get a playoff berth this year? Colorado was the 2nd Wild Card team last season with 90 points. The Jets hold that spot at the moment. Like the Wild they have played 43 games, but have amassed 50 points thus far and have a PPA of .581. That gives them a projection of finishing with 95 points leaving the Wild on the outside looking in if all things remain relative. But, this is the NHL where nothing ever remains so. If I examine the remainder of the Wild schedule for the year game by game, I see challenges and lots of them. There really aren’t any easy games in this league anymore. What basic facet of the Wild game could get them in? Which facet(s) could keep them out? It promises to be quite interesting… 

THE NASHVILLE PREDATORS have dismissed Head Coach Peter Laviolette late this afternoon making him the 6th NHL coaching change this season. The club is currently out of a playoff spot and have lost 4 of their last 5 games including last weeks Winter Classic. Based upon the Preds GM David Poile’s track record this is unusual for him to make a move like this in-season. Of course, in the history of the team, now competing in their 21st season, “Lavi” is only their 2nd coach ever. He replaced long time coach Barry Trotz who was in place for 15 of those seasons. No replacement, interim or permanent, has been named as of yet. The Preds join TOR, DAL, CAL. NJD and SJS as the other clubs to make coaching moves. With the up and down status of the Wild this year, where does Bruce Boudreau sit? His contract expires at the end of the season if he goes that long and in my book, might be the reason this team has been able to persevere as it has through a tough season thus far. This clubs woes are in it’s roster, not behind the bench…. PEACE

WILD DATA; The ATHLETIC, 19th, trending for 89 points w/a 35% chance at the playoffs and a 1% Cup chance. The SAGARIN, 24th on a 20-23 record, 5-8 vs top ten, 9-15 vs top 16 with a 4th ranked difficulty of schedule. NHL STANDINGS, 5th in the Western-Central division on a 20-17-6 record for 46 pts, 11-4-4 @ H, 9-13-2 @A, 4-5-1 in L10 on a streak of 1OTL. 14th/GF/133, 29th/GA/142, 19th/PP/18.4%, 25th/PK/76.2%, and 13th in PIM’s with 343. Thur @ CAL, Sunday vs VAN in St. Paul! Over & OUT!